Understanding Education in the age of Digital Divide

Understanding Education in the age of Digital Divide

Waseem Ahmad Bhat

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela

Derived from the Latin word “Educatum”, education aims to nourish good qualities and to bring out the best in every individual. To educate a person is not just to teach knowledge, skills, and critical thinking; it is to enable the person to differentiate between good and evil.
The modern age is turning into a digital age. From small retail stores to big government offices, almost every task is being carried out by using digital technology. The system of education, too, has come under the purview of digital technology.
However, once digital technology becomes the only agent of education, there arises the problem of inequality and class differences. The government of India has launched the “Digital India Campaign” to make services available to each and every citizen electronically, including education services. India is home to the largest population of children in the world, with an estimated 430 million children in the age group of 0-18 years (Censusindia.gov.in) which absolutely is a great asset to have. The campaign also claims to bring in the policy of inclusiveness, where everyone is supposed to be equally entitled under it. But when we look closer, this inclusiveness looks to be exclusiveness actually. Each and every individual of society cannot afford it. The first query that comes to mind is: Who has access to digital technology, which is required to be part of “Technologically Enhanced Learning” or e-Learning.
Obviously, it requires huge investment in digital infrastructure to make each and every citizen connected to the digital world. A person must have access to smart phone, internet, electricity, or personal computer, digital skills, etc. In the present circumstances, access to these things seems like a remote possibility as half of the population in India is struggling for food, shelter, roof, and basic healthcare.
On the one hand, the draft of the “New Education Policy 2019” says that “the new vision of India’s new education system has been crafted in such a way as to ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen, consistent with their ability to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives and also ensure to create a just and equitable society.” The Covid pandemic has forced the government to project e-learning or online classes as the best medium to impart education under the circumstances. On the other hand, the government itself is not providing adequate opportunities for all to access the digital world. Does everyone receive the same kind of education, opportunities, benefits, attention in the online education system?
Although the Indian Constitution under Article 21A makes the right to education a fundamental right for children between the ages of 6 years and 14 years, the current situation demands that investments in education be made in such a way that everyone gets equal opportunity to study. The current scenario is a sorry one for poor and deprived students, who cannot avail the opportunity of online classes or e-learning as they do not possess the required electronic devices or internet connection. Socrates, one of the great philosophers, had said that “Education means the bringing out of the ideas of universal validity which are latent in the mind of every man”. But the authorities are restricting what ought to be universal, i.e., education, to the privileged few. The proletariat are not only being alienated socially, economically and politically, but educationally as well.
Digital education in India is not a bad move but the “Digital Transformation” should be carried out in such a way that it does not differentiate between the haves and have-nots. It must take into consideration each and every individual of the society irrespective of class, caste, gender, region, and religion. It should ensure that everyone’s education, interests, and existence are being taken care of. Therefore, it should not be projected in such a way that it seems a person cannot study if he or she does not have access to electronic devices and digital technology.

The author is a research fellow at University of Kashmir. waseembhat94@gmail.com

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