7 PM Editorial |The cost of managing Education in times of COVID-19| 2nd September 2020

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The cost of managing Education in times of COVID-19

The article deals with disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic in education sector and suggested way forward

Introduction:

COVID-19 has left a trail of destruction in all spheres of life. Now, six months into it, not only has there been a colossal loss of life and economic damage the world over, but it is also leaving a lasting impression on education. The current graduating class are in a limbo over end term examinations. Further, the educational institutions are shutting down or some are taking steps which are affecting jobs and livelihood.

What are the issues that the educational institutions are facing?
  1. The educational institutions are short on resources i.e funds to manage the institutions.
  2. The nature of the pandemic is unpredictable. So, the educational institutions are in a limbo over the future course of action.
  3. The education institutes are moving online. But whether it will be a permanent mode of operation, is still unknown.
Acadonomics: It is basically a synthesis of academics and economics. It means keeping the educational institutions running, catering to all the academic demands of students, along with managing the resources to pay costs associated with running the institutions like electricity bills, water bills, infrastructure costs and salaries.

However, the issues faced by the educational institutions are not the same across the world. For instance, the US universities like Harvard have endowments of close to $40 billion. This makes them almost immune to a short term revenue mismatch.

In contrast, none of the private institutions in India  possess any sort of such big corpus. Their survival is dependent on the annual income that comes from tuition and other fees collected. Also, most of the fixed costs incurred by the institutions remain the same, only with some marginal adjustments possibly in costs of electricity, water and deferments in salaries.

What are the other issues that the  Indian Private Educational Institutions specifically are facing currently?
  1. The students are pleading for remission in fees which places additional burden on the management.
  2. The money borrowed for infrastructure built in the campuses needs to be paid back.

Many educational institutions are moving online to keep themselves afloat. But even this comes with a hefty financial issue which includes:

  1. The institutions need to scale their operations which would include dual mode of educational delivery– both online and offline. Maintaining both modes would mean extra costs.
  2. The online teaching mode brings with it increased costs of IT infrastructure such as network bandwidth, servers, cloud resources and software licensing fees. This also needs to be borne.
  3. Online teaching would also mean new hiring in the IT sector and increased costs due to engagements with Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, and other online platforms.
  4. Online teaching means setting up multiple studios and educational technology centres which translate into investments in high technology.
  5. Creation of virtual laboratories across all domains of studies and examination centres, etc. would add to the woes in terms of already depleted finances.
  6. Finally, the faculty has been trained to deliver offline. They would also need to be trained to deliver on results online, which would require further funds.
So what should be done?
  1. The Centre and states should provide some sort of soft loans to the students so that they can stay with their courses and pay the fees on time.
  2. The governments and regulatory bodies should not interfere in the fee structure, and, for the future, even consider a measure of higher degree of financial autonomy.
Conclusion

In the long run, technology can flatten the cost due to economies of scale, but in a shorter frame of time of three to five years, the cost of education is likely to go up. While replicating any western model in India may not be wholly appropriate, it is high time institutions in India are allowed to create coffers or corpuses for a rainy day.

Or, perhaps, educational institutions, which are not for profit organisations in India, could be treated like any other corporate body, with an allowable small margin of profit. This addresses not just financial sustainability but also better accountability and holistic education.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question

Online Education, though a silver lining in this pandemic,  comes with associated costs. Discuss the costs related to online education and also suggest solutions to effectively tackle those issues.

 

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