With the majority of private schools in the city laying more and more stress on usage of technology in everyday assignments, students coming from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category studying in these schools are finding it difficult to cope with the other students.
For many students coming from economically weaker backgrounds, provision of facilities like computers and the Internet is still a luxury. But with schools focusing more on digitisation of education by giving home assignments that involve use of the Internet for research, these students have a clear disadvantage. The students who are getting admission in private schools under the Right to Education Act 2009, the lack of accessibility to digital media is still a problem that the Act has failed to address.
“I have three children studying at separate private schools in the city. Each time they are given an assignment that requires use of the Internet. The only way for them to complete the work is by using the basic smart phone that I have,” says Sukhwinder, a construction worker at Manimajra. “Sometimes, however, I get late from work and reach home after 9 pm, and my daughters have to wait until then to finish their assignments.”
Says Santoshi Arya, a student of class VIII studying at a city private school, “It is not on a daily basis that we get these assignments, but almost once a week, home assignments that are given require the usage of the Internet. Sometimes, I visit my neighbour’s house to complete these assignments since they have a computer. In case that does not work out, I have to go out to cyber cafes to complete the assignments.”
Arya lives in Sarangpur with her mother who works as a helper at a grocery store.
Parents of EWS students studying in the city private schools say that some private schools had promised the provision of laptops for economically weak students, but so far, not much has been done in this regard. For many of these families, their children are the first-generation learners, and the parents are unable to provide much help to their children in completing the assignments as well.
“My son is able to manage these assignments on a daily basis with the help of his friends and other neighbours who have access to the Internet. But the main problem comes during the summer vacation, when he gets a lot of projects, all of which require Internet usage. During summer holidays, I take my son to the nearest Internet cafe each week for the completion of his work,” says Vimal Das, parent of a 14-year-old studying at a city private school. Vimal who works as a watchman in residental area in Zirakpur, however, adds that the nearest Internet cafe is about six kilometres from his house, which also proves to be a hindrance sometimes.
However, some private schools in the city say that some flexibility is given to the students when the homework involves Internet research. “We do understand that there are students who do have accessibility to digital media and other gadgets, which is why students are always encouraged to seek permission for extra hours in the computer labs, if they need to complete any assignment. It is undeniable that the Internet is an important aspect of student learning now, but there are ways of working around it to ensure students get the education they deserve,” says Reema Dewan, principal of Delhi Public School, Sector 40.
Another teacher from St. John’s High School says that realising the need to bridge this gap that arises due to the heterogeneity of students, the Central Board of Secondary Education lays more stress on group assignments. “For group work, each student is assigned with a separate task, and it is then that we make sure that children who have access to the Internet do the basic research, and the other students help with other modules of the assignment. In this way, every child gets to learn and is part of the assignment without any disadvantage.”