Access, engagement and learning key while crafting remote-learning solutions: Dr Rukmini Banerji
"For a large section of population in rural India, classes cannot go online due to lack of devices and connectivity," said Dr Banerji, CEO of Pratham.
As some schools reopen across the country amidst the raging pandemic, apprehensions over the spread of coronavirus continue to haunt parents.
The Central government as part of its 'Unlock 4' plan had allowed schools to partially reopen from September 21.
While the move can be seen as a breather for rural India, which has been devoid of basic internet facilities, it has also raised safety concerns in the urban pockets.
Dr Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham, said, "For a large section of population in rural India, classes cannot go online due to lack of devices and connectivity. Stakeholders in the education sector should adapt their products and programmes according to the ground realities. As per the 2019 TRAI data, rural teledensity in India is 57.59 per 100 inhabitants, and wireless internet teledensity at 57.28. With this magnitude of digital divide, it is imperative that the solutions we create are flexible and feasible enough to reach the last mile."
India might have the second-largest internet user base in the world. However, despite the efforts to make internet affordable, the primary device required - a smartphone - can amount to an entire household's income making it a prohibitively costly affair in rural areas.
"For instance, learning content could be shared via phone calls where there is a lack of internet connectivity. Similarly, mass media such as radio and TV could be leveraged to reach out to a large section of the children in rural areas. Many state governments including Maharashtra, UP and Bihar are already reaching out to children with learning content in their language through radio and TV. As the professionals in the education sector work towards creating remote learning solutions, they should aim for three things – access, engagement and learning. The solutions should be accessible to every child. At the same time, they should engage the child in meaningful learning opportunities in their community, in their language, tailored to their context," she added.
Moreover, the entire education system has been struggling to adapt to the tectonic shift to the online mode.
At the virtual Yidan conference where key philanthropists and experts in the field shared their insights on the 'State of education in the post-pandemic world', Banerji stressed that "the crisis has heightened the concern among the community for the last person who lacks access to resources."
"The challenge will be to determine how we carry these positive energies forward when things go back to the new normal," she added.