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At meeting with HRD, states flag digital divide in education

The meeting — called to discuss the standard operating procedure for reopening schools and for digital education — was chaired by School Education Secretary Anita Karwal. At this meeting, states were informed that online classes should be capped at three hours per day.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: June 9, 2020 9:57:54 am
digital classes, digital class, online classes, e-classes, e-classroom, coronavirus digital classes, digital classroom, education news, indian express news At this meeting, states were informed that online classes should be capped at three hours per day. (File Photo)

Several state governments flagged concerns over the digital divide in education in a meeting called by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry on Monday to discuss the way forward for learning amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The meeting — called to discuss the standard operating procedure for reopening schools and for digital education — was chaired by School Education Secretary Anita Karwal. At this meeting, states were informed that online classes should be capped at three hours per day.

Read | School reopening process on fast track, HRD Minister seeks state govts’ suggestions

Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh were among the states that spoke on the difficulty of conducting classes online with several students not owning a digital device and several households lacking access to a robust internet connection.

“Rajasthan pointed out that roughly 15% of its students don’t have access to a digital device. The Jharkhand education secretary said that almost 30% of the state is a shadow region of sorts with poor internet connectivity. Arunachal too suffers from poor (internet) connectivity,” said a state education secretary who did not wish to be identified.

Some states are learned to have sought financial support from the Union government to provide digital devices to students for online learning. However, there was no assurance of additional funding. Instead, the states were informed by the ministry they could utilise the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan funds under the ICT head and girl education head to bridge the digital divide, The Indian Express has learned.

Read | Be open, be impatient, be hopeful: Pichai tells graduates of 2020

The school education secretary also urged states to use direct-to-home education channels run by the Union government to educate children where online classes are difficult to conduct. “It was then the states requested that they be allowed some airtime on the HRD Ministry’s channels to air educational content in their respective regional languages,” the above secretary added.

The states were informed that the duration of online classes should be capped at three hours every day. “It should be in the range of one to two hours,” said a government official, who was at the meeting.

The matter of rationalising the syllabus for Class 12 also came up for discussion. “There was no definitive answer by the government on this. It was felt that this should be discussed closer to the time of reopening,” the official said.

States were also told that they would be free to decide the dates of restarting contact classes once the Ministry of Home Affairs greenlights reopening. Schools across the country were closed in the last week of March to break the chain of Covid transmission.

A presentation on dos and don’ts for students and school staff upon reopening was made in the meeting and states were told that wearing of masks would be compulsory, strict hand hygiene routine has to be followed by students and physical distancing has to be maintained in classrooms.

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