Reality is stranger than the fad for online education -- most schools lack IT-infrastructure

Reality is stranger than the fad for online education -- most schools lack IT-infrastructure

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published Published on Mar 29, 2022   modified Modified on Mar 31, 2022

Online teaching was perhaps the most preferred mode (of the policymakers) for imparting education to school children in the last two years when schools faced closures thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was promoted by both the Central and State Governments when mobility almost came to a standstill (or got restricted in comparison to normal times) during the last two years. However, various studies (a list of those studies is provided in the references section; also see the Education section of im4change.org) indicate that unlike what was expected, digital education failed to reach all students (from diverse castes, classes, regions, gender, and communities). The pre-existing digital gap due to socio-economic differences became more stark during the period of school closures. As a result, among other things, parents noticed severe learning losses among their wards. Reading and writing skills along with mathematical abilities of the school children were negatively affected.   

Although digital learning was promoted and sustained during most part of the last two years by schools, it would be interesting to know whether schools in our country had sufficient information technology (IT) infrastructure prior to 2020-21 i.e., the year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit us. The availability of various IT equipment determines to a large extent whether students are trained (at schools) enough to use them without guidance at homes for the purpose of online learning. 

Many teachers complained that they had to use their own resources to purchase IT devices and get data packages because the schools lacked sufficient IT-infrastructure. However, the schools neither compensated those teachers nor provided adequate IT-infrastructure in the school premises in 2020-21. Although online learning was made almost mandatory in perhaps all types of schools (Government/ Government Aided/ Private Unaided/ Others), not much was done to equip all schools with adequate IT-infrastructure.

By looking at the data provided by the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+), it can be said that the Private Unaided Schools and Government Aided Schools were better endowed in terms of IT-infrastructure in comparison to the Government Schools. Despite that, many parents pulled out their children from the Private Unaided Recognized Schools (charging higher fees), and got them admitted in the Government Schools (who charge lower fees). The enrolment of students in the Government Schools (Total -- Pre-primary to 12) increased from 13,09,31,634 to 13,49,04,560 between 2019-20 and 2020-21, whereas the enrolment of students in Private Unaided Recognized Schools (Total -- Pre-primary to 12) went down from 9,82,09,302 to 9,51,57,082 between 2019-20 and 2020-21. The enrolment of students in the Government Aided Schools (Total -- Pre-primary to 12) also fell from 2,74,98,530 in 2019-20 to 2,68,45,527 in 2020-21. 

But why did it happen? It happened because the COVID-19 pandemic induced countrywide lockdown adversely impacted the livelihoods and earnings of the parents. For example, in 2020-21, the growth (over previous year) in average daily wage rates in real terms for rural agricultural labourers (male only) was found to be negative in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and West Bengal. Uttar Pradesh experienced zero percent growth rate. In the same year, the growth (over previous year) in average daily wage rates in real terms for rural non-agricultural labourers (male only) was negative in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. In 2020-21, the growth (over previous year) in average daily wage rates in real terms for rural construction workers (male only) was negative in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Jammu and Kashmir faced zero percent growth rate. Several studies show that the urban workers and households too were adversely hit by the pandemic induced nationwide lockdown in 2020-21. 

Schools with computer facility

Data available from the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) shows that nearly 38.54 percent of schools had access to computer facilities in 2019-20 in comparison to 41.25 percent in 2020-21. Although almost 32.54 percent of Government Schools had access to computer facilities in 2020-21, the related figure for Private Unaided Schools was higher i.e., 64.04 percent. However, almost 30.03 percent of Government Schools had access to computer facilities in comparison to 59.88 percent of Private Unaided Schools in 2019-20. Although around 62.97 percent of Government Aided Schools had access to computer facilities in 2019-20, it decreased to 61.49 percent in 2020-21.

Note: Please click here to access the data in a spreadsheet format

Source: Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2020-21 report, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, please click here to access

Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20 report, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, please click here to access

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The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with computer facilities in 2019-20 were Delhi (94.97 percent), Kerala (93.41 percent), Chhattisgarh (85.34 percent), Tamil Nadu (78.06 percent), and Gujarat (75.36 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with computer facilities in 2019-20 were Madhya Pradesh (13.59 percent), Meghalaya (13.63 percent), West Bengal (13.87 percent), Bihar (14.19 percent), and Assam (14.98 percent). Please see chart-1.

The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with computer facilities in 2020-21 were Delhi (100.0 percent), Punjab (98.78 percent), Kerala (96.39 percent), Gujarat (93.03 percent), and Chhattisgarh (84.6 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with computer facilities in 2020-21 were Bihar (14.49 percent), Meghalaya (14.67 percent), West Bengal (15.97 percent), Assam (16.22 percent), and Madhya Pradesh (16.69 percent). Please have a look at chart-1.

Schools with functional computer facility

Schools having computer facilities is not enough if the IT devices do not function properly. From the UDISE+ reports one gets that the percentage of all schools having functional computer facilities increased from 37.13 percent to 39.88 percent between 2019-20 and 2020-21 i.e., by just 2.75 percentage points. In other words, the proportion of schools with dysfunctional computer facilities remained around 1.4 percent in 2019-20 as well as 2020-21. 

In 2020-21, the proportion of Government Schools with functional computer facilities (i.e., 31.11 percent) was almost half of the proportion of functional computer facilities in Private Unaided Schools (i.e., 62.7 percent). The same situation existed in 2019-20. The proportion of Government Schools with functional computer facilities was 28.55 percent whereas the proportion of functional computer facilities in Private Unaided Schools was 58.48 percent. Although around 61.84 percent of Government Aided Schools had functional computer facilities in 2019-20, it reduced to 60.44 percent in 2020-21.

Note: Please click here to access the data in a spreadsheet format

Source: Same as above
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The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with functional computer facilities in 2019-20 were Delhi (93.88 percent), Kerala (92.44 percent), Chhattisgarh (83.0 percent), Tamil Nadu (76.55 percent), and Gujarat (73.95 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with functional computer facilities in 2019-20 were Assam (12.7 percent), Meghalaya (13.27 percent), Madhya Pradesh (13.28 percent), West Bengal (13.66 percent), and Bihar (13.83 percent). Please see chart-2.

The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with functional computer facilities in 2020-21 were Delhi (100.0 percent), Punjab (98.78 percent), Kerala (96.03 percent), Gujarat (92.45 percent), and Chhattisgarh (80.45 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with functional computer facilities in 2020-21 were Assam (13.73 percent), Bihar (14.09 percent), Meghalaya (14.34 percent), West Bengal (15.7 percent), and Madhya Pradesh (16.32 percent). Kindly consult chart-2.

Schools with internet facility

Despite having functional computer facilities, teachers may not be able to impart digital education to school children from the premises of the schools if there is no internet connection. The UDISE+ data indicates that around one-fifth of all schools had internet facilities (i.e., 22.28 percent) in 2019-20, which grew marginally to 24.51 percent in 2020-21 i.e., by 2.23 percentage points. 

In 2019-20, the proportion of Government Schools with internet facility was 11.58 percent whereas the proportion of Private Unaided Schools having the internet facility was almost 50.16 percent. In 2020-21, the proportion of Government Schools with internet facility was 13.64 percent whereas the proportion of Private Unaided Schools having the internet facility was about 52.96 percent. Although 42.18 percent of Government Aided Schools had internet facilities in 2019-20, it went up marginally to 43.81 percent in 2020-21.

Note: Please click here to access the data in a spreadsheet format

Source: Same as above

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The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with internet facilities in 2019-20 were Kerala (87.84 percent), Delhi (85.69 percent), Gujarat (70.76 percent), Punjab (48.96 percent), and Haryana (42.92 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with internet facilities in 2019-20 were Tripura (3.85 percent), Meghalaya (3.88 percent), Assam (5.82 percent), Odisha (6.46 percent), and Mizoram (7.19 percent). Please take a look at chart-3.

The top five states in terms of proportion of schools with internet facilities in 2020-21 were Punjab (94.26 percent), Kerala (89.01 percent), Delhi (87.15 percent), Gujarat (75.23 percent), and Haryana (44.37 percent). The bottom five states in terms of proportion of schools with internet facilities in 2020-21 were Meghalaya (4.39 percent), Tripura (5.55 percent), Assam (6.45 percent), Odisha (7.26 percent), and Bihar (8.94 percent). Kindly consult chart-3.

Warning about the UDISE+ data

The UDISE+ 2020-21 report is based on voluntary uploading of data by the schools having active UDISE+ codes in a reference year, with 30th September as the reference date, using specially designed data collection formats (DCF). The UDISE+ code of a school is allotted by the State/ UT Government where the school is located. The responsibility for the accuracy of the data filled in the DCFs rests with the concerned Nodal Officers, namely Principal/ Vice-Principal/ Head Master/ Head Teacher/ Senior most teacher at the school level, Cluster Resource Officer at the cluster level, Block Education Officer for the block level, District Education Officer at the district level and the SPD of Samagra Shiksha at the State level. The Ministry of Education, therefore, assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the data and indicators reported in the document. The inclusion of name of a school in any of the lists in the portal http://udiseplus.gov.in or any of the reports generated in the portal does not confer the status of recognition to the school by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. The same is applicable for UDISE+ 2019-20 report.


References

Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2020-21 report, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, please click here to access

Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20 report, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, please click here to access

India Needs To Learn -- A Case for Keeping Schools Open, released in January 2022, jointly prepared by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Teach for India in collaboration with various NGOs and CSOs, please click here to access 

Sixteenth Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2021, released on 17th November, 2021, please click here, here, here, here, here, and here to access 

2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teacher, No Class, released in October, 2021, prepared by UNESCO New Delhi office in collaboration with Centre of Excellence in Teacher Education at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, please click here, here, here, here and here

Locked Out: Emergency Report on School Education, released on 6th September, 2021, please click here, here and here to access 

Rapid assessment of learning during school closures in the context of COVID-19, released in May, 2021, prepared by UNICEF India Country Office, please click here to access  

ASER 2020 Wave-1 for rural areas, released in October, 2020, please click here, here, here and here to access

Broken Slates and Blank Screens: Education Under Lockdown, authored by Simantini Dhuru with the help of others from PUCL (Maharashtra), including Meena Gopal, Lara Jesani, Chayanika Shah, Sandhya Gokhale, John D’Souza, Mihir Desai, and others, released in September 2020, please click here to access 

Parents anguished by loss of basic skills & deep socio-emotional stress amongst children, reveals new NCEE report, Press statement by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated March 17, 2022, please click here to access  

Kindly click here to access the main report 'Cries of Anguish' by NCEE in English; 

Please click here to access the summary report by NCEE in English; 

Please click here to access the summary report by NCEE in Hindi.  

Stop targeting & excluding hijab wearing muslim women students because it affects their RTE, states NCEE, Press statement by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated February 21, 2022, kindly click here and here (English version), here (Hindi version) to access the press statement by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency on the targeting and exclusion of hijab wearing muslim women students

National Coalition on the Education Emergency releases Policy Trackers on State Education Finances and School Opening Status, Press release by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated January 29, 2022, please click here and here to access

NCEE questions Govt.'s reluctance in opening schools despite the lifting of curfew in Bengaluru, Press release by National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated January 22, 2022, please click here and here to access 

Schools must be the last to close and the first to open, suggests NCEE to the govt., Press release by National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated January 4, 2022, please click here and here to access 

As schools re-open, address language & mathematics competences at different grades, adopting a socio-emotional development approach, suggests NCEE, Press release by National Coalition on the Education Emergency dated 2nd November, 2021, please click here to access  

Report: “A Future at Stake – Guidelines and Principles to Resume and Renew Education (2021), NCEE, please click here to access 

News alert: Real wage rates of the rural workers hardly increased during the last 6 years, Inclusive Media for Change, Published on Mar 11, 2022, please click here to access 

News alert: Several studies but one conclusion -- poorly planned COVID-19 induced national lockdown hurt the poor the most, Inclusive Media for Change, Published on Jul 7, 2021, please click here to access 

Education ministry must explain why 49,000 schools dropped out of UDISE Plus -AC Mehta, Careers360.com, 14 March, 2022, please click here to access
 

Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Shambhu Ghatak
 
 



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