Tamil Nadu lags behind Puducherry and Kerala with only 18 per cent internet connectivity in government schools, says a report released by the Union Education ministry.
While Puducherry has 94.79 per cent connectivity, Kerala has 87.21 per cent in government schools, the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) report 2021-22 report said.
Tamil Nadu, however, has around 80 per cent of functional computers but the poor internet connectivity in government schools, will, according to education experts create a major divide in the system.
R. Damodaran, a retired teacher from a government school in Kanniyakumari while speaking to IANS said: “Tamil Nadu has one of the highest literacy rates in the country. If government schools are not equipped for online education during these pandemic times, then it means there is something lacking in the planning and the government of the day is answerable.
There is, however, a difference of opinion on the report and the correctness of the data provided with teacher associations in the state having divergent views.
Tamil Nadu Teachers association president P.K. Ilamaran while speaking to IANS said: “The students in government schools have faced learning losses in the last two years as there is no internet connectivity in most of the schools. Teachers are imparting knowledge to students mostly they are providing this through their personal internet data.”
Kalavathi, a student of class 8 of a government school in Kanniyakumari, said: “There are no internet connections in our school and we are lagging behind in classes. I have not studied school classes properly since the pandemic has begun and even online classes were poor.”
However, Tamil Nadu Graduate Teacher Federation General secretary, P. Patrick Raymond said that he doubts the authenticity of the report.
While all the government schools don’t have an internet connection, the connectivity is much more than what is mentioned in the study report.
Activists working for education rights said that the report of the Union education ministry is almost true and that the state is woefully inadequate in terms of internet connectivity in government schools.
Joseph Raj, an activist working for Edurights, a social organisation working among the government school students on analytical skill development while speaking to IANS said: “The report of Department of Education is almost true. I doubt whether there is 18 per cent internet connectivity in the state government schools. We could not find internet connections in most of the government schools that we travelled to. With online mode of education a reality, the Tamil Nadu government must undertake a proper study on its own and plug the loopholes and provide students of all government schools with high-end internet connectivity that opens a window of opportunity to these students.”
Joseph said that state government had in the budget for 2021-22 categorically mentioned equipping government schools with smart classrooms, equipping government schools with internet connectivity, and also training teachers to handle online classes but in practice, nothing was implemented at the ground level.
The education rights activist said: “All these are tall claims by the government in successive budgets and we can find more announcements in the coming budget also. But how far has the government education department taken this forward is the million-dollar question and if they take this up and increase the internet connectivity in government schools to nearly 100 percent things will change. Otherwise, everything will be in white and black in paper.”