India Case Study: Situation Analysis on the Effects of and Responses to COVID-19 on the Education Sector in Asia
Published in October 2021, this report reviews the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic impacted India’s education sector. It was written by the UNICEF regional offices for South Asia and East Asia and Pacific, in collaboration with UNESCO, Bangkok. Cambridge Education, a consultancy firm based in the United Kingdom, helped carry out the analysis.
The report reviews relevant secondary data to gauge the effects of the lockdown and school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s education. It also presents interviews and focus group discussions with school teachers, teachers' union representatives and NGOs working on digital education in India.
The report exposes great lack in terms of digital infrastructure and access to technology while evaluating the transition to remote learning during the pandemic. Most teachers – in government and private schools alike – lacked formal training and digital tools during the rapid shift to e-learning. In states like Delhi, Gujarat and Karnataka, teachers were not paid their salaries or had to suffer significant salary cuts.This 56-page publication contains four chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Effects of and response to COVID-19 on the education sector in India (Chapter 2); Thematic deep dive (Chapter 3); and Lessons learned and recommendations (Chapter 4).
In 2019, only 11 per cent of households in India had devices such as computers, desktops, laptops and tablets – the report states quoting a study conducted by the data analytics firm Nielsen, based in New York, and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, Mumbai. The same study also revealed that as low as 24 per cent of the households in India could access internet services.
The report notes that the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown adversely affected about 120 million children who were enrolled in the mid-day meal scheme by the Government of India. Many of these children come from underprivileged households and the mid-day meal was one of the primary incentives to go to school. This deprived them of “what is often the most nutritious meal of their day”, the report adds.
The report cites the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2020: Wave 1 and notes that as low as 36 per cent of the 59,251 students interviewed during the study received any learning material from their schools during the pandemic. Of these, roughly 67 per cent of government school students and 87 per cent of private school students received the material on WhatsApp.
Citing the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2020: Wave 1, the report states that around 29 per cent of students from private schools reported using pre-recorded lessons as a mode of learning during the pandemic. About 18 per cent students from private schools attended online classes. On the other hand, only 18 per cent of students from government schools used recorded video lessons as a mode of learning and eight per cent could attend classes online.
The report cites a survey conducted by UNICEF in May 2021 across six Indian states (Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh) to study the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on school education. It states that radio was the least popular mode of remote learning among students. Out of the 6,000 respondents, only one per cent reported using it.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (now the Ministry of Education), Government of India, released the Alternative Academic Calendar (AAC) in April 2020 to promote online education for the next academic year. As per the official website, the AAC hoped to provide “multiple alternative ways of learning at home through interesting activities.” This academic calendar, the report states, relied on teachers and students across India having “seamless access” to smartphones and a stable internet connection when such facilities were largely absent.
The report lists some steps taken by states across India to enable learning during the Covid-19 lockdown. Assam distributed worksheets and mid-day meals in government schools, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh televised informative programmes and Gujarat distributed QR-coded textbooks.
Some of the recommendations of the report include bridging the digital divide by partnering with network service providers; investing in training teachers and developing inclusive programmes to ensure access to education for children from marginalised communities. It also suggests including digital services within social welfare schemes provided by the government.
Focus and Factoids by Bharti Patel.
PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, UNESCO Bangkok and Cambridge Education, United Kingdom
United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization