Digital Divide: Survey by the Ministry of Education

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    • A Union Ministry of Education survey has found between 40% and 70% school children in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand do not have access to digital devices.  

    About 

    • A preliminary version of the report, titled ‘Initiatives by school education sector in 2020-21 for continuing teaching and learning prepared by the Union Ministry of Education.
    • It documents the response to challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Major Findings: 

    • It had stated that Bihar had the highest tally of students, over 1.4 crores, with no access to digital devices across the country.
      • The report shows a disproportionately wide digital divide in some large states, while some others have coped well by supplying adequate television sets and smartphones
    • State Wise details:  
    • Assam: The state-reported 3,10,6255 students with no digital device.
      •  It has 7,01,5898 students across 65,907 schools. While the state did not distribute devices, it organised home visits by teachers and launched a toll-free helpline for students to clear academic doubts and address psycho-social issues.
    • Andhra Pradesh: The state surveyed 29.34 lakh out of the total 81.36 lakh students in May 2021 and found 2,01,568 students have no cell phone access.
    • Bihar: The state, which has 2.46 crore students, reported that 1.43 crore children have no access to digital devices. 
      • In terms of interventions to bridge the gap, it gave cellphones to 42 students and plans to provide tablets to 250 schools. 
      • With the assistance of UNICEF, mobile vans equipped with TV, videos, math game, and toys were deployed across seven districts, with a special focus on Mahadalit/Mushahar communities
    • Gujarat: A UNICEF survey of 12,000 schools found 40% of the students did not have access to smartphones and the Internet. 
      • The state has 1.14 crore students across 54,629 schools. To bridge the gap, the state government distributed blended learning modules and launched an IVRS helpline. Around 11,200 devices were provided to students and 40,000 to teacher
    • Jharkhand: Out of 74.89 lakh students, 32.52 lakh do not have digital access. 
      • The state informed the Centre that tablets had been provided to schools and cluster resource centres in 2018-19. 
      • As the number of android phones in remote tribal-dominated villages is “very low”, the state tied up with UNICEF to develop modules of home-based learning and started mohalla schools in remote areas.
    • Madhya Pradesh: An education department survey of 98 lakh of the state’s 1.57 crore students found that 70% of them do not have access to smartphones.
      •  The April 2021 survey said 53 lakh have access to TVs, and 57 lakhs to radio sets. 
      • Among the interventions listed are mohalla classes and regular teacher-parent interactions over the phone. 
      • A radio school programme was also launched immediately after the national lockdown.
    • Uttarakhand: State authorities surveyed 5.20 lakh out of 23.39 lakh schoolchildren and found 2.14 lakh do not have access to digital devices for online learning. 
      • It proposes to distribute more than 35,000 ebooks to school students.
      •  The state also attempted community outreach to keep in touch with such students, distribute worksheets among them and also took the help of community radio in five districts.
    • Among the better-placed states and UTs is Delhi with around 4% students without access, Kerala 1.63%, Tamil Nadu 14.51%.
    • Issues
      • The pandemic has led to disruption in the formal school education system in the entire country.
      • It adds that “teaching and learning for children who have no access to digital devices”, is one of the major areas of concern for the government during the pandemic.
    • Measures were taken by the government
      • According to the education ministry report, states took various measures to reach out to the children who did not have access to digital devices.
      • Some of the steps included doorstep delivery of textbooks and worksheets, intervention through gram panchayat or community support for access to TV, radio and digital devices.
      • Some states like Assam and Andhra Pradesh also arranged home visits by teachers while Bihar arranged home visits by volunteers.
      • The report added that mobile and mohalla classes were also organised in Bihar.

    Major schemes to promote education in the country implemented by the Government of India are as follows

    • Education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and the majority of the schools are under the domain of respective State and UT Governments. However, to ensure that every student gets continued access to education, a multi-pronged approach has been adopted. 
    • PM e-VIDYA: A comprehensive initiative called PM e-VIDYA has been initiated as part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan on 17th May 2020, which unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable multi-mode access to education. The initiative includes:
      • DIKSHA (one nation, one digital platform) is the nation’s digital infrastructure for providing quality e-content for school education in states/UTs and QR coded Energized Textbooks for all grades are available on it. 35 of the 36 states and UTs have onboarded on DIKSHA platform and contextualised the content as per the local need.
    • ‘MANODARPAN’: the Ministry has undertaken a proactive initiative, named, ‘MANODARPAN’ covering a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing during the COVID outbreak and beyond
    • Samagra Shiksha: The Government of India launched Samagra Shiksha-an Integrated Scheme for school education, w.e.f 2018-19, as an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class XII, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education, across the country including the rural areas. 
      • The scheme has now been aligned to NEP, 2020 recommendations and extended till 2025-26.
      •  The scheme provides support to States and UTs for strengthening of infrastructure in schools, universal access, bringing gender equality, promoting inclusive education, quality of education, financial support for teachers’ salary, digital initiatives, entitlements under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 including uniforms and textbooks, pre-school education, vocational education, sports and physical education and strengthening of teacher education institutions.
    •  Mid-Day-Meal (MDM):  Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is an ongoing Centrally-Sponsored Scheme which provides a nutritional supplement to all school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided schools, Special Training Centres including Madarsas and Maqtabs.
    • Padhna Likhna Abhiyan:  A centrally sponsored scheme of Adult Education namely, “Padhna Likhna Abhiyan (PLA)” was implemented during 2020-21 with a physical target of imparting functional literacy to 57 lakh adult illiterates in the age group of 15 and above under basic literacy programme. The scheme was extended up to 31.07.2021.
    • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA): Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) is an overarching scheme, operating in mission mode for funding the State Government Universities and colleges to achieve the aims of equity, access and excellence.The funding to states being made based on critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education.
    •  NISHTHA (National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement), an Integrated Teacher Training Programme has been introduced.
    • The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) was entrusted to conduct teachers training through ODL (Open Distance Learning) mode, which has been completed by about 9.58 lakh teachers.
    • The National Education Policy, 2020 focuses on improving the standard of education through various measures such as the introduction of New pedagogical and curricular structure, Early Childhood Care and Education, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, Transforming Assessment for Student Development, Experiential and Competency-based Learning etc.

    Source: IE