The current craze for online education (OE) reminds me of the wall graffiti advertising sex clinics that are visible across urban north India. These ads promise guaranteed cures — shartiya ilaj — for all kinds of ailments and afflictions. Today, OE is being force-fed to Indian education as a miracle cure — at all levels (school, college, university) and for all tasks (lectures, exams, admissions) — not only for pandemic conditions but for the future.
Readers may have already decided that I come to bury OE, not to praise it. They are half right. I believe that the incredible synergy unleashed by information and communications technology (ICT) is the best thing to have happened to education since the printing press. Indeed, higher education today is unthinkable without some form of the computer and some mode of digitized data transmission. As products of this revolution, online methods of teaching and learning deserve our highest praise — but only when casting in their proper role, which is to supplement, support, and amplify the techniques of face-to-face education. The moment they are proposed as a substitute for the physical sites of learning we have long known — brick-and-cement schools, colleges, and universities — online modes must be resolutely resisted.