IN the clearest indication yet of how Covid-19 has exacerbated the digital divide, 43% of children in the nation’s capital who took part in the 2021 National Achievement Survey said they don’t had no access to a digital device at home during the pandemic.
The survey was conducted in November 2021 among a sample of 34 lakh students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 with the aim of assessing their progress and learning skills. As previously reported, Delhi ranked among the five states with the lowest average scores in math and language in class 3 and was behind the national average in all subjects for classes 3 and 5. It also recorded a decline in performance in these classes compared to the last achievement survey conducted in 2017, before the pandemic.
On the other hand, in class 8, it goes against the national trend and performs better in 2021 than in 2017, and is ahead of the national average in classes 8 and 10.
The survey also asked students about their learning experience during the pandemic. When it comes to access to devices during the pandemic period of e-learning, Class 10 saw the lowest percentage of students in Delhi reporting a lack of access to devices. Of the 23,968 participants in this survey, 22% said they did not have access to digital devices at home.
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In comparison, among primary school students, 34% of 9,999 participants at the Class 3 level and 36% of 10,359 participants at the Class 5 level reported a lack of access to devices. At the Class 8 level, up to 82% of the 19,728 participants said they did not have access to digital devices at home.
This reinforces the observation that in homes with a single device to be shared among multiple siblings, it was common for families to prioritize the classes and needs of older children.
At the time the NAS was conducted on November 12, Delhi’s primary and middle school children had not been to school for even two weeks since the start of the pandemic. Schools had opened for the first time since the start of the pandemic for students in those classes on November 1, 2021.
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Nationally, 24% of respondents at all levels said they did not have access to digital devices. The two best performing states in this survey were Punjab and Rajasthan. In Punjab, 42% of participants at all levels said they had no access to digital devices, which is close to the percentage in Delhi, and in Rajasthan, this percentage was 54%, which is considerably higher than in Delhi. In these two states as well, Class 8 had by far the highest number of respondents reporting a lack of access.
Another statistic in the survey results concerned students experiencing worry, anxiety and fear during the pandemic. Up to 58% of participating children in Delhi said they had done so, with the figure rising to 97% for grade 8 level.
At the same time, 58% of children of all grades said they learned new things and had new experiences at home during the period, such as painting, singing, playing indoor games, doing yoga , play musical instruments and spend time with their parents, grandparents and siblings.