Education in India

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Schoolchildren are not learning because of the digital divide, writes Nilanjana Bhowmick.


Students of group 11 and 12 get computer education in the computer classroom of secondary government school ‘Anjoor’ in the village Ramanagaram, 60km from Bangalore.Credit: Wim Klerx/Computer caste

Kavi’s mother is the only one in his home to have a smartphone. But it broke a few days after lockdown started.

The number of people getting COVID-19 did not stop rising, but many children from poor homes with no online access like Kavi will lose a school year. Some will probably never go back to school.

Narendra Modi’s government said that students in senior classes – 9 and 12 – about to take external exams, would be allowed to go to school if they want to from 21 September. But that still leaves out most children, who have to stay at home.

In India about 320 million children are affected by Covid-19 school closures. Lessons have moved online, and schools are teaching in different ways. Some use online conference-call platforms for classes. Or teaching and learning management systems like the SEQTA from Australia. At the private school in Kolkata where my sister teaches, teachers use email to send and receive work.

The ministry of human resources says that the government acted immediately after lockdown started in March to make sure all children can learn and make digital learning more equal. For example, over the last few years, the government developed online resources that students and teachers can use on laptops, desktops and mobile phones.

But this doesn’t help kids like Kavi, who don’t even have a television at home, and definitely not a computer. He is now selling vegetables outside rich private houses.

Modi first became prime minister in 2014 and everyone is so happy about India’s digital transformation. This tech-savvy prime minister went to several election rallies at the same time as a hologram.

Modi’s government says it has used technology to include everyone. But education should have been the first focus. Now Covid-19 has stopped the progress in bringing children to school. And now the funding for e-learning has been cut a lot when people need it most.

The new education policy stated in July that Covid-19 has shown that we need other ways to provide quality education where traditional ways of education are not possible. It says we need to stop the digital divide and make sure people are able to buy computers, to be able to give quality education to everyone. Tell that to the children who now cannot have online classes simply because they do not have a computer or a smartphone.

I read in a 2004 study in Journal of Labor Economics that Austrian and German children who couldn’t go to school in the Second World War earnt a lot less than other 40 years after the war.

If the pandemic continues, millions of poor children in India will suffer from this type of long-term effect.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)