New Delhi: Online lessons are inaccessible to nearly 90 lakh students, nearly 65 per cent, enrolled in government colleges, a report on the impact of Covid-19 on higher education in India suggests.
The prime reason, according to the report, is unavailability of electricity, smartphones, laptops and internet.
The report has been prepared by professor Sudhanshu Bhushan of the New Delhi-based National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), a central government institute involved in research on education.
The findings are based on a ground survey conducted across 419 government and private institutes, from where 543 responses were received. Institutes from each state participated in the survey, which included questions on the status of online classes, exams, and status of training of teachers.
The findings gain significance because, in light of the Covid-enforced shutdown, schools and colleges have found an alternative in online lessons to push ahead with the curriculum. The fact that online lessons are not a viable option for economically backward students in India has been a concern since the classes first began earlier in the lockdown.
“Assume estimated 14 million (1.4 crore) students are in government institutions and further assume that students are equally distributed in all 8,000 government institutions, implying 1,750 students per government institution,” the report, a copy of which is with ThePrint, states.
“From this, it can be estimated that out of 14 million (1.4 crore) students, 9 million (90 lakh) students in government institutions may not be able to access online education,” the report adds. “The reasons could be electricity problem or the unavailability of the smartphone or the laptop with the students.”
The report suggests that the government should provide a stimulus package to institutions that do not have the facilities to offer online lessons to ease the transition for them.
‘Enrolment will shrink’
According to the report, the inability to access online lessons will shrink overall enrolment in higher education institutes by 60 lakh students, to 3.1 crore from 3.7 crore.
As part of the survey, colleges were asked if they were able to conduct online classes between April and June, and 63 per cent of the institutions said they could only conduct less than 50 per cent of the classes during this period.
Drawing data from the central government’s All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), the report said there are 2,100 government colleges in India that do not have Wi-Fi facility. It then suggests that the government provide a package of Rs 510 crore to equip these colleges with the requisite Wi-Fi facilities, at Rs 10 lakh per institution, with the rest of the money distributed among the remaining 6,000 colleges, at Rs 5 lakh each, for infrastructural support.
It also recommends “support” to students for the purchase of smartphones/laptops. “There are an estimated 9 million students who may not be accessing online education. Various innovative solutions in terms of kiosks, cybercafe and distributing smartphones/laptops may be provided. An estimated Rs 1000 crore support may be allocated on this account,” the report adds.
In the concluding note, the survey says there is an immediate need for all the stakeholders, including government, regulatory bodies, teachers and university administrations, to devise a plan of action to deal with the situation.