2020 – A year of Smart Phones and Smart Education

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With smartphones emerging as a key tool for imparting education in times of the pandemic, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for Rural India conducted amid an unprecedented school shutdown has revealed that a little above 88 per cent children surveyed in Punjab (government & private schools combined) had access to smartphones, compared to 90 per cent in Himachal, 82.3 per cent in Haryana and just 77.1 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the report, Kerala emerged at the top with 94.3 per cent children having access to smartphones, while for West Bengal this figure was just 47.4 per cent placing it at the bottom of the table among the states surveyed.

Focus on remote learning

The annual report — ASER 2020 (Rural, Wave 1) — by the ASER Centre, the autonomous research and assessment unit Pratham Education Foundation, was released Wednesday. It is the first-ever phone-based ASER survey.

Conducted in September 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown when schools remained closed for at least six months, the survey explored the provision of and access to distance education mechanisms, materials and activities for children in rural India, and the ways in which children and families are engaging with these remote learning alternatives from their homes.

Access to study material in Covid year

Also, 96.1 per cent students in Punjab from government schools and 95.9 per cent from private schools were found having access to their textbooks for the current grade.

In another interesting statistic, 73.8 per cent children in Punjab enrolled in schools were found receiving help from family members while studying at home, including 67.8 per cent in government schools and 79.9 per cent in private schools.

In Punjab, a total of 87.6 per cent children were found receiving study material including 87.1 per cent from government schools and 88.1 per cent from private schools.

Of this, while 94.4 per cent received study material via WhatsApp, 10.4 per cent got through phone calls, 7.9 per cent through personal visits and 5.1 per cent through other mediums. Overall, 93.7 per cent children from government schools and 95.1 per cent from private schools got the material through WhatsApp.

For the children who were enrolled in schools but still did not receive study material in Punjab during the lockdown, parents listed several reasons such as schools not sending material, no access to smartphone or internet, connectivity/network issues and others.