ASER report underlines digital divide in Karnataka schools

63% of students enrolled in government schools in rural Karnataka have access to smartphones against 82% in private schools

Online learning, which has become the norm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has brought to the fore the digital divide in education with only children having access to smartphones and internet experiencing the benefits. The extent of the divide is stark, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2020 Wave 1 Report, which was released on Wednesday.

Only 63% of students aged between 5 and 18 years, enrolled in government schools in rural Karnataka, have access to smartphones. Among those enrolled in private schools, 82% had access to smartphones.

This year, the report examined the apparent effects of the pandemic on schooling and learning opportunities of children in rural India. For Karnataka, 3,128 households in 900 villages across all 30 districts were surveyed. A total of 7,557 children in the 5-18 years age group were surveyed.

The survey revealed that 89% of children enrolled in private schools and 80% of students enrolled in government schools have access to television.

Rise in enrolment

The report explored provision of and access to remote education mechanisms and materials in rural parts of the country, and how children, families, and educators were engaging with these from their homes. It noted an increase in enrolment in government schools: 71.86% of boys and 75.1% of girls have been enrolled in government schools this year, as against 66.2% boys and 74.2% girls in 2018.


It highlighted the role of government school teachers in ensuring that students were not left behind. Around 61% of government school teachers visited students or spoke to them or their parents in the reference week, which is the week before the survey was conducted.

The percentage of private school teachers who took similar initiatives stood at 55.6.

As far as availability of textbooks for their current grade was concerned, 93.9% of children in government schools had textbooks whereas only 76% of children in private schools had textbooks. However, only 73% of children in government schools and 67% of children in private schools received the learning material and activities in the reference week. The data applies only to rural schools.

The rise of WhatsApp

According to the survey, WhatsApp was the most used medium to share learning/activity material in private schools (76.2%) and government schools (40.3%).

“As schools are closed, children rely mainly on the resources available at home to help them learn. These resources can consist of people who can help them to study (for example, educated parents); technology (TV, radio or smartphone); or material (such as textbooks for the current grade),” a release by ASER said.

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Sagar Biswas

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