According to a report prepared by the Union’s Ministry of Education, 40% to 70% of schoolchildren in seven major states – Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand – lack access to digital devices. which documents the response to the challenges posed COVID-19 pandemic.
The School Sector Initiatives 2020–2021 report shows that the digital divide has hit some states disproportionately hard, while some may have done well thanks to the ample availability of smartphones and televisions. However, the picture remains incomplete due to a lack of data from states such as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, as well as dubious claims, such as Rajasthan, that there are no students without digital access.
The report, which was released Wednesday, was based on data provided by 22 of the 28 states and seven of the eight union territories. Government measures to close the gap also reflect similar inequalities – some, such as Tamil Nadu, claim to have shared 5.15 lakhs of laptops among students, compared to 42 mobile phones from the Bihar government.
In absolute numbers, compiled from surveys of various sample sizes conducted by states and UT in 2020 and 2021, it was found that Rs 29 crores of students, including Rs 14.33 crores in Bihar, did not have access to digital devices. The “new normal” can also have a huge impact on the educational level of almost all children; learning loss can be a reality for many children, ”the report says.
Among the states that responded, those with a very high proportion of students without digital access include Madhya Pradesh (70%), Bihar (58.09%), Andhra Pradesh (57%), Assam (44.24%) , Jharkhand (43.42%). , Uttarakhand (41.17%) and Gujarat (40%). Among the states with higher standing and UT are Delhi, where about 4% of students have no access, Kerala 1.63%, Tamil Nadu 14.51%.
Take a look at some of the report’s findings:
Assam: The state reported that 3,106,255 students do not have digital devices. According to the Unified District Education Information System, 7.01.5898 students are enrolled in it in 65,907 schools. Although the state did not distribute the devices, it organized teacher home visits and opened a toll-free telephone helpline for students to dispel academic doubts and address psychosocial problems.
Andhra Pradesh: The state surveyed 29.34 million of 81.36 million students in May 2021 and found that 2.01,568 students did not have access to mobile phones. Parents of 10.22 million have phone-only phones, and 4.57 million students have access to phones without mobile data. It turned out that 3.88 million students do not have access to television. Only 5752 students have laptops. The state has already distributed 2,850 laptops and 18,270 tablets and plans to introduce a toll-free number.
Bihar: The state, which has 2.46 million students, reported 1.43 million children do not have access to digital devices. In terms of bridging the gap, he has provided mobile phones to 42 students and plans to provide tablets to 250 schools. With UNICEF assistance, mobile vans equipped with TV, video, math games and toys have been deployed in seven districts, with a particular focus on Mahadalit / Mushahar communities.
Gujarat: A UNICEF survey of 12,000 schools found that 40% of students do not have access to smartphones or the Internet. There are 54,629 schools in the state with 1.14 million students. To fill this gap, the state government has distributed blended learning modules and launched the IVRS help line. Students were provided with about 11,200 devices, teachers – 40,000.
Jharkhand: Of the 74.89 million students, 32.52 million do not have digital access. The state informed the Center that the tablets were donated to schools and cluster resource centers in 2018-19. As quantity android telephony in remote, tribal-dominated villages is “very small,” and the government, in collaboration with UNICEF, has developed homeschooling modules and opened mohalla schools in remote areas.
Madhya Pradesh: A survey of 98 lakhs of the state’s 1.57 million students by the Department of Education found that 70% of them do not have access to smartphones. A poll in April 2021 found that 53 million people have access to televisions and 57 million to radios. Among the activities listed are mohalla lessons and regular phone calls between teachers and parents. The radio school assistance program was also launched immediately after the national isolation.
Uttarakhand: Government agencies surveyed 5.20 million out of 23.39 million schoolchildren and found that 2.14 million did not have access to digital devices for online learning. It is proposed to distribute more than 35,000 e-books to schoolchildren. The state also tried to reach out to these students, distribute worksheets, and use local radio in five districts.
Driving home point
The Education Ministry report re-highlights the grim reality of differential access to education, further exacerbated by the disruption caused by the pandemic and the ensuing digital divide. Official figures also confirm concerns expressed by non-profit organizations working in the education sector. The report also highlights interventions at various levels to bridge the gap, but does not sufficiently highlight the need to scale up efforts.