• In India, many rural students lack the connections or hardware to learn remotely. More nations specially in Asia will confront the same reality as the outbreak of Corona Virus spreads.
• Digital divide and India : In a matter of weeks, corona virus (COVID-19) has changed how students are educated around the world. Those changes give us a glimpse at how education could change in the long term.Take for instance a study on the colleges of rural India. Many of the students lack smartphones till now. Some do not have access to Whatsapp or even Facebook. Forget about the Google classrooms or the Zoom platform. Some digitally conscious student may feel it as a joke. But this is the harsh reality. Like hundreds of millions of other students worldwide, the college students of rural India are getting used to having their classes online. Since all of their teachers have smartphones they expect their students to be more digitally conscious.
• Rural India’s digital divide in the wake of Covid-19 : It must be remembered that in some of the households in parts of rural India one family member may have the smartphone. So it is the case of borrowing the phone from the family member and use it in a small time frame. But does it really work with online learning?
“The Economic Times” has written a similar article about the digital divide in India. There is a huge gap of digital divide between rural and urban India where growth is biased in favour of urban areas; according to statistics, more than 75 per cent of the broadband connections in the country are in the top 30 cities . Added to these, the growing population, insufficient funds and affordability have been some of the challenges that have led to unequal development in the society, which is responsible for digital divide.
• Educational challenges and Covid 19 : While educators promote online learning as coronavirus spreads, some students specially in rural India are not equipped with the broadband or similar connections. The epidemic’s impact on rich and poor, city and country, is a reality that more of the rest of the world is fast beginning to confront. More than 770 million learners worldwide are now being affected by school and university closures, according to the United Nations.
In India, many parents cannot afford to buy multiple devices for themselves and their children.The nation is blanketed in 4G service, yet the signal is spotty in parts of the countryside. Home broadband can be expensive outside big cities.
Access to quality educational opportunities are deeply inequitable in this country. Now, this unprecedented new epoch risks further widening the gap, placing students from families with low incomes.
• Digital divide around the world : Even the digital divide consists not only in India but also in the world. According to Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission. “With coronavirus, we’re about to expose just how challenging our digital divide is, and just how unequal access to broadband is…..” (Source: The Washington Post) . For students who may be housing insecure, food insecure, or both, the economic fallout from the coronavirus may makes it more harder. Regional colleges tend to have more limited resources than elite institutions, too.
Even faculty with resources may not be as comfortable with technology and designing an engaging online course. Some classes — those with hands-on lab components or performance oriented subjects like theatre, dance, or music — are more difficult to translate into an online format, though there can be creative workarounds.
• The harsh reality : Online learning might be the flavour of the season, but the praxis calls for deeper reflection than has been evident thus far. Chief among them is the very possible digital divide, for not many students have the means to boast a desktop computer or a laptop. Still more inconvenienced will be those who stay in remote villages with little or no internet connectivity. Online learning ought not be reserved for computer-savvy students of urban India.
• In conclusion as excerpt, a few lines are shared from an article in “The Statesman” – “A central policy on online learning is yet to be formulated in the midst of the pandemic, a bevy of issues call for reflection by a cross-section of academics from the school to the post-graduate level. A holistic approach must be developed that covers all students and thus (hopefully) fulfils the Benthamite doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number.”
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