Center Push for Online Learning: Ludhiana Educators Unimpressed, Want Digital Divide Closed First
The central government’s enthusiastic push for online learning in public schools through direct-to-home (DTH) installation in the latest budget rang hollow for students at ground level, as the problems of Poor digital infrastructure and lack of financial resources remain commonplace.
Students, as such, were forced to make do with limited resources to take distance learning courses, which are expected to continue until February 8 given the latest pandemic guidelines.
The Center’s latest push for public schools to go digital has further put students without access to smartphones or the internet, a fundamental part of online learning, in a tough spot.
Speaking about the latest announcements, a principal from a high school in the city said, “Even though the schools are open now, the focus has already been on e-learning, digital modules and video-related content. . The program prepared by the national education department is regularly shared with them online, but not all students benefit from it because they cannot afford to buy a smartphone which has become really essential now.
Sunil Kumar, a parent, lamented the rising cost of education in public schools and the lack of recourse, saying, “My two children are enrolled in public school due to free education. But now that education is digital, I tried to collect money to buy a smart mobile, which is not the easiest.
“They have been forced to run online classes using a cousin’s phone because there is no alternative at this point and they cannot afford to miss school homework every day,” he added.
Highlighting some of the problems caused by the lack of proper internet services in several areas, another educator said students were struggling to prepare well for the upcoming board exam.
According to several teachers, students have been pressured to rely on classmates and peers who have better access to online learning facilities to cope with the situation.
“As many students do not have a smartphone given their disparate financial situation, they are forced to visit their classmates for online lessons every day,” said one of the teachers at a public school.
“As we also share online content for classes, they often study together to prepare for their upcoming exams. The government should take an initiative to organize smartphones for the needy with access to educational channels operational on them,” added the teacher.
Educators see a silver lining
Teachers, however, saw a silver lining in the Centre’s decision to launch the fifth-generation mobile network.
“Many public school students live in areas with poor mobile network, which in turn affects their education. The 5G project will help improve connectivity. Going digital is the best way to reach students in the current scenario, but first you have to provide them with the right resources,” said one of the teachers.