Covid disruptions National

In academic year 2019-20, only 22% Indian schools had Internet

Image used for representation purpose.   | Photo Credit: MOORTHY G

In the academic year that ended with school closures due to COVID-19, only 22% of schools in India had Internet facilities, according to Education Ministry data released on Thursday. Among government schools, less than 12% had Internet in 2019-20, while less than 30% had functional computer facilities. This affected the kind of digital education options available to schools during the pandemic, as well as plans for hybrid learning in the days ahead.

The Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) report collates data from more than 15 lakh schools across the country. As the first wave of COVID-19 entered India in early 2020, schools were closed in mid-March, just weeks before the end of the 2019-20 academic year. The vast majority of the country’s 26 crore schoolchildren have not stepped foot in a school since then, depending instead on various forms of distance education.

In academic year 2019-20, only 22% Indian schools had Internet

The availability of digital education — whether via live, synchronous teaching on apps like Zoom, or through recorded lectures, emails, WhatsApp or educational apps — was largely dependent on whether schools, teachers and parents had access to the necessary infrastructure. In many States, teachers came to school and taught in their own empty classrooms, using their blackboards and lab facilities, while facing a computer screen that communicated the lessons to their students at home.

However, the UDISE+ data makes clear the digital divide, which made this a viable option only in some States. In many Union Territories, as well as in the State of Kerala, more than 90% of schools, both government and private, had access to working computers. In States such as Chhattisgarh (83%) and Jharkhand (73%), installation of computer facilities in most government schools paid off, while in others such as Tamil Nadu (77%), Gujarat (74%) and Maharashtra (71%), private schools had higher levels of computer availability than in government schools.

However, in States such as Assam (13%), Madhya Pradesh (13%), Bihar (14%), West Bengal (14%), Tripura (15%) and Uttar Pradesh (18%), less than one in five schools had working computers. The situation is worse in government schools, with less than 5% of U.P.’s government schools having the facility.

The connectivity divide is even starker. Only three States — Kerala (88%), Delhi (86%) and Gujarat (71%) — have Internet facilities in more than half their schools. This will make it hard for most schools to implement the options for hybrid learning as schools try to re-open with staggered attendance post the pandemic.

More encouragingly, 90% of schools across the country have facilities for handwashing, which will gain added importance as they implement COVID-19 safety protocols while reopening. More than 80% of schools conducted medical check-ups during the year before the pandemic. Temperature testing and monitoring of symptoms need to become a daily activity, according to the Centre’s heath protocol for schools wishing to reopen.

The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) improved in 2019-20, with 98% of students in Classes 1-8 attending school, though the GER for secondary and senior secondary students stood at 78% and 51% respectively. The dropout rate at secondary level was 17% in 2019-20, with experts warning that dropouts are likely to surge due to the pandemic.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 3:50:28 AM |

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