New Delhi: A Union government survey of 15 lakh schools from across the country has revealed that only 22% of schools in India had internet facilities in the academic year 2019-20, indicating the vast majority of schools for which imparting digital education, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has proved an uphill task, The Hindu has reported.
The survey is part of an annual exercise carried out by the Union government for the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) report that collates data from schools across the country on various parameters, such as dropout rates, enrolment ratios, access to digital education facilities, among others.
For the academic 2019-20, the survey has revealed that less than 12% of government schools had internet facilities and less than 30% had functional computers. The need for digital education upgrade in school was never felt so important until March 2020 when the country has begun virtually shutting down all schools, and 26 crore school children across the country have never stepped into schools thereafter as the COVID pandemic raged.
As a result, schools where it was possible completely relied on digital classes for the full academic year of 2020-21. Various forms of online communication tools such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Email, recorded classes have been actively used, prompting students and their parents to have smartphones, tablets, laptops and a good internet connection. In cases where this was not possible, children could not access their lessons.
The UDISE+ report has revealed many Union territories and the state of Kerala had outperformed other states as more than 90% of schools, including government and private, had access to working computers. In states such as Chhattisgarh (83%) and Jharkhand (73%), installation of computer facilities a couple of years back in most government schools paid off, while in others such as Tamil Nadu (77%), Gujarat (74%) and Maharashtra (71%), private schools had higher levels of computer availability than in government schools.
On the other hand, it has been observed that in states such as Assam (13%), Madhya Pradesh (13%), Bihar (14%), West Bengal (14%), Tripura (15%) and Uttar Pradesh (18%) less than one in five schools had working computers. The situation is worse in government schools, with less than 5% of Uttar Pradesh’s government schools having the facility.
In terms of connectivity, the difference among states is even more palpable. Only Kerala Kerala (88%), Delhi (86%) and Gujarat (71%) have been found to have internet facilities in more than half their schools.
On the other hand, it has been observed that 90% of schools across the country have handwashing facilities, which will prove to be an advantage when schools reopen following COVID-19 protocols. Also, more than 80% of schools had conducted medical check-ups during the year before the pandemic. However, temperature testing and monitoring for any symptoms need to become a daily affair, as per the Union government’s heath protocol for schools wishing to reopen.
As for the gross enrolment ratio (GER), it had improved in 2019-20, with 98% of students in Classes 1-8 attending school. However, the GER for secondary and senior secondary students stood at 78% and 51% respectively.
According to PTI, more boys dropped out of school at the secondary level as well as in primary classes (1 to 5), while the number of girls dropping out of school in the upper primary classes (6-8) was higher than that of the boys in 2019-20.
The report noted that the overall dropout rate at the secondary level in the country is over 17%, while in the upper primary classes (6 to 8) and the primary level it is 1.8% and 1.5% respectively.