High School Dropout due to Covid-19: Study

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    • Remote education was inaccessible to most children, says the survey.

    About

    • Survey: A new national sample survey is done by ICRIER and LIRNEasia, a think tank focusing on digital policy.
    • Internet penetration: Over 13 crore people came online in 2020-21, pushing up the country’s total internet users to more than 47 crores.
      • Overall, internet usage has spiked from 19% of the population above 15 years in 2017 to 47% this year.

    Major Findings

    • Access to remote education: Only 20% of school-age children in India had access to remote education during the pandemic, of whom only half participated in live online lessons.
    • Drop out: 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school completely due to COVID-19.
    • Sample survey: It covered a nationally representative sample of 7000 households. Only Kerala was excluded, due to high COVID-19 cases.
    • Enrolment in schools: Among children aged 5-18 years, it was found that 80% of those who were enrolled in schools prior to the pandemic did not receive any educational services at all during school closure.
    • Access to live online classes: Among the 20% who received an education, only 55% had access to live online classes, while 68% had access to recorded audio or video lessons.
    • Educational TV and radio programmes: About half the students were also instructed to listen to educational TV and radio programmes.
    • Lack of access to devices: Of households with school-aged children, 64% had internet connections, but only 31% of those received remote education, often because of a lack of access to devices or a lack of larger screen devices.
    • Schools lack infrastructure: Even among those receiving remote education, a third of the households said that schools were not prepared to deliver online education.
    • Availability of devices: Only 5% of households had laptops, while 4% had desktop computers. The vast majority relied on smartphones, which were available in 68% of households. 

    Image Courtesy – TH

    Issues/ Challenges

    • No reliable internet access: Some students without reliable internet access and/or technology struggle to participate in digital learning; this gap is seen across countries and between income brackets within countries.
    • Huge gap: there is a significant gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds
    • High costs: Although digital connectivity shot up 40% during the pandemic, low access to devices, poor signal and high costs prevented most children from reaping the benefits.
    • Situation of lower socio-economic classes: The situation was significantly worse among those from lower socio-economic classes, where the head of the household had lower education levels, and among rural households.
    • Poor signals: Respondents listed an insufficient number of devices, poor 3G/4G signal and high data cost as among the biggest hurdles.
    • Unplanned and rapid move to online learning: with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth.

    Government initiatives to boost the education sector

    • National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR): the Indian government established the National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) to strengthen digital infrastructure and support activities related to education planning.
    • PM eVIDYA Programme: The government introduced the PM eVIDYA programme to make e-learning more accessible for Indian students and teachers and promote & strengthen digital education in India. The programme aims to converge all activities related to online/digital education.
    • DIKSHA: the government introduced DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing), a national portal for school education, to offer school curriculum-based engaging learning materials to students, teachers, and parents.
    • SWAYAM: the government launched Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) to offer an integrated platform for online courses at affordable costs to all citizens, especially the underprivileged section in the country.
    • SWAYAM PRABHA: It is a group of 34 DTH (Direct-to-Home) channels dedicated to broadcasting educational programmes 24×7.
    • e-Pathshala Portal: the government launched the e-Pathshala portal to build a resource store for educational videos, audios, flipbooks, etc. Resources on the portal are available in Indian languages such as Hindi, English and Urdu and can be accessed via smartphones, laptops, desktops and tablets.
    • NISHTHA: the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) – Phase II was launched at the secondary level to tailor modules for online education. As per the Union Budget 2021-22, 5.6 million teachers will be trained under the NISHTHA training programme in FY22.

    Way forward

    • Policy support: Trickledown to lower-income groups and laggard regions is not a given and will require policy support.
    • Focus on infrastructure availability: recommending a focus on infrastructure availability and relatable vernacular content.
    • Expansion of digital inclusion: The journey to digital inclusion must look at an expansive understanding of access that goes beyond laying fibre and providing cheap smartphones.

    Source:  TH