Are online classrooms working?
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced schools and colleges to conduct classes online, just how many people is it actually helping?
We’ve previously explored the feasibility of children returning to schools during the coronavirus pandemic. With the data available, we determined that it’s not a good idea to send children back to school given the current situation. However, children’s education cannot be brought to a complete standstill. As such, many schools around the world and around the country have resorted to online classrooms. Children attend class every day from the safety of their own homes. But is the online learning experience ubiquitous throughout the country?
Urban vs Rural
While India’s internet penetration percentage has increased dramatically and exponentially since 2007, it still sits at around 50% in 2020, meaning half of the country still does not have access to the internet. These statistics change drastically when we examine the difference between internet penetration in urban areas and rural areas.
According to the Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India report, based on the 2017-18 National Sample Survey, less than 15% of rural Indian households have Internet (as opposed to 42% of urban Indian households). A mere 13% of people surveyed (aged above five) in rural areas — just 8.5% of females — could use the Internet. Rural populations account for roughly more than 65% of the total population. These two facts combined show just how large the disparity in internet access is between rural and urban areas.
Devices being used
Disparities exist even among students with internet access. While it is possible to access the internet and attend classes from any smart device, a desktop or a laptop is practically a necessity for a more proper online education experience. However, according to the India Digital Report 2020, nearly 75% of Indian internet usage is mobile device based, with web traffic from laptops and desktops accounting for only around 25% of total internet traffic. On top of that, internet literacy is also an issue, with a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Statistics concluding that only 50% of each state’s population is proficient at using the internet, with that number being lower at only 20% in rural areas.
The availability of electricity
Another key factor, and perhaps the most important of all, is the availability of electricity. This is not as much of a problem in urban areas, where around 93% of the population has electricity. However, in rural areas, this number drops drastically to 55%. Since every device needs electricity to run, the lack of electricity in some areas makes it practically impossible for children there to receive an education online.
Given the observations above, it seems very hard to imagine the feasibility of online education in India. Our country lacks some of the key essentials and infrastructure necessary for virtual classes to take place.
Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are merely an exercise in data journalism and may reveal information that is otherwise not highlighted in the mainstream media.
Since there is no clarity on return of normalcy or availability of vaccine, take precautions and restart schools