The pandemic has created a space for experiential learning, putting the classroom in your pocket
The new normal also carries the hope of creating space for individual and public morality, something that is currently in crisis.
Remember the old “gurukul” system where boys would go to the “guru” or teacher’s house, stay there for an extended period and learn their lessons? Since then, the teaching-learning process has undergone countless changes.
Do we really know what the Spanish Flu was? We had heard of it, even read a little, but the devastating effect of such a disease was not felt by any of us. The Spanish flu exists in the history books. Do we remember the plague? We can say that the disease was immortalized by Albert Camus, but we did not have the impression that it was a real scourge.
When Sars-Cov-2 unleashed its devastation, it was a stray case. We thought it would never affect any of us. Some felt that Wuhan was far away and not even a tourist spot. But the RNA virus had a remarkable ability to spread and infect; none of us believed it had the potential to change the pattern of civilization.
The pandemic caused by the virus has been a game-changer. So many people have died; so many people still suffer; and so many people will suffer as the virus continues to mutate under the bizarre rule of “survival of the fittest”. Biology is a subject of eternal possibilities and the gene can indeed be a genius. Although you’ve read about it, you haven’t experienced it before.
Oddly enough, the virus has created a space for experiential learning. Indeed, life is taught by trials; that does not prepare. Earthquakes, tsunamis, wreaths suddenly come on and start to destroy. A debate continues as to whether the virus was created by humans. We do not know. We may never know. By the time the full story is known, many of our brethren still don’t know how so many died. Even their cremation was lonely, sorry and gloomy.
Many of you have started studying on cell phones, tablets, or PCs using the Internet. Many of you were not so lucky because the internet connection in your home was not as secure and stable. Colleges may have reopened, but there may come a time when face-to-face teaching will be a thing that existed in the past. The teacher of the future will appear on the screen. The picture will be perfect because the rules of the pandemic have already changed our view of the world.
Slowly, but steadily, the class will be carried in your pocket or on your shoulder. Your teacher, your role model will always be with you, near or far. The theory of duality will be in operation.
What does it all mean? Massive online education is written on the wall. The survival of teachers will depend on the success of the YouTube conferences. In fifty years, what still exists today will become old and extinct.
But there is a silver lining in this dark cloud. The emerging civilization will create space for individual morality and ethics. A student sitting alone at a computer and writing their exam will have to make a choice – whether to learn and write answers or copy from the books available.
The same choice also exists for ordinary citizens – whether they wear masks and prevent the spread of disease or whether they are careless. Choosing the right choice depends on the individual. This pandemic somehow instills new hope to create space for individual morality. The sum of this morality becomes what is called public morality. There is no doubt that public morality today is in the midst of a crisis. Maybe there is some hope at the end of the tunnel. Let’s see.
(Basab Chaudhuri, former vice-chancellor of West Bengal State University, Barasat, is now director of the Heritage Institute of Technology Kolkata and senior director – education, Kalyan Bharti Trust.)
Last updated on December 15, 2021