How inequality in society is so strong? Society is divided by the wall of money! Created by some and protected by all.
We as an individual may not have ever wanted a wall of inequality in society, but the wall existed and we have protected it, by not letting it fall.
The new epidemic COVID-19 has unveiled a new face of inequality in society among the young minds whose minds should have been filled by the ideas of egalitarianism [the believe that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities] and pluralistic [A person who believes that the existence of different types of people, beliefs, and opinions within a society is a good thing] society. Let us analyse, the situation of primary and secondary education in India and the impact of coronavirus crisis in the light of digital education.
Educational institutions have shifted to digital platform amid the global lockdown. The newly formed have and have nots in society should be addressed as soon as possible. Haves being the one who can continue their education despite being lockdown. Have nots are the section of society who have no access to digital infrastructure due to financial issues.
Understanding the situation in two ways first being quality of education and second the digital divide that persists.
When we look at the quality of education in India, it can’t be explained without mentioning the ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) report, some of its highlights are
- Only 16% of children in Class 1 can read the text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognize letters.
- Of 6 year old in Class 1, nearly 42% of those in private schools could read words in comparison to only 19% from government schools.
- There exists a gender gap too among students.
India had taken part in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009 and bagged the 72nd rank among 74 participating countries. Then UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government had boycotted PISA, blaming “Out Of Context” questions for India’s dismal performance. India now plans to participate in the upcoming PISA 2021.
The digital divide is proving to be a hurdle today. The Niti Aayog in its “Strategy for New India @75” report highlighted the quality of the internet as a major bottleneck. It pointed out that 55,000 villages in the country are without mobile network coverage. With 220 million smartphone users the overall penetration is just about 30% of the population, out of which only 29% are females.The data above shows the digital divide exists between the rural and urban area and also between genders.
Jharkhand has the highest dropout rate for school children in India only 30 out of 100 finish school, it may increase further after the epidemic.
There are some notable initiatives by the government.
- Bharat Net which aims to connect 2.5 lakhs gram panchayats with high speed optic fiber networks.
- The PMGDISHA (Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Shaksharta Abhiyan) which provides digital access to citizens.
- SWAYAM which aims at bridging the digital divide among students.
What needs to be done more is, addressing the affordability and accessibility of digital education. Address linguistic barriers by using local languages and making it more user friendly. Civil society and philanthropists can lend their hand to students.
For people willing to contribute to society can see it as an opportunity by providing service in their local area and ensure that education can percolate to the lowest level, and not let education be a distant dream for some.