In India, 320 million students have been affected by COVID-19 school closures, and though the government quickly recommended shifting to “online teaching,” this ignores India’s immense digital divide—with embedded gender and class divides. There are several issues that the Indian education system is undergoing and the major one is the poor rural education scenario.

  • The 2017-18 National Sample Survey reported only 23.8 percent of Indian households had internet access.
  • According to a survey report called the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), more than 50% of the students in 5th standard attending rural schools are not capable of reading a second standard textbook and do not solve basic mathematical questions.
  • In rural households (66 percent of the population), only 14.9 percent had access, and in urban households only 42 percent had access. 
  • Young people’s access is less: A recent news report stated only 12.5 percent of students had access to smartphones. Furthermore, most teachers are ill-equipped for online teaching.
  • The 75th report of the National Sample Survey Office (NASSO) of 2017-18 gave a grim picture that may hamper the transition of classroom mode to the online mode of education in India.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) which caters to the development of education in India is placed in the lowest category (Category-C) the lowest category in expenditures with restrictions of expenditure within 15% for 2020-21 financial budgets. Given this situation, India will go nowhere to fight this huge crisis brought upon us by COVID 19 Pandemic.
  • The ministry with its limited resources is planning to develop high-Quality ED-tech applications like ‘e-pathshala’ using e-resources. This is an attempt to move classroom education to online mode across the states in India.
  • Another significant challenge in the implementation of digital online education systems is the responsibility of parents/guardians who have to play a major role in educating their wards. 
  • NCERT has come up with progressive guidelines on the methods of teachings to improve the analytical, quantitative, and logical reasoning abilities of the students. However, the guidelines presume that the parents (core educators at home) are academically fit to understand the concept. But this is not the case in India.
  • Statistics say that 26.1% of the population above 15 years is illiterate. 18.9% only attended up to primary schooling. 16.2% each have studied only up to class V and VIII.  This shows that 77.4% of Indians are not in having intellectual capacities to teach their children at home.
  • The situation in the rural areas is even worse with 69.6% of the rural population being in the category of not literate to primary schooling.

The implications of school closures in the country are not just about education ; they are manifold. An unprecedented social disaster can be avoided if more entities — Government and private — pitch into short-term and long-term futures of the children in this digital divide.

 REFERENCES-  Policy Times, The Hindu

Article by- Avantika Pandey-Edited By-Shweta Mittal, Team SciComm