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43% students in India had no access to any schooling for 19 months during pandemic, finds study

The study by think tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy says educational gaps were worst for kids with prior disadvantages in terms of access to study materials, devices & internet.

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New Delhi: At least 43 per cent students in India did not have access to any online education for a period of up to 19 months following school closure, shows a study mapping “Out of School children (OOSC)” during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The report titled ‘Clearing the Air: A Synthesised Mapping of Out of School Children during Covid-19 in India (April 2020-May 2022)’ was released by New Delhi-based think tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy on 1 November.

The report has been compiled using 21 primary study sources including data from the Unified District Information System of Education (UDISE) and Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) data apart from taking into account other studies published between April 2020 and May 2022.

Studies reporting on the number of children “who did not receive any online education (from the start of school closures till the time of the survey)” ranged from 10 per cent to 60 per cent.

“While there is some evidence of increased penetration of smartphones during the pandemic, at its worst, 43 percent children had not had access to any schooling for upto 19 months (due to inaccessibility of digital modes of education or being enrolled in a school that did not offer digital education),” said the think tank’s website.

The report adds that children with prior disadvantages were more affected by the pandemic-related school closure. 

“We find that children across different socio-economic contexts have been severely affected and educational gaps — in access to educational materials, devices, internet, and other basic resources to continue schooling — were expectedly worse for those with prior disadvantages, and varied across gender, age, region, and disability,” it added. 

Also Read: Over 50% students struggled to learn during Covid, specially English & Math, finds survey

‘Need to build a more resilient and adaptive schooling system’

Elaborating on drop-outs in schools, the report said it ranged from 1.3 per cent to 43.5 per cent during the pandemic period, “depending on the period, geography, and/or groups surveyed”. 

The report states that “the upper range (43.5 percent) is substantially higher than pre-pandemic estimates of the OOSC population across the country at 2.5 percent as per ASER Centre 2018 data for rural India, or 14.04 percent for secondary school-going children as per UDISE 2019–20.”

It further adds that there are some new areas of concern that have emerged because of the pandemic — “increased incidence of non-enrolments (drop-outs) among younger children; further exacerbation of challenges faced by migrant children; and increased vulnerability of children enrolled in low-fee private schools.” 

It adds that these areas “need immediate attention of authorities”.

“The effects of the pandemic continue to be realised and observed in various forms. Therefore, as we try to bring children back to schools, it is critical to continue tracking and redressing the differential schooling experiences of children on the basis of their backgrounds,” it adds.

“For the long term, the need to build a more resilient and adaptive schooling system, and specifically a more resilient public schooling system — through better infrastructure, facilities but also with greater capacity to mobilize and engage communities, and with empowered grassroots stakeholders at a decentralized level — has strongly emerged,” it says.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

Also Read: Less than 20% of students in India could access education in pandemic, learning suffered


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