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UGC’s draft on blended mode of learning: How far is it possible in a country like India?

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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way of looking at the world. Our lives have been turned upside-down by a virus that has redefined the term “normal”. From hanging out to friends to arranging zoom calls, we have surely come a long way. The education sector has been hit hardest by the pandemic, leaving students totally lost. Although, schools and colleges started reopening at the beginning of this year, they were closed again due to the second wave of Covid-19 that hit more like a tsunami.

University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently released a notice regarding the implementation of blended mode of learning in higher educational institutions (HEIs). This means that HEIs can teach 40% of any course online and the rest 60% can be taught offline. Thus, it will be a mixture of offline and online mode of learning. This is just a draft concept and the commission has asked for suggestions.

Following this, a huge debate has emerged on the real life application of the blended mode. Although it sounds promising, is it actually possible in a country like India where access to technology is dependent on so many factors. We are well aware of students who don’t have enough money to support their education. Expecting them to have access to best quality internet connection and electronic devices is completely meaningless. Similarly, students residing in hilly areas suffer from poor internet connection and lack of proper resources. At the same time, we should not ignore the mental burden on students that is very hard to deal with. Coping with death, anxiety, academic pressure and unrealistic expectations has become a part of daily life of students.

The All India Federation of University and College Teacher’s organisation (AIFUCTO) has criticised the notice of UGC has termed it as ignorant to the plight of students which further extends the already existent digital divide. Similarly, student bodies have sent petition to the President of India opposing the notice and bringing to light the fact that online education cannot replace classroom teaching and learning.

The pandemic has brought forward an unsympathetic education system that forgets to look at students as living, breathing humans and not robots who are programmed to complete tasks. Blended mode of learning ignores students who are far away from rhe the utopia of a digital world.
Its time we see that.

Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah

Article by Rajlakhmee Borah, The North-Eastern Chronicle

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