Recently, the Central government has proposed long-term measures to address social inequities in online education, as highlighted by the Covid-19pandemic.
The measures include plans to distribute laptops or tablets to 40% of all college and university students over the next five years and to equip all government schools with Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Under the composite grant for schools, ranging between Rs. 25,000 for small schools with less than 100 students and Rs. 1 lakh for schools with over a thousand students for awareness and community mobilisation to sensitise parents, students and local leaders about pandemics, social distancing and other preventive measures.
Rs. 1,000 per teacher to encourage them to function as first-level counsellors, disseminate basic information about Covid-19 and provide digital/online/mobile education.
Rs. 1 lakh per school for sanitisation and quarantine measures in preparation for the safe reopening of schools.
A proposed budget of Rs. 55,840 crore to equip government schools above the upper primary level, with ICT facilities.
e-Learning is a privilege for the students from middle and upper class but it has proved to be a nuisance for students from the lower middle class and people living below the poverty line (BPL).
Marketing of Education:
Corporate houses, technology firms and educational institutions will be working closely to achieve the goals of e-learning which may aggravate the commercialisation of education and exclude the self-dependent tutors and students from economically weak backgrounds.
Poor students, who do not have access to e-resources (computers, laptops, internet connectivity), will not be able to attend classes from home.
Teachers too might have technical constraints and if teachers are equipped but the same might not be the case for the institutions.
Lack of Practical Learning:
Most of the subjects like beauty culture, fashion design and tailoring, office management, travel and tourism, web design etc need practical learning so it is difficult to teach them from a distance.
Traditional classroom organisations like schools and colleges, as social space (whereby a student not just learns the academic knowledge but many social skills also), are indispensable.
The government should start making access to technology universal in the public education system. Private players can make e-resources accessible and available to students under the Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).
The definition of the right to education needs to expand and promote online education so that it addresses the importance of connectivity and access to knowledge and information.
Traditional classroom organisations should give way to online education.
Further, there is a need for deep reflection on curriculum and to ensure scientific literacy within it as the society still struggles against superstitions and hardly fights misinformation actively.