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COVID19

COVID19: Bridging the Digital Divide

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COVID19: Bridging the Digital Divide

NAVEED BHAT

The COVID19 has resulted in the closure of all educational institutions across the world. About 1.2 billion students are out of the classroom worldwide. Though nations are at varying stages of COVID19 contamination, there are currently more than 1.2 billion children worldwide in 186 countries affected by school disruptions due to the pandemic.

Education has drastically improved as a result, with the distinctive emergence of e-learning, whereby instruction is carried out online and on digital platforms.

Preparing NextGen Leaders

Universities have to play a significant role in training a professional global population as the gatekeepers of information and guardians of intellectual resources. To do so, an ecosystem oriented mentality will be needed, using online offerings to expand the scope and create collaborations with other universities and suppliers of content. In that respect, the much greater investment would be expected than 3% of total spending currently allocated to technology in the education sector. Much like industries, educational institutes will need digital solutions to solve the big problems in higher education.

Global-scale higher education

There is a need for expansion of universities beyond campus boundaries and inspire diverse learners on a global scale by harnessing new technology. It starts with stackable, online learning, which offers accessibility and affordability that facilitates access to educational curricula and encourages students to enrol in smaller pieces of learning before committing to broader degree programmes. Technology powered formats like mobile-friendly experiences meet the learner where they are, enabling more seamless transitions for those entering a new learning environment or picking up where they left off. At a more advanced level, embracing AI-powered adaptive learning will enable universities to personalize education for millions for more effective outcomes. Immediate and powerful results from online degree programmes have now been seen by colleges. Such programmes also have stackable learning, such as a short-range of online classes, and allow students to close particular skills gaps or add specific skills to reach and touch the career goals.

By embracing technology in its many forms, universities will be able to offer life-changing access to millions more globally. But that’s not the only prize. Through deeper engagements and local industry partnerships world-wide, top colleges will be able to create a virtuous cycle that advances research and collaborative thinking to tackle some of the most pressing challenges we face today.

Game Changer to bring new Educational Ecosystem

Working together to scale up access to higher education would require a global community. Through leveraging technologies to combine together and create a collaborative learning ecosystem, universities will be the hub of this movement, supplementing their own curriculum with top courses from other institutions. Educational institutions came together for first-of its kind collaboration to share access to online courses available from the institutions. Universities can also pool resources to launch a common credit or grading system, to create virtual collaborative learning spaces, or to combine insights from a larger network to shape the direction of programs.

COVID19 brought a sense and opportunity related to technology-driven collaboration that will surely help to mitigate workforce deficiencies in establishments around the world. In India, personnel deficiencies are blocking the effect of top institutions. Digitally fuelled biological systems could flawlessly associate substance specialists from the scholarly community or industry to convey custom learning programmes for students anywhere in the world. Universities would be able to leverage the best minds in the industry or open the doors to online faculty exchanges between institutions.

Turning industry-ready

Dearth and shortages of skill grow worldwide, institutions and enterprises have an opportunity to chart partnerships that equip learners with employable skills. Due to COVID19, industry and academia came together.

Educational institutions are being approached to serve more assorted students for an enormous scope. They need to make qualifications that grab the eye of businesses that are progressively centred around aptitudes over customised degrees. They have to create shorter pathways to new skills and alongside foundational knowledge, they have to offer the flexibility for learners to upskill throughout their careers since lifelong learning is the only way forward. Technology will be the link through this change, revolutionizing what we know as higher education.

Vision of Accessibility

Online educational instructions empower us to study and educate from anyplace on the planet. This implies there’s no compelling reason to drive starting with one spot then onto the next, or follow an inflexible timetable. What’s more, we save time, yet in addition cost-effective, which can be spent and used on different needs. The virtual digital room is additionally accessible anyplace there is a digital web network and a decent method to use while travelling. For example, if you’re studying abroad and want to get a job, online education is a great choice. There’s no reason to give up on working or studying while exploring new and exotic places.

Case Study

With the sudden outbreak of a deadly disease called COVID19 caused by a Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2) shook the entire world and drastically had an impact on the educational system across the globe.

The situation challenged the education system across the world and forced educators to shift to an online mode of teaching overnight. Many academic institutions that were earlier reluctant to change their traditional pedagogical approach had no option but to shift entirely to online teaching-learning.

Among the various Universities of Jammu and Kashmir UT, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) under the ambit of National Agricultural Higher Education Project funded by the World Bank and Indian Council Agricultural Research, New Delhi, has taken this challenge of pacing up the academic/student-driven activities/National and International collaborations and proven their capability and determination to live up to the expectation of New Educational Policy 2020.

SKUAST-K with having seven faculties (Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries, Forestry, Veterinary Sciences, Agricultural Engineering and Temperate Sericulture) utilizes the pandemic period as an opportunity and show their mettle by conducting more than 350 national/international online programmes for the student and faculty development. Fostering Leadership, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, collaborated with leading/Premier Institutes across the globe like Western Sydney University, Australia, Lemon School of Entrepreneurship Mumbai, Ross Michigan University, GIMI University, Israel, NIESBUD, CSB, Bangalore, Indigram Labs, IIT-K, IIT-Kharagpur, ICFA, IACG etc for various online programmes.

Under the ambit of IDP, SKUAST-K has made brand equity in Innovation and Entrepreneurship development by challenging and competing at national/international level of contest and marked their footprints by being the top winners. This University management and the team has proven that the real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the situation (Pandemic).

Conclusion

Being the gateway of information and stewards of human resources, colleges need to assume a significant function in setting up a global skilled labour force. Doing so will require an ecosystem-oriented mindset, using online offerings to extend reach and establish partnerships with other universities and content providers. Much like industries, universities will need digital solutions to solve for the big problems in higher education. By harnessing emerging technologies, universities can reach beyond campus walls to empower diverse learners at a global scale. It begins with embracing stackable, online learning, which provides flexibility furthermore, a reasonableness that builds admittance to college educational plans and permits understudies to take part in more modest lumps of learning prior to focusing on bigger degree programs. Innovation fueled configurations like versatile encounters meet the student where they are, empowering more consistent changes for those entering another learning climate or getting back on track. At a further developed level, grasping AI-controlled versatile learning will empower colleges to customize training.

Naveed Bhat is BDA  at Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cell, SKUAST-Kashmir. You can reach him at [email protected] 

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COVID19

Health Shocks versus Health Stimulants in COVID19

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Health Shocks versus Stimulants

Dr Binish Qadri
The overpopulated and underdeveloped economies are characterised by the vicious circle of poverty having very low per capita income. It has been argued in the Critical Minimum Thesis of Harvey Leibenstein that underdeveloped economies are underdeveloped because there is a bad interface between the two forces of development viz shocks and stimulants. Since shocks are more intense in underdeveloped economies than stimulants, these economies are caught under a vicious circle of poverty. We must realize the fact that our health shocks are more than our health stimulants and, therefore, we are not in a position to come out of COVID19. What is required in this pandemic is that the economy should receive a stimulus to growth that is more necessary than a certain critical minimum size. To reduce the magnitude of health shocks and increase the magnitude of health stimulants all those forces which reduce the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. need to be suppressed and all those forces which increase the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. are to be boosted.

Shocks dampen the forces of development while stimulants boost the forces of development. Similarly, health shocks dampen the forces of health development parameters while health stimulants boost the forces of health development parameters. Health stimulants have the capacity to raise health levels in general and per capita income levels in particular above the equilibrium level. In backward and undeveloped countries as the magnitude of stimulants is quite small we can’t imagine long-run economic development. This further discourages the magnitude of health stimulants. Therefore, the efforts to evade economic backwardness (health in particular), impulsive or compulsory, are below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent growth that is all-inclusive. Even in our health departments, the efforts to do away with health disparities and COVID19 are very below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent holistic sustained health development.

According to Leibenstein, the attitudes and motivation of the people and the incentives given to them have a great bearing on the generation of stimulants. Nonetheless, the motivation and incentives have no worth without the key factors of economic development. The main factors that promote economic development are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the discoverers, the innovators, those who have the capacity to accumulate and utilize wealth, and those who can accumulate skills and spread knowledge. COVID19 has depressed the masses to a great extent and reduced the motivation of the people to improve their immunity. Health authorities must give enough incentives to combat the detrimental impact of this virus, increase immunity, and generate health stimulants. No doubt the activities of health authorities and Frontline Health Workers are unending, but they must lay great thrust upon those activities which are in a position to generate health stimulants and promote economic development. COVID19 demands continuous efforts of various social, economic, and health agencies necessary for economic development. We need efficient human capital to produce other efficient human capital (particularly nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers). That is to say that we need a critical minimum amount of investment in human capital to produce more efficient human capital out of human resources. But, it necessitates an extraordinary type of human response towards motivations, attitudes, and incentives, which are created by a sound social and economic environment.

The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Kashmir. You can reach her at [email protected]

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COVID19

Third Wave: Precautions, not panic, please

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Precautions not panic please

Jammu and Kashmir is in the middle of what medical experts are calling the ‘third wave’ of Covid19. There has been a sharp increase in the number of Covid19 positive cases in the past one month or so. From 136 positive cases reported on December 19, 2021 to 5992 positive cases reported on January 20, 2022, the jump in the tally has been both significant and concerning. This has led to the imposition of a number of curbs across the Union Territory, including the closure of educational institutions for offline classes as well as the postponement of several examinations by universities.

While this increase in the number of positive cases has been concerning for both people and the authorities, the lethality vis-à-vis hospitalisations and deaths has been relatively very low when compared with the figures of deaths and hospitalisations during the second Covid19 wave when the Delta variant of the virus was at its peak.

Today, according to official versions, the bed occupancy is “very low” which is indicative of low levels of the lethality of the new variant called ‘Omicron’ despite the fact that scientists across the world have opined that its transmissibility is extremely high. Though there is no official data to support that the ongoing rise in Covid19 infections in Jammu and Kashmir is a result of the spread of the Omicron variant, nonetheless the rising levels of transmissibility are indicative of it. Truly, it is not possible for the government to go for mass testing for Omicron due to logistic requirements for genome sequencing, the levels of RTPCR testing for Covid19 have gone up significantly in the past few days, reaching as many as 80,000 tests/day on January 19.

Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested.

At the public level too, the response to the fresh outbreak has been sagacious enough. Contrary to social stigma and ostracisation seen during the first and second wave of Covid19, when deaths and panic were at their peak, the situation today is far better. People appear to be handling the fresh outbreak with a fair degree of seriousness and maintaining the social cohesion that was seen in tatters in the first and second wave. That is a lesson that seems to have been learned the hard way at the public level, though it is important for the people to continue to mask up, maintain physical distancing and other Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) to halt the fresh outbreak in its tracks.

There is no clear scientific data to suggest that the Omicron variant is going to behave ‘mildly’ in the near future as it is behaving today. That should serve as an alarming sign for both the people as well as medical experts and health professionals dealing with Covid19. There must be no lowering of guard whatsoever. The hospitals have to be fully equipped with Oxygen supply and ICU beds to keep them ready for any eventuality. Dedicated Covid19 hospitals have to be put in a ‘ready mode’ for next few months till the ongoing wave—believed to go in a couple of months from now—ebbs. Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested. A reckless lockdown has the potential to hit the livelihoods of people which they are yet to revive after taking a massive hit during the first and second wave of Covid19. Additionally, it is important to explore ways and means to see to it that the education sector doesn’t get impacted any further. It has already taken a heavy toll on children’s education and their socialising in schools and colleges. All decisions have to be weighed in with ground realities and medical advice for a fine and balanced approach. Both people and government need to work together to realise these objectives.

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Covid19 reopening: A close watch needed

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Covid19 reopening

Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, continues to battle the Covid19 pandemic. Though the number of daily positive cases is not as alarming as it would be a few months earlier, yet there are some indications of a slow rise in positive cases in the past few weeks. This situation clearly calls for very careful handling of the situation, especially in view of the apprehensions of a possible third wave hitting the country in the months of October and November.

In a welcome move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently ordered phased reopening of educational institutions, including colleges and higher-level schools. It was a long-pending demand of all stakeholders, in the larger interest of the student community, to allow children to return to their on-campus classes after a long hiatus. The move coincided with the phased reopening of businesses in the Union Territory to infuse a fresh lease of life into the otherwise ‘dismal’ economy that was badly hit in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.

The post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

There is no denying the fact that the post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

It was therefore imperative upon the administration to take care of the interests of this section of the society. It is equally a fact that the resumption of academic activities across Jammu and Kashmir was the need of the hour to enable students to interact with their teachers and peers, re-socialise on the campuses and heave a sigh of relief. To this extent, the administration took certain welcome decisions. However, the fact that the pandemic is still not over can’t be overlooked in such a scenario. It is therefore important to watch the situation very closely for its better management and minimal disruptions in case of any eventuality like the third Covid19 wave.

The onus to ensure a close watch on the situation certainly lies on the officials concerned, especially the Deputy Commissioners of various districts. In the past two months, the number of daily positive cases largely ranges from 100 to 200. This is not alarming if a comparison of these figures is made with the figures of the previous few months. But the level of unpredictability is too high to be taken casually. On September 22, the UT recorded the highest single-day tally of 204 Covid positive cases—up from 145 cases recorded a day earlier. This is where the situation demands utmost caution. At the official level, it is important to keep a track of these figures to decide on further reopening. If the rate of positivity surges, it would be in the fitness of things to reconsider the further process of reopening and reimpose the curbs, wherever necessary. Alongside, it is imperative to ensure that mass gatherings are disallowed and people adhere to the Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) in letter and spirit. The administration also requires to watch the Covid scenario in other states of the country and handle the inflow of tourists and visitors to the UT accordingly in strict adherence to the SOPs. The situation just cannot be allowed to go out of control any longer. Sustained and focused attention on the situation can go a long way in facilitating its better management at all levels.

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