Is Online Learning a Digital Discrimination

                                                                                                                                     Himanshi Trived

The ongoing pandemic has not just affected the world economies adversely but has also shared the political structures as well as governments. Some countries confront stagnation in their growth along with severe issues related to health security but nearly all of them have to undergo serious challenges in the educational system.

India is one of those countries where the educational institutions such as schools and colleges have been closed down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. These educational institutions have yet not got any fixed date for reopening in spite of the high concerns of the different stakeholders. The concerns of these stakeholders is about the short term and long term effects of the extended lock-down particularly on the minds of students and their parents. It is here that the concern about children who are deprived of digital amenities arises. The educational system in India is constitutionally guaranteed parallel with the uncountable initiatives started by the State and Central governments related to the health, economic and food security of the country. These fault lines keep on creating discrimination amongst the students. Also, the technological advancements and the emerging interdependence in between the technology based innovations and sectors that include education for delivering social services has lead to another kind of divide which is named as the digital divide in between school students all over the country. The educational institutions are at higher risk because of the spread of the disease due to the huge gatherings in classrooms.

The Covid-19 has disproportionately affected the education system in the schools all over the country. It has imposed a lot of restrictions on the conventional form of education that was practiced as classroom-based teaching as well as learning in schools, enforcing the institutes to move to digital learning platforms or remote based methods for both teaching and assessing the students. Although, there are a lot of structural and institutional concerns which hamper these virtual digital learning platforms too. Talking about the aspect of digital divide, we start with the students belonging to the poorest categories who cannot avail smartphones and even if they do, it becomes very difficult for them to get a stable internet connectivity due to which they cannot get access to the content in vernacular languages. This is another factor which contributes to the discrimination faced by the students. However, there is a scarcity of digital infrastructure required for both the students and teachers and a discrepancy in internet connectivity and accessibility to devices whereas all students can have their own smartphones, but not all of them have their own laptops or desktops which are not suitable for educational motives.

Propelled by the internet which depends only on the availability of electricity, there exist a lot of discrepancies in the quality and uninterrupted availability in spite of the rural getting electrified on a large scale as witnessed by the Ministry of Rural Development’s Mission Antyodaya survey which aims at improving the disparities. This survey focuses upon the large scale developmental questions related to the power distribution companies like enhancing operational potentials, financial health, assuring commercial sustainability, electricity theft and strengthening of infrastructure. Globally, as per the statement released by World Bank in 2020, the widespread of Covid-19 has paired up with the pre-existence of learning crisis. UNESCO indicates that more than 60 per cent of the student population of the world is adversely affected by the school closures and the thrust in public educational services is undermined which has the potential of corroding the human rights in the times of this pandemic and after it gets over.

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