For the large majority of the population living in rural areas, education is highly dependent on government-run or aided schools and non-governmental organisations. But rural areas still face various barriers that directly impact the country’s literacy rate. The National Education Policy 2020 emphasises digital learning as an alternative to the conventional classroom model but implementing this in rural India will face some challenges.
Financial issues: To start with, meagre incomes leads to education taking a backseat. Parents tend to see education as an expense rather than an investment. They would rather have the children work and earn. When it comes to higher education, lack of good institutes close by means students have to look at shifting to cities, which adds to their expenses. This leads to low rates of enrollment and higher dropout rates.
Lack of guidance: Students in smaller regions have great potential and are motivated to study but lack right mentoring. This is required not just for the children but also for their parents.
Lack of infrastructure and faculty: Children have limited or no access to basic learning tools such as well-equipped classrooms, computers, labs, playgrounds, among other things. Often, the teachers are often not qualified or do not turn up, leading to a poor quality of education. This also leads to low morale among students to attend school.
Gender inequality: In some places, girls are not allowed to go to school. Or if allowed, it is only upto a certain age. They are not allowed to move out of their hometown for higher education or better jobs.
While most of these areas need transformative changes, which will take time, technology can help drive it faster. With the increased use of smartphones in rural areas, e-learning platforms can be accessed easily. Many are also affordable. This new way of learning can be made attractive to children. Courses from the best educators e-libraries for research material and teachers will all be available in an instant. Vulnerabilities such as lack of availability of quality content and training mechanisms can be addressed. In these unprecedented times, the integration of technology with education holds great promise.
(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in The Hindu. The original article can be found at https://www.thehindu.com/education/what-are-the-challenges-of-education-in-rural-india-and-how-technology-can-help-overcome-them/article35316970.ece)