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Report sought on campus digital divide in Bengal

Govt mulls TV route to bridge gap

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta
  • Published 4.04.20, 2:28 AM
  • Updated 4.04.20, 2:28 AM
  • 2 mins read
Higher education secretary Manish Jain (Picture:

The higher education department has sought a report from vice-chancellors on the number of students attending online classes and those who are being left out because of lack of access to computers, an official said.

Higher education secretary Manish Jain asked the VCs of state aided universities to submit a report through a questionnaire-based format by Friday.

When contacted by The Telegraph, Jain declined to comment.

The format contained questions such as the date of starting online classes, whether all subjects are being covered, plan for expansion if all subjects are not covered and response from students.

The higher education department official who spoke to this newspaper said the government was worried about the fate of the students who were on the other side of the digital divide and not in a position to attend online classes.

“We expect the VCs to share with us what percentage of the students they are being able to cater to through online platforms. Many students are from remote areas which has limited or no internet connectivity. We want to know from the VCs how many students are left out from the digital platforms,” the official said.

The Telegraph had on Friday reported that Jadavpur University VC Suranjan Das had highlighted the issue of digital divide.

JU vice-chancellor Das has asked teachers to be “cautious” about conducting online classes because “many students may not be able to afford a desktop computer or laptop at home, or may be staying in a remote village, with limited or no Internet connectivity”.

A JU official said the university had informed the department that while a section of teachers was taking classes online, the authorities had not taken any decision on such classes.

“Given the lack of access of a large number of students to computers, the university has not framed any policy on the matter,” the official said.

Presidency vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia told Metro: “We have informed the department that a moderate section of students is attending online classes. We cannot claim that all students are attending the online platforms as our university, too, has students who come from villages that have limited or zero access to internet. The digital divide poses a challenge to reach out to them. We hope we would be able to reach out to them in consultation with the state government.

Another official of the higher education department said they were thinking of reaching out to students with limited or no internet access through TV or radio.

“Doordarshan, All India Radio broadcast programmes to remotest corners. The school education department has decided to host an hourly programme every day from April 7 to 13 on DD Bangla for the students of Classes IX to XII. Similar models can be tried out for college and university students,” the official said.

Jadavpur VC Das welcomed such alternative models. “We would welcome if something on this line could be planned for college and the university students,” he said.