Alka Arya. The COVID pandemic has affected many important aspects of children’s lives. In this the schooling of children has been particularly affected. Surveys are being conducted to bring out concrete data on how effective the online medium has emerged as an alternative and which sections of children have benefited more from it. One such recent survey shows that in the last one year, enrollment in government schools has increased by seven per cent and in private schools has declined by nine per cent.

There is concern about the ‘digital divide’ in our country. There has been an increase in the trend of taking tuitions. The increase in enrollment in government schools may give the government education system a pat on its back, but it should not forget that one of the main reasons for overtaking private schools in terms of enrollment is due to low incomes of many people in the current pandemic. Also increasing poverty and the closure of many private schools in low-income residential areas. In fact, the shrinking sources of income must have compelled the parents to take this decision. Now the central and state governments should take strong steps towards providing quality education to fulfill the trust of the parents.

Significantly, for ASER (Annual Status of Education Report 2021), an organization named ‘Pratham’ conducted this survey in September-October among 75,234 children from 7,299 schools in 17,184 villages in 581 districts of 25 states including three union territories of the country. Gaya. In this, children in the age group of 5-16 were interviewed over the phone. The survey focused on enrollment, access to learning materials, availability and use of digital tools, etc. The survey shows that enrollment in government schools has increased from 65.8 per cent to 70.3 per cent in the last one year. The trend of increasing enrollment in government schools is continuing for the last two years.

It is noteworthy that Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state, saw the highest growth in this case in 2021 with a growth of 13.2 percentage points as compared to 2018. Barring Telangana, all government schools in the southern states have seen an increase of over eight per cent. The trend of growth in enrollment in private schools remained consistent over the 12 years from 2006 to 2018 and reached 30 per cent in 2018. But in the last two years this trend has been reversing. In such a situation, the question arises whether there has been a sudden change in the quality of government schools, which has forced the Indian rural mind to take this decision. It’s not like this. The reasons for the economic slowdown, poverty and return of villages from cities, closure of low-fee private schools are clearly visible due to the Kovid epidemic. In this, 62.4 percent people cited financial constraints while 15.5 percent cited migration as the reason.

Every year the ‘Asar’ report, which is being published since 2005, makes public the level of education of the country in front of the government and others. Even in the pre-Covid period, the level of education was worrying and the distance from school classes of children for about one and a half years in Kovid has increased this concern. In this context, the figures of 28 districts of Karnataka in the recent report of ASER are alarming. Here in the year 2018, 41 percent of children of Class III of government schools could read textbooks of Class I level, now their number has come down to 24 percent. Similarly, the number of people recognizing the number of tens has come down from 78 percent to 60 percent. For a long time, about 25 crore children from 15 lakh schools in the country could not go to school. Arrangements were made for online education, but despite this, children of most states have suffered a huge loss at the level of education.

The Covid pandemic began as a health crisis, and later quickly turned into a ‘learning’ crisis due to prolonged school closures. UNICEF recently attempted to visualize this crisis by structuring a visual of the symbolic ‘epidemic classroom’ in Delhi during the Children’s Rights Week 14-20 November. Expressing concern in this context, the India representative of UNICEF India said, “Unfortunately, due to the closure of the school, children are paying the highest price for this.” There is also a worrying aspect that many children must have forgotten to read and write.

As far as the contributing factor of online learning through digital devices is concerned, the ASER 2021 report shows that only 21 per cent students always had access to smartphones for studies and 47 per cent only occasionally. If we look at the market data of smartphone sales in the country, it is known that in 2018 38.9 percent of Indian households owned a smartphone and by 2021 this figure has reached 67.6 percent. About 28 percent of the households said that they bought it for their children’s education, but 26.1 percent of the children, especially the youth, still struggle to use it. Now that most of the schools have opened, the school administration and top officials of the education department should focus on implementing such efforts, through which students can compensate for the loss and other important gaps in learning.

[शिक्षा व सामाजिक मामलों की जानकार]

Edited By: Sanjay Pokhriyal