Only 15.3 per cent school students in Jharkhand used online mediums of education at home in 2021, a year when in-person classes remained suspended owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) revealed on Wednesday.
According to the ASER survey, at least 5.3 per cent of school students in Jharkhand could use broadcast mediums such as TV and radio for studying at home during the lockdown, while 44.2 per cent students had to rely on traditional ways of studying at home, mostly involving textbooks.
During the survey conducted in September and October, ASER sampled as many as 7,189 households in 716 villages from across the 24 districts in Jharkhand. At least 3,101 connected households were also sampled during this period.
As many as 2,535 children between five to 16 years participated in the survey, the official website of ASER stated. At least 461 of the surveyed students were in class 1 to 2, 631 in class 3 to 5, 646 in class 6 to 8 and 497 in classes 8 to 12.
Of all the school students surveyed in Jharkhand, 60.2 per cent had at least one smartphone available at home, but only 20.7 per cent of these students had unhindered access to the device. Moreover, about 39.7 per cent of students, who had smartphones available at home, never got access to the devices for education purpose. About 39.6 per cent of students, who had smartphones at home, got access to them sometimes.
Abhinav Kumar, who is in-charge of quality education in Jharkhand, admitted that few students could use online mediums of education in 2021 owing to lack of accessibility to smartphones and poor internet connectivity in many areas of the state.
“About 47 blocks in our state fall under shadow zones with no internet connectivity. Students enrolled in more than 7,000 schools in these blocks did not even have the option to use online mediums of education,” said Kumar, adding that a survey conducted by the School Education and Literacy Department in Jharkhand found that only 13.5 lakh of the over 47 lakh school students had access to study materials shared over WhatsApp during the lockdown.
“In 2021, many people returned to work while schools remained closed. During this period, students could not get access to smartphones as their parents carried their phones to work,” said Kumar.
Rameshwar Mehta, the principal of Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya Dangwar in Palamau, said that many students in villages of Hussainabad block of the district did not even have access to televisions, and therefore, they could not benefit from tutorials telecast on DD channels.
The dependency on online mode of education was the fourth lowest in Jharkhand in the year 2021. According to ASER, Bihar students had the lowest online dependency of 10.1 per cent, followed by West Bengal at 13.3 per cent and Uttar Pradesh at 13.9 per cent.
The percentage of students with smartphones available at home, however, has tripled in Jharkhand since 2018. As per ASER data, only 20.6 per cent school students in Jharkhand had smartphones at home in 2018. The number jumped to 60.2 per cent in 2021.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of six to 14 year old students enrolled in government schools rose by over 2 per cent in Jharkhand from 2018 to 2021. According to ASER, 76.1 per cent students were enrolled in schools back in 2018, while 78.6 per cent of eligible students were enrolled in schools in 2021.
The percentage of school students with access to textbooks of their respective grades also increased in the state since 2018. As per ASER data, 77.1 per cent Jharkhand students had access to textbooks of their class back in 2018. In 2021, 89.8 per cent students had access to textbooks of their class.
However, the percentage of six to 14 year old students not enrolled in schools has also increased in the past three years in Jharkhand. According to ASER, 2.1 per cent of 6-14-year-old students were not enrolled in schools in Jharkhand in 2018. In 2021, about 2.7 per cent students in this age bracket were not enrolled in schools.