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Digital Divide in Online Education

Of Access and Inclusivity

Can online education enable all students to participate in and benefit from it equally? Massive online education without addressing the huge access gap and disparities in digital infrastructure would not only exclude a vast majority of students from learning opportunities but also exacerbate the existing socio-economic disparities in educational opportunities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the educational system of the country in disarray. The closure of schools and colleges began before the completion of the end-semester or annual exams and cast a blight on the entire academic cycle. A reinforcing web of issues, such as prolonged closure, uncertainty about the timing of reopening, likely constriction in the academic calendar and the resultant learning discontinuity among students, among others, has forced the states and educational institutions to find a feasible option to assuage the varied impacts. Online education has emerged as a preferred, predominant option. In fact, it has been pontificated to the status of TINA—there is no alternative to it. On the face of it, online education appears as a safe interim bet. Yet, its scale, scope and reach raise serious issues, both on the process preceding it and the outcome proceeding from it.

In the process, the state and educational administrations, behaving as “benevolent patriarchs,” have taken this key decision without the participation of important stakeholders in the educational system, namely teachers, students and parents. Also, the decision of massive online education is rationalised as a Hobson’s choice of either online education or no education at all. Furthermore, cloaked behind is the assumption that online teaching is structurally no different from in-person teaching and education is primarily content delivery (Brabazon 2020). Whether teachers are willing, suitably equipped with necessary skills and are comfortable in teaching classes online are questions snubbed as irrelevant at the least or obstructive at the worst.

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Updated On : 7th Sep, 2020

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