Covid-19 pandemic hit almost all sectors of life. It impacted the economy hard even as some sectors were even completely wiped out. However, the education sector has been one of the biggest victims across the globe, more so in Kashmir where schools for physical classes are shut for almost 15 months now and chances of them resuming classroom in wake of the winter season seem improbable if not impossible. The losses about prolonged closure of schools as well as fears regarding opening them in contemporary times are legitimate. Indubitably remote education is a poor substitute for real classrooms, and children with learning barriers such as poverty and special education needs are at an even bigger disadvantage. The Annual Status of Education Report 2020, covering 26 States and four Union Territories, has expounded this fact.
The report has brought to fore striking facts and one of them happens to be a shift in enrolments from private schools to government institutions, of about five percentage points over 2018, ranging from class one to higher secondary levels.
Amid suspension of physical classes, the report has revealed that there is a marked rise in students not being enrolled—one of the reasons could be they dropped out, or impossibility to get admitted.
The report has also found that over 43% of students in government schools are without access to a smartphone across the surveyed places. In the overall J&K context comprising both private and government schools, almost 29 percent of students were found lacking smartphones which suggest that either these students have missed the studies altogether or had to rely more on parents and siblings to study at home. One can imagine the fate of poor students who have both parents illiterate. The survey seems to have not touched connectivity issues owing to 2G speed in most areas in Jammu and Kashmir as it would not form a general questionnaire given the fact that other states or UTs in India do not face such issues on regular times.
The ASER report nevertheless provides statistics that could facilitate intervention by the education system in bridging the divide on educational aids including smartphones. It needs out-of-the-box ideas during the pandemic to come up with interventions that are a substitute for traditional methods as parents remain wary of sending children to school even covid-19 pandemic remains far from being overcome especially in absence of an affordable vaccine.