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Online classes for high school students expose digital divide

When it was mooted, many appreciated the School Education department for asking government and private institutions to conduct online classes for high school students, especially for those who have to appear for Class 10 board exams. However, it has now exposed the digital divide between families that can afford to provide the necessary infrastructure and those who cannot.

Online classes for high school students expose digital divide


Many students studying in government and medium and lower grade private schools do not have computers or internet connectivity at home. Even in the case of households with computers and smartphones, their parents who are now working from home are unable to share it with the children.

S Radhakrishnan, a marketing executive of a car battery firm, is one of those who are facing this dilemma. He needs his mobile phone for work, and his wife has only an ordinary phone that cannot access internet. “Sharing the phone with my son, who is studying Class 10, is very difficult,” said. But after receiving messages from his son’s school that online study is mandatory, he has no option to give the phone to the boy whenever he can.

Another example is that of S Shankari, a working woman whose two children are studying in Class 9 and 11. “My kids have to share the mobile phone for accessing classes online,” she said.

“It is not an equitable approach, as only students from rich families will benefit,” said PB Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu (SPCSS-TN).

“How many parents with more than two children studying in high school can provide the required infrastructure facilities for online classes,” he asked, terming the online classes as marketing gimmicks especially by the private schools. “The government should conduct regular classes at least for 20 days, especially for Class 10 students, before conducting board exams,” he said.

Echoing similar views, Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association president PK Ilamaran said: “The government should instruct all schools to ensure all the facilities for the students before conducting online classes,” he said.

K Manikkam, a member of TN Matriculation School Association, said that due to stiff competition for student admissions, many managements of middle and lower level private schools were “forced do imitate” elite institutions. Concurring with this, the principal of a private matriculation school in Pammal said trustees of the institution were forcing them to adopt “all attractive measures”, including online classes, to lure new admissions. “We have no choice but to obey their instructions,” she said.

When asked, a senior official from the Directorate of School Education told DT Next that the effort that started in the third week of March was appreciated in the initial days. “However, after two weeks, there were complaints from parents that they are not able to provide the required facilities, including continuous internet connection even through mobile phone,” he admitted.

Noting that this was the first time such an attempt has been undertaken, he said there was no proper data as to how many schools were conducting online classes and the students availing them. “We will have a clear picture only after getting reports from the schools,” he added.

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