The lockdown due to coronavirus literally forced each of the educational institutes to switch to online education. Though in the recent past start up companies like “Unacademy” and “Byjus” had already started their education revolution with their launch of comprehensive batches for academic education as well as education required for competitive examinations. Educational channels on YouTube too play a major role in imparting quality online education.
But everything is only fine till we take into consideration the urban cities or the metropolitan cities. According to 2011 census report even today about 70% of Indians live in rural areas. With the poor range of bandwidth in the rural pockets of India it is nearly impossible to imagine full fledged online education for the students residing in villages.
Virtual is the new reality during the pandemic and education is no exception. With 32 million children in the age group of 6-14 years out of schools and 2.6% of illiterate population, where does the question of becoming a super power arise? After 73 years of independence, it is disheartening that there is a vast gap between literacy and genuine education. In a nation like India, online education surely possess a challenge as we have a cyber literacy of less than 10% till 2019. Online classes are helping students not miss out on the education they deserve in theory, but is it really so in practice?
The barrier in online classes is the survival of richest policy tags along. While most of India, crippled with recession, is struggling to make ends meet, affording the technology needed for online classes is a luxury. Even if certain governments benefitting from it are handful. On top of that the UNICEF Report(2008) showcases that the average income of a rural Indian is Rs 33/- per day. Thus how many people can actually afford online education.
For a family with humble earning it is nearly impossible to purchase smartphones and data packs for their children and it becomes more difficult for families with more number of children.
As a result, it would not be surprising that the dropout rates peak at a projected 24 million post pandemic. A lot of first generation learners do not get adequate guidance from their parents in how to run these gadgets and while on paper mid-day meals are to be delivered at home, which is one of the prime reasons a lot of children go to school, the ground reality is starkly different.
Moreover, exposure to these gadgets not only increase the chances of health hazards caused due to staring at the screen for hours or the radiation emitted, but also subject them to the perils of the internet way too soon. Whether a child lives in a village or a city, he or she requires stress free environment for his/her overall growth and development. The increased digital use during the pandemic has forced parents to complain about their children’s headache, eye problems and stress conditions.
Definitely online education proves to be a blessing for a stipulated period that too with regulated duration which acknowledges the stress factor and other related issues. But switching over it is simply taking away the childhood of the children. Switching over to competent confined classrooms from Gurudev’s open classroom was itself enough. India shall not ask more from its budding saplings.