With online schooling taking roots, over 60% students in rural areas now own a smartphone

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on January 29, 2021

The trend can be leveraged to reduce inequalities caused by the digital divide

As schools remained shut due to the pandemic outbreak since March 2020, adoption of online schooling accelerated tremendously in the country not just in urban regions but also in rural India. A little over 61 per cent students enrolled in government and private schools in rural India now own smartphones, a massive surge from 36.5 per cent in 2018. The access to data network, electronic devices such as computer, laptop, smart phone. gained in importance due to online learning and remote working.

The Economic Survey 2020-21 stated that if the country leverages on the surge in adoption of online schooling, it can reduce inequalities in education outcomes with reduction in digital divide between rural and urban, gender, age and income groups.

Click here to read the full survey

“An important initiative in this direction is PM E-Vidya, which is a comprehensive initiative to unify all efforts related to digital, online and on-air education to enable multi-mode and equitable access to education for students and teachers. Around 92 courses have started and 1.5 crore students are enrolled under Swayam MOOCs which are online courses relating to NIOS,” the Survey added.

While ₹818.17 crore has been allotted to States/UTs to promote online learning through digital initiatives, additional amount of ₹267.86 crore has been allotted for online teacher training under Samagra Shiksha Scheme.

Education policy

With India having the highest population of young people in the world over the next decade, it will be critical to ensure they have access to high-quality educational opportunities, the Survey noted. “The new National Education Policy aims to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country. It aims to provide all students, irrespective of their place of residence, quality education system with special focus on the marginalised, disadvantaged and under-represented groups,” the Survey noted.

As per National Sample Survey (NSS), the literacy rate of persons of age 7 years and above at the All India level stood at 77.7 per cent. But female literacy remained below national average among social groups of SC, ST, OBC, including religious groups of Hinduism and Islam, it added.

To ensure better participation of female workers in the country’s labour force, the Survey has recommended promotion of non-discriminatory practices at workplaces such as bridging the pay gap between males and female workers, improving work incentives for females besides medical and social security benefits. “In order to incentivise more women to join into the labour force, investment in institutional support to affordable and quality child care facilities, paid paternal leave, family-friendly work environment, and support for elderly care needs to be made,” the Survey noted.

The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of females in the productive age of 15-59 years was 26.5 per cent in 2018-19 compared to 80.3 per cent for males. While 54.7 per cent of urban women were employed in the regular wage or salaried category, about 59.6 per cent of rural females were either self-employed or were helpers in household enterprises.

“The low female LFPR is attributed to high participation of women (15 years & above) in domestic duties,” the Survey noted adding that females spend disproportionately higher time on childcare, food, meal management and preparation and care-giving services to household members.

Published on January 29, 2021

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