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Online education – the new Normal

The other side of online education: a serious threat to employment

We have been familiar with  students  wearing neat uniforms, waiting for school buses and entering the school afresh before first bell rings. Thanks to Covid-19, the whole schooling system is under a silent tectonic transformation. No School bus, no early waking up, not even bathing or wearing neat dress (forget uniform), look how students are attending classes now! Several  schools have started their school year as usual with the fee hikes, except the fact that they do it online. Technology players like Zoom, Zoho and Duo are playing a key role in incubating the new way of education even at the primary level. Believe me, my cousin’s daughter was all up and exercising in front of the laptop at 7.30 am yesterday  attending the  yoga period!

While most of the gadget-glued students may like this new model and get accustomed to it, there are some flip sides too. Think of teachers and threats to their job-security. Nowadays, many reputed schools have 7 or 8 sections of the same class with around 40 students per section. And most probably with 2 – 3 teachers for the same subject. Moving online, all they need is just one teacher. Since there is no real estate problem of accommodating students in a class room, a teacher can teach 100 students at the same time. Online medium does provide students to raise hands, ask questions, share their home/class work and even face-to-face interaction, if needed. Why would the school employ  additional teachers and add to costs? In fact, schools will have the opportunity to get the best,  but least expensive teacher from across the world for their institutions, equipped with just a laptop and broadband connectivity, which is today ubiquitous.

Tamil Nadu is only too familiar with education evolving as a highly profitable business. It has made crorepatis of ambitious entrepreneurs with  drive to seize the opportunities unfolding in our populous developing country with parents exerting to educate their children, unmindful of the cost.

Look at the opportunities unfolding for running the business: The new normal will eliminate the present day need for investing in expensive real estate with sprawling buildings,  furniture like chairs, desks, boards… copious supply of water for drinking, gardening, washrooms, security…  in one go! Students may be asked to attend central labs or public playgrounds. These can be common for dozens of schools.

But look at the impact of this change on employment: this technology of teaching through online can vastly reduce the demand not just for teachers but a whole ecosystem that depends on the schools – drivers and attenders of the school buses and cars, peons, security and a host of maintenance staff; owners of dozens of petty shops, canteens, plumbers, electricians….

Online education, hitherto, was confined to higher education. So the technique is well established. Covid19 in one stroke, has expanded this across the entire levels of education right from the primary school. The concept in the making for quite some time seems to have been loaded in a rocket by Covid19.

–  V Prakash

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