Expert View

Digital divide in India: Educational Challenges awaiting attention in 2021

Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive Vice President, AISECT Group

By Mr. Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive Vice President, AISECT Group

The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the educational ecosystem, not just in India, but also around the world. As we are aware, the whole pandemic situation has revolutionized the education sphere globally, shaking both the educator and student community.

These trying times are set to reform the essence of the subsequent work and its approach, especially from the digital point of view. As the pandemic has highlighted some of the deep-rooted drawbacks of the Indian Education System, it has become pivotal for us Indians to be well-equipped and organized for a digital revival. Following are few vital points to consider while implementing reform in the existing education system in India:

Lack of digital skills amongst the teachers

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted some major issues such as lack of proper teaching tools, engaging learning strategies along with an updated curriculum. Most teachers in India are still not familiar with the e-learning platforms, making it difficult to communicate with the pupils. The technical vulnerability can be overwhelming along with the growing expense of online education. To tackle this situation, educational institutions need to subsidize and reimburse the costs in order to cease the jump of potential dropouts as an outcome.

Moreover, it is of utmost importance for an educational institution to have a digital friendly faculty. With the help of the Repeated Faculty Training of Trainers (TOT) the teachers can gain the requisite ability to create lesson plans and deliver training to the students pursuing higher education. Apart from that, institutions should focus strongly on Faculty Development Programs (FDP Programs) which provides financial assistance to ease the process of skill upgradation, knowledge and opportunity.

Absence of students’ perspective

According to a government survey on education, dropout rates at diploma and graduation levels are on the rise. This fear of dropouts escalates furthermore amongst the students of rural and semi urban areas. In spite of a surge in digital users in recent years, the semi-urban and rural India is far apart when it comes to their online presence. As per the 75th National Sample Survey of India, there are 27 subscribers to 100 people in rural areas.

There is no appropriate access to a fundamental education infrastructure in the form of classrooms, teachers, and study materials and so on. The national education policy 2020 intends to rectify the situation by focusing on skill development, entrepreneurship, problem-solving and industry-relevant skills. NEP 2020 further aims to empower educational spaces and act as a bridge between the students (prospective employees) and employers. Government and educational institutions can together adopt policies to offer free internet and devices to students in order to facilitate e-learning.

Improvement in digital access

In order to curb problems related to bandwidth and low connectivity, an alternate way of training and delivering digital learning material needs to be stimulated. Primarily, educational institutions should reinforce their resources for advanced virtual educational activities such as radio, television and web-based education. Even the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and University Grants Commission (UGC) have launched several virtual platforms with e-books and digital learning materials to help enhance flexibility in education. The latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning versions need ample awareness for personalized learning plans and practices. There are chances that online education will act as a parallel mode of learning, therefore it is crucial to upgrade the current one instantaneously.

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