Shnaoli Chakraborty Acharyaa
aDepartment of Education, West Bengal State University, Barasat, Kolkata, India
(Received 31 July 2022, Final revised version received 15 November 2022)
As the world experienced the outbreak of COVID-19, the education system encountered a sudden shutdown. The reconfiguration of the higher education system was evident in global institutions due to the sudden impact of the pandemic resulting in the unprecedented shutdown of face-to-face teaching. The limited opportunities for a group of learners were now further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, higher education institutions could frame their strategies to address issues of equity within the “capability approach” (Sen, 2015). This research proceeded using a qualitative approach adopting a critical ethnographical study based on the content analysis of the two data sources comprising of unstructured interviews separately with academic leaders, a group of teachers, and a group of students from each of the five higher education institutions of West Bengal. Three broad areas were identified to understand the actual situation prevailing in the institutions. These include- i) Knowledge development of socially and economically disadvantaged learners through online teaching, ii) Evolving capabilities for learners with disabilities to make reflexive choices in learning, and iii) Evaluation of meeting racial equity goals to confirm individual autonomy of marginalized learners. The study highlighted the salient premises that higher education could follow through the ideology of the Capability Approach, to deal with the issues of equity, as it considers the contingent circumstances of learners, and not merely their societal background. The research findings could serve as a structural framework as it considers the opportunities along with the invisible hindrances that learners come across during the pandemic closure.
Keywords: Higher education, West Bengal, Equity, Inclusion, Pandemic closure, Capability Approach