UNESCO estimates that school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have affected more than 320 million students across India. The move has exposed long-running structural imbalances between rural and urban populations, male and female and the rich and poor, creating a massive gap in learning.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development launched an “alternative” classroom calendar, which included lesson plans accessible via smartphone, social media, SMS, television and radio. But the latest data from India Cellular and Electronics Association estimates only 25 percent of people in rural India have access to a smartphone. And, while internet penetration is growing, only about 30 percent of the rural population has internet access.
Girls are particularly badly affected. They face family constraints, physical safety threats and insufficient access to menstrual hygiene, all of which can force them out of the education system.
In some cities, education department officials are distributing smartphones and tablets for e-learning in government schools but, to further fill the need, innovators are also helping students with access using pre-internet technology. ThinkZone is one such initiative and uses voice calling, SMS and radio partnerships to give rural students daily learning modules.
In this episode of The Stream, we will take a look at the learning gap in India, ask what the solutions are and consider the effects on children locked out of the system.
Professor and former Dean, Faculty of Education, Delhi University
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