In the last decade, there has been a lot of progress in the field of Online Education. We have been doing so well in online education that in the year 2019, India was home to the most valued Ed-Tech Company in the world – BYJUS.
The promise of Online Education that BYJUS, upon receiving funding from various investors, became the official sponsor of the Team India Cricket Jersey. You know India has progressed in the last 20 years when Online Education has replaced a Cigarette Company. So far, online education has been used to aid knowledge imparted in schools and colleges. But because of the Lock-down, all of this change.
Online education has moved from being a supplement to the education received in schools and colleges to become the primary education source. Consequentially, online education platforms saw a spike in the number of new users registering on these platforms. Even schools and colleges have had no other option but to move from the classroom to online. So during this boost that online education has received because of the lockdown, there have been talks on what the future of online education is going to look like. While we are talking about the future, we need to pause and assess India’s online knowledge if online education meets all Indian students? And the answer is not entirely accurate. For this, we must understand that online education works perfectly well as long as we have the right technology. Have a good laptop and a good internet connection. However, only 11% of Indian households have access to a computer.
At this point, the immediate question that comes up is – “Hey come on man, everyone has a Smartphone. Why can’t people just their smartphone and get access to their online classes?”
This isn’t valid for two principle reasons –
Reason no. 1 is that smartphones are best suited for watching videos and even viewing notes. However, online education involves more watching videos and viewing messages. It also includes giving assignments and giving tests, and for this, the smartphone is not the perfect device. If you had to watch 100 videos about space, the smartphone is the ideal device. If you have to make an assignment about Saturn’s various moons, that involves getting pictures, adding text, and formatting the document. You would lose your mind.
Reason no.2 why we can’t rely on smartphones for online education is that the percentage of Indians in Rural India owning Smartphones is way lesser than the rate of Indians owning smartphones in urban India. And we must not forget that 66% of our country’s population belongs to citizens who live in Rural India; if they don’t have access to smartphones, there is no way they can access their online classes. Devices aside,, online education faces another major hurdle: that of the Internet A recent survey of 7500 students found out that only 15% of them have access to Broadband Internet Connections.
The remaining majority of them use the Internet, employing mobile data hotspot. And 97% of the students experienced internet connectivity issues. But even if we had to assume that Indians have access to smartphones and laptops and the Internet, there is still a fundamental problem that we have to deal with as a country, which is that of electricity. Rural India faces a very irregular power supply. Only 47% of Indian homes receive a power supply of more than 12 hours. Let us think about that number for a while. In a country with over a billion people, less than half of us get more than 12 hours of electricity. With this infrastructure in hand, the need for improvement becomes ever so crucial so that students can access their online classes without being interrupted by constant power cuts.
Apart from the infrastructure gap that needs to be fixed, we must also remember that schools in India provide much more than education to students from lower-income families. For instance, the Mid-Day Meal scheme aims to provide nutrition to students coming from lower-income homes. Unfortunately, nearly 9.12 Crore Indian students lost access to midday meals due to the lockdown. So while we are making progress in online education, we must also remember the other services that schools provide to them. It must also note that individual states have announced that they would be delivering mid-day meals to the students. These states include – Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
The bottom line is this – while online education companies have successfully catered to several citizens’ education needs, we must also keep in mind the digital divide between Rural India and Urban India.
The future of online education In India would depend on how successfully we can cater to the education needs of India’s most under-served rural population.