60% of students do not have internet access in India: report

More than a year and a half after the start of the Covid pandemic in India, the digital divide continues to pose challenges in distance education and learning, experts say. Teaching and learning activities had to move online when the pandemic forced schools and colleges to close. While technology has ensured that learning is not completely suspended, the digital divide continues to make distance learning an “operational nightmare”.

60% of students cannot access online learning

A study by the Azim Premji Foundation showed that nearly 60 percent of schoolchildren in India cannot access online learning opportunities. A similar study conducted by Oxfam India found that even among students in urban private schools, half of the parents reported problems with internet signal and speed. A third struggled with the cost of mobile data.

Only 20% of school-aged children in India had access to distance education during the pandemic, of which only half participated in live online classes, according to a new national poll by ICRIER and LIRNEAsia, a digital policy think tank.

School dropout rate during the Covid

In fact, 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school because of Covid-19. “Digital schooling was the only logical path to continue learning for children during the pandemic. But now there is a need to categorically address some relevant issues to build a more resilient system for the future, than conventional schooling. or digital is the main way forward, ”said Amruta Singh, an education expert working on K12 education.

According to Sangeeta Gadre, professor at the University of Delhi, the question of the digital divide arises at both ends of the academic transaction, whether it is the teacher or the student. “While advancing the cause of digitization, these challenges must be taken into account. We must also be aware that women are proportionately more disadvantaged when it comes to the use of digital devices,” said Ms. Gadre.

Relevance of technology

Urvashi Sahni, Fellow of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, said: “Technology has the potential to achieve quality universal education and improve learning outcomes. But to unlock its potential, the digital divide and the embedded gender divide must be addressed. “

“Access to technology and the Internet is an urgent requirement in the information age. It should no longer be a luxury,” she said.

According to a professor at Ambedkar University, “The digital divide continues to make distance learning an operational nightmare. More than a year after the start of the pandemic, it is still a challenge and cannot replace the ‘traditional classroom learning. “

To read: Blatant digital divide in education in India: Covid-19 offers an opportunity for digital inclusion

Read: Covid-19 widens the digital divide: how to modernize the rural education system in India

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