Bridge that digital teaching divide – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/bridge-that-digital-teaching-divide/articleshow/83900315.cmsSynopsis

​​The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, private charities, expat and alumni associations, temple trusts with vaults bursting at the seams, startup stars, businessmen whose wealth bloated during the pandemic and in need of a salve for their conscience — the possible sources of funding are many

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost and eventually, the kingdom was lost. Think of the missing digital device in the hands of a schoolchild in these days of online schooling as lockdowns continue, and think of that missing nail. Crores of children lack digital devices. They are falling behind, probably falling out of school and education, and probably into a future of poverty, crime and violence.

It is vital to avert this tragedy. Invest in digital capability and provide children access to devices such as smartphones, at the bare minimum. There must be innovative ways to fund this plan. About 25 crore children are enrolled in schools — 13.1 crore in government and 11.9 crore in privately managed schools. At, say, RS 4,000 for a smartphone, the cost would work out to Rs 10,000 crore for the bottom 10%, and go up to about RS 50,000 crore for the bottom 50% of the children. Similarly, at Rs 10,000 crore for a laptop or tablet, the cost works out to RS 25,000 crore and Rs 1,25,000 crore respectively. Functional broadband that reaches everywhere is one complementary challenge.

Digital content and new pedagogical methods form another. The government should focus on making its Bharat Net and ‘Wifi Access Network Interface’ operational, besides setting targets for telcos to complete 4G coverage. NGOs and foundations, besides bodies such as NCERT, should take on the second, along with edutech pioneers.

The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, private charities, expat and alumni associations, temple trusts with vaults bursting at the seams, startup stars, businessmen whose wealth bloated during the pandemic and in need of a salve for their conscience — the possible sources of funding are many

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