How to bridge the digital divide in education?

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How to bridge the digital divide in education?

The recent news about a young Kenyan boy, Martin Obila who walked on foot for over 50 kms to reach his dream school to reason with the authorities about his family’s inadequacy at paying hefty school fee is one in many stories wherein aspiring, talented students and their family are not in a position to bear high education cost. UNESCO’s initiative -“Education for All” which is the part of “Millennium Development Goals” has witnessed a sharp rise in student enrollment in schools across developing nations in Africa. But, despite encouraging signs the bitter truth is that a good number of children drop out of schools even before they finish middle school.

From the face of it, the two most apparent reasons why dropout rates are increasing because of long distance that children have to cover to reach an actual school and the high cost of education itself. But there are several underlying factors and overhead costs that compel children from low income families to forgo school education. Poor infrastructure and paucity of teaching staff wherein parents are often forced to engage private tutors for their children adds up to the overall cost of education that leads to a situation wherein parents prefer pulling out their ward from schools.

In the recent past, the growth of communication technologies namely the Internet and devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablet computers has opened up a new chapter in the world’s education system. While in developing countries highly improvised and technological friendly educational mechanism are being adopted at a very advanced level, in developing nations these changes are perceived to offer hope in terms of overcoming geographical barrier and increased cost of education .Despite these conjectures, it is often very difficult to fathom as to how exactly these modern and technical contrivance of education will rebut the woes of a traditional and conventional pedagogy.

In every developing nation of the world where people are deprived of basic necessities of life such as safe drinking water, food and shelter, introducing a highly intricate system of education backed by technology seems far from logical. Since early 1990s, government of various countries namely India, Philippines’s, Namibia, and Kenya have pumped in huge resources to equip schools with computers and internet. But there is a huge gap in the infrastructure of the rural and urban areas that makes equitable distribution of an education a problem.

For most students in urban areas of developing nations, the medium of internet has opened up plethora of opportunities in the field of education. MOOC universities are becoming overtly popular as students can have access to quality education right from the comfort of their location. But sadly, children living in rural areas do not enjoy those privileges. Policy makers, educationist has to think of a way wherein, children for peripheral areas also get an opportunity to embrace highly advanced and technological friendly educational system. Perhaps the use of wireless technologies, smartphones, tablet computers, 3G internet will resolve the issue of digital divide that students in developing nations are facing.

It is predicted that Smartphone connection is going to grow at an unprecedented growth by 2020. Wireless technology is both affordable and sustainable. M-Learning is going to be the next revolutionary phase in the paradigm of digital learning. Students in the west were the first to experience and benefit from the advantage of e-learning. From there e-learning were introduced in select modern pockets of developing countries. But, it will be ultimately be mobile wireless technology that will truly bridge the divide that currently exist within the milieu of developing countries.

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