Private Sector in Education and Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities

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Hari Sing KC

Assistant Campus Chief/Southwestern State College, Basundhara, Kathmandu

Background

            “He, who opens a school door, closes a prison.” ― Victor Hugo

Education is the third eye of a person, society and nation. Without education, we are blind though having our physical eyes. Since last two years, every sector, especially tourism and education, are badly affected by COVID-19. It has affected the education after tourism sector. In this context, the educational institutions should be very conscious to adopt different strategy to tackle with this adverse situation. We should give equal emphasis on health sector along with education sector. It is not only the responsibility of the government but also of the private sector to contribute in education sector. Whatever the private sector has contributed is the support to the government.

It is necessary for the concerned personalities to come together to seek for the solution to the possible forthcoming problems and adversities. The solution is possible only through harmony among the stakeholders not through disharmony. We have already faced various difficulties in the recent years such as the massive earthquake, and corona pandemic have left us serious problems. We have to make our back up plan to tackle with the possible forthcoming such type of adversities in the coming days.

Private sector has played a crucial role in education sector of the nation in terms of providing and maintaining quality education, achieving excellent result and so on. Private sector should now create an environment of providing such type of education that the youths no longer desire to go abroad for higher education. Every year, around 900 million rupees is sent to abroad which should be controlled by private sector. That amount of money should be invested to create job opportunity for the youths and stop brain-drain problem.

One day, a situation of working from home will come to the world, which will be beneficial for both the organizations (employers) and employees. The home as workplace situation will need fewer staff, far less operative cost, lower salary scale for the organizations. The people will enjoy working from their own home with their family. People will update themselves with the latest technology, because only the technology friendly people will get success in the job market.

There is the necessity for the restructuring of education along with COVID management. COVID management refers to the management of capacity and transforming oneself with updated capacity. Rather than blaming others, one should develop one’s IT friendly capacities. During the adverse situation, it may be very difficult to work as easily and smoothly as during the normal situation. However, leadership should tackle with and well manage the situation handling it very consciously and carefully. There should be proper planning for how to get connected with the third generation and how to tackle with changing time and situation by creating healthy and supportive environment in the organization. There are opportunities within challenges themselves. So, one should face the challenges, recognize the opportunities within, grab them and bring success to the organization as well as one’s own professional career.

Challenges during COVID

Every sector has to face certain challenges. We should accept the fact that challenge is the sustainability of any operation we perform in organization. We faced the massive earthquake in 2015, COVID-19 in 2019 and have been facing various variants of the virus till today without knowing when this pandemic ends. May be in future, we have to face more serious challenges. So, we need to be prepared for that from today.

In terms of private sector, the government has not been as cooperative and supportive for them as it has to be. Without understanding the reality of the private sector, the government has formed a misconception about it as ripping off the public and making a lot of easy money. There are lots of people who still have not understood the fact that private sector organizations have to sustain themselves. There are lots of problems that private organizations have to face such as managing the land cost, bank loan, EMI payment, salary issues, etc. However, private sector has not got necessary support, grant, donation, or external resource from any agency or the government.

 Human resource management is a big challenge in private sector. Private educational organizations have to seek for capable, qualified, experienced, dedicated and committed human resources for them. Even the available human resource in the organization is found not updated, trained, motivated and appropriate as per the current adverse situation of the pandemic. Capacity building, providing trainings, motivating for the human resources, and adaptation of technology is a challenge for the organizations. The organizations have been facing the challenge in maintaining the operational activities. It has been very difficult for the organizations to run the daily operational activities through online platform during the pandemic as that of the normal situation through physical presence. Organizations have been facing many hurdles in terms of bridging the communication gap among the team members and building integration. Human resources should change, adapt themselves with innovative technology and methodology and transform with updated capacity. Another challenge organizations have been facing during the pandemic is to have emotional connection with the stakeholders.

Nobody had imagined the situation the pandemic would bring to us. It has affected in daily operational activities in organizations. Working from home is a way of adjusting with the situation, but we have been facing very hard time in our daily activities. There is no certainty about staff in terms of continuation and capacity to work during this adverse situation. There is no clear guideline regarding the health safety, back up plan (operational and financial), business model and operational plan, emotional and psychological security of the stakeholders during the pandemic.

Another challenge that private sector has been facing is that of technology. Many organizations and the human resources there are not technology friendly as per the requirement of the competitive market of today’s age of digitization and information technology. Most of the sectors (not only schools and colleges but also other sectors) and all the private sectors are not familiar with technology. All the stakeholders have not been able to understand the fact that digitization is one of the key pillars of an organization. Maintaining the motivation level of the employees amidst the technological changes is really challenging for the private sector today.

Managing financial resources is another big challenge for the organizations during pandemic. The only financial source for the private schools/colleges is the collection of fees from the students. During the pandemic, the parents have denied to pay full amount of fees as the classes have been run through online platform, and their demand has further been supported by the government’s circulation for the academic institutions for not collecting full fees for the online classes. Private organizations have to manage for various financial problems by themselves without the support from the government or any agency. Private sector has to sustain in its own income and pay tax for the government. But the government is willing neither to provide loan in lower interest rate nor to seek the resources for the private organizations. They have to pay the bank loan, rent and salary for the staff in time by any means but have not been able to collect fees from the students.

Sustaining the organization and its stakeholders is another serious challenge during the pandemic. The matters like how and when to open the school were quite unclear for the organizations. Furthermore, the preconditions for opening the school, creating the proper and secure environment for the students to come to the school, and ensuring psychological comfort for the students, teachers, staff and guardians were other challenges at the same time. Many schools/colleges were used for quarantine and isolation centers for the COVID patients, and this created a kind of fear and insecurity in the students, teachers, staff and guardians in going to the same school building once again.

There was already a problem existing with us that the students were unwilling to read books at all, feeling dizzy and diverted from reading materials, but attracted towards gadgets. In such situation, it was challenging to attract the students towards study and connect their home and school during this adverse situation. The traditional modality of education was rather teacher-centric and based on lecture method, which has been found not scientific, ineffective and unproductive one. There is a challenge to convert this model of teaching into innovative and productive student-centric teaching.

There was no proper guideline from the government regarding the academic calendar during the pandemic which created confusion among academic institutions and the stakeholders. Preparing and implementing new calendar for the online classes and academic session is another challenge for the educational organizations. During the lockdown period, although the theoretical classes could be conducted through online platform, the practical experimentations and field visits were almost impossible which created another challenge for meeting the objectives of the curriculum.

The pandemic has imposed us a challenge regarding academic honesty. The faculties, during the lockdown, have found not maintaining honesty in terms of being punctual in online classes, reluctant to be techno-friendly, unwilling to take online classes with the intention of taking physical classes later during normal situation. The faculties have made pretentions regarding the lack of power, network and even devices with them. At the same time, the students also have failed to show their academic honesty by making the pretentions regarding their health, the power-cut, network and unsupportive or no device(s) with them.

The pandemic has imposed other challenges like conducting on-time examination, connecting the curriculum with IT, scarcity of electronic devices, poor or unavailable network, lack of dedicated electricity, and lack of IT skills in stakeholders. The compulsion to follow the same curriculum, evaluation system and other administrative procedures for both physical and online classes is another challenge. There was a challenge for the academic organizations to make the online teaching lively and more effective. Along with this, the online classes have the challenges regarding evaluation of discipline, attitude, behavior, seriousness, sincerity, and creativity, innovativeness, understanding level, interaction, assignments and project works of the students.

Opportunities

Along with the challenges, the pandemic has laid us abundant of opportunities which we have to grab and get benefitted from. One of such opportunities is that financial system is being more technologically equipped. We have got the opportunity to recognize the importance of financial technology in the future. The pandemic has made us realize the importance of emotional connections among the stakeholders. The pandemic has taught us that this world belongs to those who can change, adapt and transform themselves with innovative ideas in their business. Educational leader must focus on continuous improvement, review the changing dynamics of their institutions, spot the opportunities within crisis and commit to maintain improvement as far as possible.

In the same way, we should take the pandemic as an opportunity to bring new changes in our teaching pedagogy. The teaching methodology we have been following since the past needs modification and improvement to make it effective for this present adverse situation. So, we need to adopt online system as an alternative teaching modality. The pandemic has made us realize that a hybrid educational model is required.

The pandemic has given a chance for the teachers and guardians to be a student themselves once again. The home has now become school them all. Teaching from home, checking the assignments from home, evaluating the students from home, preparing and following the academic calendar from home for teaching learning activities, making the online class more effective through practical approach, and teaching the practical classes through online platform are the opportunities that the pandemic has given us.

The pandemic has taught us to ensure the academic session. It has taught a lesson that along with education, we have to equally be concerned about the health sector at the same time. In course of becoming techno-friendly ourselves and making others the same, we have got the opportunity for teaching and learning through new approach, planning for the alternative way of teaching learning and emphasizing the psychological aspect of the students. The pandemic has given us the opportunity for connecting technology with education. It has taught us ways of running academic activities through technology and managing online education system well.

A good and successful leadership is proven when one can lead in the adverse situation, give a proper guidance and seek the solution of the problems. A charismatic leadership is required who can lead as in the normal situation even during an adverse situation. The pandemic has taught us to struggle for bringing innovative teaching modality through online platform from traditional one, and made all the teachers, staffs and students techno-friendly. In course of running online class, we have realized that there should be the back-up of technology in the organizations. The pandemic has taught us to implement technology into education in a creative and innovative way.

The pandemic has taught the educational organizations face various challenges such as fee collection, paying salary to the staff, paying rent and bank loan. There are both opportunities and challenges in technology too. Where there is the end of science, there is the emergence of spiritualism. So, we have learnt to connect education with spiritualism. In conclusion, the pandemic has taught us the necessity of the implementation of technology in the new dimension in education. Not only in education, but also in every sector, technology should be implemented.

The pandemic has taught us many other things like being prepared and strategic for any kind of situation, necessity of emergency fund management, necessity of policy guidelines, coordination among organizations and stakeholders for bringing the solution collectively, using artificial intelligence, incorporating ICT, preparation of learning management system, and preparation of capable and competent human resources for adverse situation. The pandemic has taught us to make short-term, mid-term and long-term guidelines to face the challenges for possible more serious and more dangerous situations in the future.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have to be well prepared for facing every challenges and hardship in course of running the organization. Changes do not occur as per our desire. So, we need to accept and respect the change since we cannot stop them but change ourselves to be adapted with them. The hybrid modality of operation is required to cope up with the present situation of pandemic. Also, there should have back up plan for both financial and operational plans to run smoothly in accordance with the situation. Pandemic charge management, compensation management, employee retention, training arrangement, emotionally well prepared adaption of technology, etc. are required to overcome the problems during this pandemic.

Education sectors or any other private sectors sustain only if there is stability of government policy. During the lockdown period, the concerned stakeholders and organizations should have detailed and creative interaction for bringing a way out for the pragmatic problems in conducting teaching-learning activities. They should create comfortable environment for the students to take the classes in small groups from the community wherever they are living with the available teachers and resources there.

We are not in the world of old age, but our modality of working is still traditional. As per the demand of time and situation, we should update and upgrade ourselves with the latest and innovative technologies and approaches in our working modality. Furthermore, the teachers as well as students should maintain academic honesty. They should be punctual, dedicated, responsible and reliable in their duties and responsibilities.

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