Bengaluru

Dependence on online learning exposes deepening ‘digital divide’

In some instances, parents are shelling out their savings to either buy or rent laptops or tablets for their children.

In some instances, parents are shelling out their savings to either buy or rent laptops or tablets for their children.   | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangements

Many students are missing out on lectures despite paying the tuition fees

Eleven-year-old Shreyas S., a class five student of a Central Board of Secondary Education school, uses his mother’s smartphone to log into online classes at 8.30 a.m. On Tuesday, he attended classes for science, mathematics, English, and one for physical education. “I spent the day learning about prepositions and the composition of food, and also managed to do some sit-ups. But I find it difficult to understand the concepts. There’s also interruptions in the internet network and a lot of disturbance in the background at home,” he said.

Hitha Shravani, a class 10 student in a private school, also squints into her parents’ mobile phones to attend classes, all the while aware that her performance in the board exams will determine her future. She had to miss a few classes when her parents stepped out of their home with the phone.

“We have six classes of 40 minutes each. If there are power cuts, then I cannot attend them. The audio clarity is poor and I face a lot of network issues,” she said, adding that although her teacher makes an effort to ensure that the presentations are easy, she and many of her classmates find it hard to grasp new concepts.

While Hitha and Shreyas are struggling, others like Raunak (name changed) and his sister find themselves enjoying online learning. They have a laptop, a PC and a tablet at their disposal. If the power goes off, the UPS kicks in. “And if the Internet does not work, we use mobile phone hotspots to reconnect, though there can be a lag due to buffering,” said Raunak who started class nine last week.

Online classes have exposed the divide between the privileged and those who don’t have access to broadband, smart phones or laptops. In some instances, parents are shelling out their savings to either buy or rent laptops or tablets for their children. But many students are missing out on lectures despite paying the tuition fees. Several academicians and experts have pointed out that online learning is deepening the “digital divide” among students.

According to data collected by the Department of Public Instruction, 90% of the 80 lakh students in the State who were surveyed, were found to have access to television, while only 62.5% had smartphones, laptops or tablets. Only 53.75% had Internet facilities. The department is yet to collect data from 15 lakh students across the State.

Parents are worried that this will affect their learning outcomes.

Srinivas C., a driver whose child is admitted under the RTE quota in a private school, said, “There is a lot of disturbance in the online classes. I have observed that my son finds it difficult to follow what the teacher says. We hope that the school just allows children to take a break and commences classes in schools when they are permitted to,” he said.

Rishikesh B.S., associate professor at Azim Premji University, said that there was a need for school managements to first accept the reality and ensure that schools may not be able to reopen soon. “We strongly believe that going online is not an option and suggest that schools find other ways to engage with students. One of the key aims of education is to ensure the overall growth of one's personality, which can be encouraged in many creative ways. They can introduce small modules towards this and DSERT could be partnered with to relay through radio / satellite programs. Classes can be bunched together and have similar modules for students from different classes based on age groups,” he said. “We need to think of innovative ways to avoid online classes. Schools can even come up with novel ways of sending and picking up worksheets to students’ homes through their school bus network.”

Based on a survey conducted by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education, Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar had written to Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar requesting three DD channels exclusively for the Department of Public Instruction.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 8:43:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/dependence-on-online-learning-exposes-deepening-digital-divide/article31733445.ece

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