Digital divide may see students drop out, warn experts

The State government’s decision to restart online learning has once again brought the socio-economic divide to the fore. While one section of parents have been conducting social media campaigns demanding e-learning, another set of parents want the ban to remain.

Many of the students who come from lower socio economic backgrounds are unable to access online classes. Experts fear that the digital divide would lead to a large number of students dropping out of school.

Explaining the hardship that her classmates face, Suraksha (name changed) who studies in class VIII in a school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education in Nagadevanahalli, says that her school has been conducting online classes for the last three weeks. “There are 45 students in my class, but only around 30 students attend the sessions, as many do not have access to smartphones or the internet,” she said.

Although, she uses her mother’s phone to log in for classes, she says that she is unable to grasp many of the lessons, making learning difficult for her.

Many are not as lucky as Suraksha and have been missing their online classes as their parents take their phones with them to work. “We called our teacher and asked her what we should do. The teacher said that we will have to study the lessons on our own and ask doubts when the school re-opens,” said a class IX student, whose mother works as a domestic help.

Education experts pointed out that while private schools have started online classes, the department is yet to chalk out a model to impart learning for students in government and aided schools.

A government school headmaster in Bengaluru feared that many students, particularly those of migrant workers, would drop out. “Many of the workers have returned to their hometowns. Our students are not accessible. Unless the government works out a plan, thousands of students will drop out during the pandemic,” he said.

The Federation of Bengaluru District Street Vendors' Unions has written to the Department of Primary and Secondary Education as well as to experts on the committee that is looking into the modalities of online education. It argued that online classes have become a crisis for families, and suggested airing lessons on television, which is accessible to most people.

The department has collected data from 1.04 crore students in classes I to X on the gadgets they have access to. The data revealed that 94% of them had access to radio and television while 60% have access to a smartphone and internet connection.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 4:06:58 PM |

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