WITH good scores on many indicators, the report card of Himachal Pradesh schools, as per the Annual Status of Education Report (rural), 2021, reflects well on the state’s response in overcoming the challenges and disruptions triggered by the pandemic. Rising to the key demand of the online mode of schooling, the state has come up trumps on ensuring a smartphone in almost every household (95.6 per cent as compared to 67.6 per cent nationally). In this context, the other states could learn a lesson or two from HP’s heartwarming ‘donate a device’ initiative. Equally impressive are the findings that 99.4 per cent kids in Himachal villages are enrolled in schools (vis-a-vis 95.4 per cent at the national level) and that almost all of them have textbooks.
However, while this is commendable, it is not sufficient for the real test, which is whether these provisions have translated into learning outcomes of the schoolchildren on both academic and cognitive accounts. Even as the National Assessment Survey designed to throw light on this aspect is eagerly awaited, there are many fundamental gaps requiring attention to ace the game. Unless poor Internet access, especially in remote and hilly areas, is addressed, the phone in the child’s hand won’t serve the purpose of e-learning. That many more HP kids are resorting to physical tuitions, as per ASER, is a sure pointer to the absence of reliable telecom connectivity and other factors such as parents’ literacy levels.
Additionally, the e-class can be more effective if teachers are regularly trained and upskilled in more interesting ways of engaging with their students in a tech-savvy setting. Though the schools are headed for offline classes, the digital mode of learning is not likely to completely vanish. With both the educators and the students initiated into the vast and exciting potential of myriad online tools, the hybrid model is emerging as the future form of education. It again raises questions of the huge inequalities and digital divide in the country. A lot of ground remains to be covered before every child gets the optimal benefits.
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