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Unfolding Digital Learning Culture And Bridging The Gap

I read a quote recently which goes like this; Literacy is a right not a privilege. Today on World Literacy Day, amidst a worldwide pandemic, this quote couldn’t be more apt.

I can’t press upon how education is one of the greatest levellers. Education is the force by which a person understands his rights and is better equipped to appreciate and understand opposing views. Education can uplift the livelihood of a vast majority of people. In India, the literacy rate and rate of poverty reduction have marched in tandem, which is just not a coincidence. It proves that higher the level of literacy, the lower the rate of poverty. The literacy rate grew from 18.33 percent in 1951 , to 74.04 percent in 2011, while In comparison, poverty declined from 45.3% in 1951-52 to 21.9% in 2011-12 (*Source: Wikipedia).

During the pandemic, school closures around the world have affected children unequally. Not all children have had the tools, access or even the opportunity to continue learning. While most educators were quick to pivot and move to online platforms for learning, the gaping digital divide has unfortunately left many children behind.

An estimated 32 crore children had to stop going to school in 2020 (* source: International Journal of research ). The pandemic has not yet ended. We may have to learn to live with the pandemic as it ebbs and flows. Hence it is time for us to come together and think of creative ways to teach our children who continue to learn and thrive. As we advance, we will have to adapt to blending learning, which will allow children to access education, both online and offline. We will have to increasingly invest in relevant, superior quality content that will help children with an immersive learning experience, whether in school or at home. Civil society and the development sector will need to work with communities more closely than ever before to ensure that caregivers create a conducive environment for children to learn. The digital divide, be it access to educational devices or the internet, will have to be bridged; by the government, corporates, civil societies and everyone else who could be part of this rebuilding exercise.

Another critical aspect is the mental well-being of children. Being confined within the walls of their home, devoid of playtime or a ‘normal’ childhood, could have a bearing on their state of mind. A child develops social, emotional and mental markers with regular school and social interactions. In online delivery of education, this is hardly possible. We are staring at a sub-par social, emotional and mental development of an entire generation of children. Can we afford this? It is imperative to take cognizance of this and ensure that every educational intervention has a component to address this reality.

We at Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) are doing our bit to address some of these pressing issues. We have partnered with Connected Technologies to deliver online learning to students of grades 5 to 10 in the states of Maharashtra and Haryana. What’s more, the online teaching will be as per their school curriculum and in their language of instruction, i.e., Marathi for students in Maharashtra and Hindi for students in Haryana. The program is being rolled out to 25000 students in each state and will gradually be opened up to all students from grades 5 to 10. The project will also feature a mental health and safety module from which all children and teachers will benefit.

We are also evaluating and considering some interesting projects that will address the lack of education devices in remote schools in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, by providing 500 computer systems. Another project under consideration is working in a remote district of Maharashtra, where children are impacted due to non-access to online education and are in urgent need of an intervention.

A lot of this is new, but it is also an eye opener on how privileged we are to receive the right to good education and have the means to access quality education. But as we collectively learn and improvise along the way, I am sure if all of us contributed in a small way, we would have something to celebrate and cheer about World Literacy Day, next year.

Disclaimer: Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the blog are solely that of the author, and not necessarily of Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited and/or its subsidiaries and affiliates.

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