John Dewey once rightly said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” These lines make everyone realise that methods used in offline teaching will not work in the present online landscape, and there is a dire need to integrate affordable and accessible technologies to revolutionize the education sector and secure the future of upcoming changemakers.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced most countries to close schools, training institutions, and higher education facilities, causing a paradigm shift in the way education was delivered. The worst sufferers in this situation are third world countries i.e. developing countries with lower industrial and human development. A Digital Divide exists between developed and developing countries due to the difference in the provision of digital infrastructure between them. Insufficient access to digital devices and a reliable internet connection, lack of digital readiness and adaptability, and backwardness of the region served as major reasons for this divide.
A Study demonstrates that High-Income countries use online platforms (95%) as the prime means to ensure remote learning. Meanwhile, low-income countries rely more on broadcast media, including radio (93%) and television (92%), while the use of online platforms is lower, at 64%, likely due to low internet availability and lack of affordable technologies in these countries.
These statistics present a worrying picture and are driving up learning poverty i.e.the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read a basic text, from 53% to 63% in low and middle-income countries. This 10-percentage-point increase implies that an additional 72 million primary-school-age children could fall into learning poverty, out of a population of 720 million children of primary-school age.
Further, to gauge the impacts of this education crisis on one of the poorest regions of the world i.e. the African Region, they stand at the margin in terms of minimum proficiency level, with a Learning Deprivation Gap i.e. the average distance of a learning deprived child to the minimum reading proficiency level, of approximately 20%. This is double the global average which stands at 10.5%. , implying that students in these regions are one full academic year behind in terms of learning.
If we take into consideration the research from the state of Sao Paulo (Brazil), every month of school closure meant at least one month of foregone learning. This implies that a child who was in 4th grade when schools were open and is now returning to school after one-and-a-half years of school closures has the learning level of a 4th grader, not that of a 6th grader. Thus, failure to recover these losses will lead to as much as a 10% loss in lifetime earnings for the generation of children in countries with longer school closures.
These statistics paint a picture that requires immediate attention in terms of integrating affordable technologies to ensure access to education in developing countries.
RECOMMENDATIONS - A WAY FORWARD:
Considering the role of chips in the manufacturing of electronic devices and their vital role in online education, it becomes pertinent to reduce the cost of production by encouraging countries to provide inputs required, at a lower cost, this will ensure the supply of cost-effective electronic devices to developing countries.
Ensuring effective collaborations between high tech companies like Amazon and developing countries to streamline cloud computing into the mainstream. This will be a cost-effective solution, as one need not bear the cost of maintaining servers and data centres.
Ensuring quality and adequate infrastructure in these regions requires an active role from international organizations. These organizations will facilitate the transfer of funds from developed countries to help developing regions. This will then help integrate AI(Artificial Intelligence) in these regions to ensure personalized learning, effective student support, and universal access to education.
With the recent growth of ed-tech platforms and many of them offering affordable education, these platforms should be streamlined. However, since this initiative is prevalent in developed countries, these platforms need to be encouraged to diversify in these regions.
Streamlining the use of refurbished devices. With a lot of electronic goods getting disposed of every year, restoring them to the new-like condition from the disposed ones is a solution that will provide access to many. It has been practised in Qatar- The government has implemented a recycling scrap collection system in several residential areas and customers register to put their used electronic devices in the bins, which recycle centres then collect twice a month. In this way, these refurbished devices post a comparatively cheaper option than the original one thus helping the children from developing to purchase and use electronic devices.
The use of solar power is a potential area that needs to be leveraged in the IT Sector. In light of the abundance of solar energy, this is an area that developing countries can capitalize upon as a future option.
On the issue of affordable technology integration in education, statistics were presented on the disparities between developed and developing countries. However, we cannot deny that developed nations suffer from many of the same challenges and concerns as developing nations, though to different extents. They also experience apprehension and low motivation among teachers, lack of appropriate educational software, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of learner-centred instruction. However, with greater resources and knowledge, this can be handled more effectively, and a great deal of what developed countries have done can be applied to developing countries as well. Reading this should not be considered the only source, but rather as suggestions that will aid in producing realistic, achievable, and effective implementation plans.
Azevedo, P. (2020, December 15). How could COVID-19 hinder progress with Learning Poverty? Some initial simulations. World Bank Blogs. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/how-could-covid-19-hinder-progress-learning-poverty-some-initial-simulations
World Bank: Pandemic Threatens to Drive Unprecedented Number of Children into Learning Poverty. (2021, October 29). World Bank Group. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/10/29/world-bank-pandemic-threatens-to-drive-unprecedented-number-of-children-into-learning-poverty
Technology integration in education in developing countries: Guidelines to policymakers. (n.d.). ERIC. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ855000.pdf
Authored by Jatin Gulati