India transitioned well to online learning, but parents felt financial strain

In India, respondents to survey on online learning said that a major issue was unequal access to digital learning devices, as well as a lack of internet connectivity and little familiarity around the tools required to facilitate online learning, according to Oxford University Press

NEW DELHI: India did reasonably well in transitioning to online learning during the past one year, but this has impacted the financial wellbeing of parents and schools. Besides, unstable internet connections and lack of familiarity with teaching-learning tools were a hindrance, a fresh survey by Oxford University Press (OUP) showed.

OUP studied seven countries—the UK, India, Brazil, Pakistan, Spain, Turkey, and South Africa, to reflect on the shift in learning ecosystem and what the “future could hold for education.”

“In India… respondents felt that the transition to online learning was done rather well. However, a major issue identified… was unequal access to digital learning devices, as well as a lack of internet connectivity and little familiarity around the tools required to facilitate online learning,” said the OUP report.

“The majority of respondents in India (71%) also felt that shifting to online has been detrimental to wellbeing. The priority for the government is to provide more funding, as well as addressing connectivity issues, particularly in rural areas,” it added”.

Respondents in India outlined that the financial strain on parents in turn impacted schools: “Many parents have not been able to pay the fees for their children, adding further to the strain on the schools to keep going despite the lockdown that has lasted almost the entire academic session”

It asserted that the covid-19 pandemic has paved the way for a hybrid model in education, combining digital and traditional methods of teaching and learning—but governments worldwide need to act so that progress from the past year is not lost.

In the UK survey, respondents said governments should take to support digital learning, UK teachers called for increased funding for technology (57%), more funding for schools/ institutions (50%) and support for improving connectivity (50%).

However, the divide is stark across the world, including India. “In India, for example, teachers started conducting online classes for synchronous learning, but also struggled to keep track of students’ learning progress,” OUP said.

Quoting Unesco, the report underlined that in high-income countries digital learning offerings covered over 80% of the population, but less than 50% in low-income countries due to both technical barriers, such as insufficient access to electricity, and human barriers such as limited digital literacy.

“Even technologies like TV and radio were rarely inclusive or equitable due to access issues. This was substantiated by OUP’s research. In India, respondents explained that a ‘large majority of students have been impacted due to a lack of devices or connectivity at home.’ One South African respondent remarked that ‘data is costly, and for many families, the only device available is a mobile phone,” said the report titled ‘Education: The Journey Towards a Digital Revolution’.




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