In one of his discussions on education, Kentaro Toyama, the co-founder of Microsoft Research India, writes “Technology amplifies pre-existing differences in wealth and achievement.” India is experiencing a similar tech-driven inequity right now. COVID-19 has forced a massive digital shift in every landscape. Education is one sector that has borne the wrath of the pandemic heavily. In the absence of any inperson modes of learning for children - parents, educators and institutions are forced to seek alternative modes of learning that are dependent on technology. Given the vast digital divide that exists among the different socio-economic classes, we can expect an increase in the already existing educational inequity in India.
While the benefits of technology are evident and manifold, it is also equally important to critically analyse consumption patterns of smartphone users in lowincome households.
In most families, the father owns the device. This smartphone is only available to children in the evenings or on Sundays. These smartphones are usually entry-level and do not support heavy applications. The problem does not end here, for the bandwidth or internet data is limited, ranging from 2 GB a month to 2 GB a day.
The solutions that work for high-income families cannot be copy-pasted across the board. To ensure that the education of kids from underserved communities is not adversely affected, we need to re-evaluate the existing pedagogy, which relies on one-way information dissemination. There is an immediate need to move to a new pedagogical model that allows more self-learning, and ensures that children learn at a desirable pace. We also need to build thoughtful delivery models which parents are comfortable with, such as WhatsApp or Telegram. Delivery models, such as these, adapt well to the existing constraints and allow parents to engage effectively.