As Schools Remain Shut, India Struggles With Equal Online Education For All

This article discusses 92% of Indian households struggling with virtual education shift in the COVID-19 times due to lack of accessibility, stable income, low connectivity, etc.



A generation’s educational growth is being majorly disrupted due to the lockdown. The digital divide is not something we’re alien to, but the inequality is affecting our children more than ever now. The 2017-18 National Sample Survey report on education exposed rooted inequality in our country that speaks of relevancy the most today. It highlights that only 8% of all Indian households, with members aged between 5 to 24, have both a computer and an internet connection. So, how is the online education during the lockdown working for over 90% Indian children?

Here’s why India catching up with the paradigm shift to online education is difficult. only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility. And, of them, as we mentioned, only 8% have both a computer and internet. The rest 16% are summoned to have their children take classes on a phone. And, with most of the households falling under the low-income category, the access to a phone for a long time becomes less.

Speaking of the other divide (urban and rural), 66% of India’s population lives in villages, of which only 15% of rural households have access to internet services. With such a stark divide, education disparity is only increasing in a hard time like today. Education has sadly become a privilege with prevailing virtual learning and we aren’t sure when our children will be able to go back to the normalcy. For now, a divide like this is pushing the disadvantaged behind with no fault of theirs.

Class is not the only divide that Indian Internet Education system is battling with. Gender disparity in terms of internet access is prominent, too. As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India 2019 report, the internet is accessible to 67% men with only 33% for women. The situation is worse in rural India, with 72% and 28% for men and women, respectively.


Even for the ones who have managed to study online, the internet connectivity is coming across as a big roadblock. A report titled "COVID-19: A wake-up call for telecom service providers" stated: The survey pointed out that the infrastructure in terms of technology in India has not achieved a state of quality so as to ensure sound delivery of online classes to students across the country. It is seen that both the state and the private players have not yet managed to overcome technical challenges, for instance, in providing adequate power supply and ensuring effective connectivity as the data reveals.

Keeping up with the internet cost is also what low-income families struggle with. Due to lockdown, many households who have lost their source of income will not be able to afford internet service for a long time. Any sort of reimbursement, free service, or subsidy has not been announced for the consumption of the internet yet.

Another survey by Quacquarelli Symonds shows that users who use home broadband in India, over 3% face cable cuts, 53% face poor connectivity and 32% face signal issues. In the case of mobile data, 40.2% face poor connectivity and 56.6% face signal issues. And, in a tensed state like Jammu and Kashmir, students face trouble with online classes because of the restricted network connectivity to 2G instead of 4G.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development had reduced its budget for digital e-learning from Rs 604 to Rs 469 crores. Considering all these factors, it’s a worrisome state for Indian education right now.  



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