India is geographically the 7th largest country in the world, and one of the most populous countries in the world. The Indian educational system has produced some top minds in the world for a lot of decades. At present, the COVID-19 lockdown has pushed for online lessons as a solution for schools, as well as students who are looking to start classes.
Earlier, educational apps, or digital education/e-learning, was considered just as just a supplementary way of learning. Contradrictoraly, reports have disclosed that only 8% of Indian homes, with young students, have computers with a steady net connection.
Well, India is going to witness the 50% increase in students over the next 15 years, and the reality is, only a small number of students will be able to pursue it in the upcoming years. Due to the epidemic, the government of India has, for the first time, allowed different Indian universities, educational institutes, and learning sectors to offer the online degrees which were mostly restricted to foreign universities previously.
With schools shut, at first digital learning may look all very simple, but all the digital tools, along with gadgets, can be accessible to students mostly in cities. What about the remote areas of the country? Around 66% of India’s population lives in villages, only 15% of rural households have access to internet services and for urban households, the proportion is 42%.
We all know that poverty in India is a terrible problem, with a large population living below the poverty line. Even though education is free under the Right to Education Act (RTE), a large portion of the population in India does not have enough money to send their children to schools and now, it has become worse.
Till now, countless families do not have smartphones, let alone computers or laptops. Well, this is due to the high cost of infrastructure throughout India. The major infrastructure is missing, and how can we forget about the fact that there are challenges for teachers as well?
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how deep-rooted the structural imbalances are between the rural and urban population, even in the digital world. Well, UNESCO and UNICEF have raised several concerns among educational experts and said: “millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during the lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic”.
UNESCO also noted, “Half of the total number of learners — some 826 million (82.6 crores) students — kept out of the classroom by the Covid-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43% (706 million or 70.6 crores) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.”
Aakash Chaudhry, Director and CEO Aakash Educational Services Ltd. said, “Making digital education accessible to poor students living in remote areas or cities remains a challenge and we as a society need to work towards achieving this goal. Education is not confined to merely sharing a video, it has to be interactive and the communication between students, teachers, and student groups should happen to make the learning beneficial and highly effective.”
India has a lot of obstacles to conquer before it can offer access to advanced technology like e-learning. However, both the private and public education sector is working to develop content requirements. We have a long way to go and India needs to work on the ground level.