A large majority (about 92 per cent) of children in rural area of underprivileged households in India and more than 75 per cent of their urban counterparts are not getting regular and proper online education, according to a latest report.
The School Children’s Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) survey report pointed out that 90 per cent urban parents and 97 per cent rural parents wanted the schools to reopen.
It said that reading ability of children declined during the pandemic. As far as 42 per cent of the children from Classes III to V in rural India and 35 per cent from urban areas were unable to read more than a few letters in the reading test. The survey also pointed out that over 75 per cent parents felt that reading and writing abilities among children from Class I to V declined during the period.
Welfare economist, social scientist Jean Dreze and associate professor economics of IIT Delhi Reetika Khera did the study. They sampled 1,400 schoolchildren in underprivileged households of which 60 per cent of the sample are from rural areas and belong to dalit or adivasi communities. They held the survey in August 2021 in 15 states Union Territories
In the report, the authors also highlighted the digital divide. They noted that 55 per cent of the SC/ ST students as against 38 per cent others are from a household who live without a smart phone. The survey also pointed out lack of digital devices and poor internet connectivity during the Covid-19 situation. It said that only eight per cent rural students and 24 per cent urban students are studying online regularly while 37 per cent rural children and 19 per cent urban children are not studying at all during this period.
Apart from not having a smart phone, another hurdle faced by the parents is that they did not have enough money for ‘data. Another hurdle faced is that the schools are not sending online material. Many of the children, particularly younger ones, lack understanding of online study in any case, or find it difficult to concentrate.
The report mentioned that 51 per cent of the rural children live in a family with smart phones, 36 per cent do not have their own phones. When six per cent cannot afford internet data, ten per cent online study was beyond their understanding and 43 per cent of them received no online materials from school.
The authors also found an exodus from private schools. They claimed that one-fifth of the children surveyed were enrolled in private schools when the lockdown started in March 2020. Of this 26 per cent of them got transferred to government schools, probably because many private schools switched to online education and continuing to charge the same fees. The Poor parents often became reluctant to pay the fees and other costs (including smart phone and recharge), either due to depressed earnings or because online education did not work well for their children, the report said.