Published: 01st July 2021
Only 39% schools had computers, 22% with internet, says UDISE+ report: How far away are we from the Digital India dream?
The number of computers has increased 6 per cent from what it was the previous year, said the UDISE+ 2019-20 report. How much has changed because of the pandemic?
India in 2021 is supposed to be digital and smart. But data provided by the government does not paint a very pretty picture. The Report on United Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20 for School Education in India, released by Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, found that only 38.5 per cent of schools had computers and an even lower 22.3 per cent had internet access at that point.
The 2019-20 data shows that functional computer facilities were very low in many major states in northern India like Uttar Pradesh (17.7%), West Bengal (13.66%), Madhya Pradesh (13.28%) and Bihar (13.83%). Major Southern states fared better with Kerala (92.44%) and Tamil Nadu (76.55%) leading the way. This also indicates that the improvement in infrastructure has been negligible under the current government. In 2012-13, 22.2 per cent of the schools had computers and in seven years it has grown only by 16 per cent.
The number of schools with computers has increased by about 6 per cent from what it was the previous year, said the report. "About 39% schools in India had computers in 2019-20, an improvement by more than 6% over the previous year. More than 22% schools in India had internet connectivity in 2019-20, an improvement of more than 3.5% over the previous year," the report said.
But just having a computer takes you only so far towards the Digital India dream. Internet penetration, according to the report, was at a deplorable 6.2 per cent in 2012-19. After a term under the Modi government, the numbers have increased immensely to 22.3 per cent. But that too is not a great number. This means 16 per cent of the schools have working computer facilities but cannot really do much other than teach software as they do not have an internet connection.
After COVID-19 hit India and we were forced into a lockdown, we realised the need for the internet and technology. Even though states have promised, and in some cases delivered, laptops and smartphones to students so that they can access online classes, the basic infrastructure in schools have not improved much. Almost every state, while announcing its budget this year had announced some sort of a scheme or handout to students that either included computers and smartphones or promises of smart classes. But a one-off offer like these would not help as much and that the government needs to increase investment in the education sector, experts have often said.
A total of 26.45 crore students were enrolled in school education from pre-primary to higher secondary in 2019-20, up by 42.3 lakh compared to 2018-19, the report has noted. The enrolment of girls increased at all levels of school education in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. The increase was highest in the pre-primary level.
The number of teachers in school education increased by 2.72 per cent in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. In 2019-20, 96.87 lakh teachers were engaged in school education, about 2.57 lakh higher compared to the statistics in 2018-19. The report has pointed out that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at all levels of school education had improved in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19.