Digital divide in education can’t be bridged by laptops and smartphones alone

News: Digital divide is not the only reason behind the educational divide, there are socio-economic reasons also.

The covid-induced online education system has highlighted the divide between the digital haves and have-nots, which is a reflection of economic inequality.

The distribution of smartphones and laptops to children to bridge the digital divide will not solve the problem. The lasting solution would be in addressing the root causes like education commercialisation by taking all-encompassing policy decisions.

What are the root causes of the increasing education divide?

Commercialisation of education is the main cause. Knowledge has become a commodity with a thriving market. Commodification leads to commercialisation.

The growth in entrepreneurship-led economic growth requires innovation and technology. Also, it has increased the knowledge intensity of production, which keeps the knowledge economy booming.

Further, Parents and students consider education as an assured instrument of mobility. This has further increased the demand for education.

Consequently, modern education has become costly.

What are the negative consequences?

Exclusion of poor from education: The digital revolution, with its emphasis on robotics, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, will bypass the “capability of poor”.

What are the solutions to address these challenges?

Guaranteeing economic security: Providing assured basic income through provision of universal property rights.

Expanding the ambit of Right to education: Article 21A now guarantees the right to education for children in the six-14 age group. This progressive step should be extended to all sectors and levels of education.

Fiscal measures: Enhancing budget allocation to education by reordering fiscal priorities, and applying methods like zero-based/ outcome budgeting etc.

Ideological change: put education at the centre of economic/ development policy formulation.

Involve private sector: Involve the corporate sector in meeting the demand for publicly funded education, not just through CSR, but as part of academic social responsibility, in return for special concessions and incentives.

Resource mobilisation: institute endowments and enhance diaspora contributions.

Source: This post is based on the article “Digital divide in education can’t be bridged by laptops and smartphones alone” published in Indian express on 18th November 2021.

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