Digital Divide Possess Threat to Education

Hina Khan Palwasha

Ready or not, this pandemic has turned homes into classrooms and parents into teaching assistants or learning partners, all for the sake of their child’s education. Along with killing hundreds of thousands of people, coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected their social life as well. Especially children, whose face-to-face education through schools has been seriously affected.

After months of pandemic’s prevalence, although different private and public institutions throughout the world have succeeded in implementing distance education programs, hurdles of home education are still matter of concern for both educators and parents as well. Governments on the other hand, are putting their best efforts to strategize and implement effective distance education models, so the communication between children and educators should be enhanced and the duration of lessons should be made more efficient.

In the times when strong and supportive parenting education has never been so demanding, parents may find the task of homeschooling difficult, especially those whose education and resources are not enough to access computers and the Internet, while working parents may leave their children unattended due to job responsibilities. All in all, parent’s digital illiteracy and increased cost of distance education has become a serious problem for families. In this regard, a closer parent-school partnership, facilitated by the government, in order to provide resources and trainings will be needed to overcome the obstacles.

In families having all the facilities, children and their parents’ increased used of social media and other platforms for education has increased their dependence on technology. Statistics of worldwide internet usage before and after the emergence of the pandemic present a horrifying state of technology addiction among the users, raising concerns about physical and psychological problems in line. As stress and anxiety prevails, it may affect the learning abilities due to lack of social activities and human interactions in educational institutes which means large numbers of school dropouts and decreased level of quality education.

While teaching, on the other hand has moved to an unparalleled and untested scale. Firstly, majority of the teachers from developing countries do not have an internet access at home. Secondly, unlike all other professions, teachers lack the digital competencies that the current education system demands. This highlights the need of provision of facilities and implementation of training policies for the teachers for digital education in the coming years.

In this heightened competition posed by the pandemic, along with all the stakeholders, are children. At one hand, there are those who with good learning competencies, lack the digital skills. This digital divide can pose threat to their skills development and re-skilling opportunities. On the other hand, are those who were already at risk of exclusion from quality education. This outbreak will move education further from their grasp. Human Rights Watch on children’s education during the pandemic in different countries such as Cameroon, Madagascar, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Morocco show that the outbreak has worsened the pre-existing inequalities.

In this regard, it is the utmost duty of the governments throughout the world to ensure the equality of opportunity in education by providing easy access to the school materials as well as internet. It should also provide access to the digital libraries in order to facilitate the remote learning process. Platforms such as social media, local radio and television should be used to provide skills to parents and caregivers while different programs should be designed to counsel and advise them on challenges related to home education.

A clear and concise policy infrastructure is needed for accessing the educational climate, acquiring digital skills, seeking emotional and social support, conducting evaluation properly, reducing the risks arising from a lack of supervision, and enabling trainers to acquire new skills according to the new situation.We must accept the need of digital skills which have the potential to be decisive in all the areas and walks of life.

All these efforts can fill the discrepancies of our hollow education system, which throughout the world has been planned within the boundaries of school and without painting clear picture of what education would look like when schools have closed their door.

It’s the time that we must rethink and redesign education, which in its self is an ever evolving process.

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