Online education in schools may have become the norm but it is not inclusive in nature because of the digital divide prevalent in society. The fact was reaffirmed by Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, who told Lok Sabha on Monday (August 2) that about 3 crore school-going children in 24 states do not have digital devices with Bihar contributing 50% (1.43 crore) of them.
Jammu & Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh follow Bihar with about 70% of school students without digital devices. In Punjab the percentage of children lacking digital tools in 42% while in Chhattisgarh 28% students do not have devices to seek online education.
Assam, Jharkhand and Karnataka collectively have about 30 lakh children without access to digital devices. The ministry does not have data for Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh, while the survey for West Bengal was on, Pradhan said in reply to a question on whether certain states witnessed a drop in students enrolling in private schools in the last two years.
Dr K Kasturirangan, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and chairman of the committee that drafted the National Education Policy 2020, admitted a few days back that the digital divide does exist in Indian schools. Kasturirangan said, “This is the beginning of online learning. Certainly, there is a digital divide. Whether it is internet connectivity, internet-enabled devices or a quiet study environment, these are all grossly underestimated in their complexity to be integrated into an Indian educational system.”