‘Change can’t be given to you every time; you must bring the change yourself.’ – Famous lines by a bus conductor who probably never got any education.
If you’re wondering that there is a deep meaning to the above quote, well, there isn’t. The bus conductor is simply talking about the loose change that people often forget to carry, while travelling in a bus. But, how is this relevant to the topic of digital divide in India? The answer to that is multi-fold and I’ll do my best to address them in this essay.
You see, India is a large country and to call it a developing nation as a whole is a big facade. There are regions that are developed to the point that they can put the entire world to shame, and then there are much bigger regions that lack even the basic of what is considered as living. In a country of such stark contrast, education is considered as that one important string that ties and brings the two together in order to bridge this gap. And this education which is supposed to be so crucial, is often toyed with in the hands of those with any influence over it.
India’s education system is continuously trying to evolve itself, and it’s doing so, not by introducing a better and innovative means of teaching, but by the use of technology. Our education system is trying to go on par with that of developed nations and while this is not a bad idea at all, what people often fail to realize is that technology makes things easy, but getting access to that technology is not easy for a majority of people. To put in a simpler term, India wants its population to get cutting edge education, and then it is telling them to bring the ‘cutting edge’ with them.
There is no doubt that our education system is growing, but it is growing because the rich are making it grow by throwing money at it. The rich and already educated society know that education is very important, and they naturally want their children to get the best education. And to cater to this market, private schools, colleges, education centers and others are also making their facilities the best they can. And as a result, they are charging crazy amounts of money. I studied in a private school as well, and I remember how much I used to pay for my tuition. A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of my juniors and I found out that the school fees had almost quadrupled in the 5 years since I had passed out. Now can you say the same for the majority of the Indian population? No, right? While income of the people is growing at marginal rates, our education system is operating at a much higher curve. This, in turn is going against what the education seeks to do. The string that ties the developed and developing section of our society is still there, but instead of reducing, the string is gradually expanding.
When you consider the poor section of our society, this battle of education is not just an outside battle for them. It is even more so an internal one. Most of the working poor generation either don’t know what’s best for their children, or they don’t have the means to provide even a basic education for their children. In some cases, these people end up having so many children, that by the time a new one is born, the old one is forced into daily labor to fulfil the family’s basic needs. And when you consider that most of quality education, is through the means of English, things get even more confusing just like the bus conductor quote. The poor section of the society does not understand the English language, they do not understand the English technology, they live in a world where they are still earning in Indian paise; then how can they afford an English education?
One might argue that the government has schemes to provide education to all, they have also introduced the right to education, and while all of this looks fantastic on paper, where are the teachers capable enough to deliver this to the poor? Teachers are also humans, and just like most of us, they also have a family to feed. So, if one is good at teaching, they are either poached by the private institutes which are far from reach to the poor, or end up opening their own private coaching institutes which caters specifically to the rich. So, the govt schools are there, the right to education is there, but it’s peacefully sitting in the book of law, with no one out there to deliver it to the children.
The final fold to this multifold explanation comes in the form of the digital revolution in India. Jio was launched in late 2016, and with this it bloomed the internet market making internet accessible to all. India before then had been majorly adverse to the internet, but with Jio reducing the price of internet access by a big amount, the majority of Indian population was getting access to it. And even though, this should have effectively reduced the gap that I mentioned before, it widened the gap even more. The upbringing of the poor class is different, they aren’t motivated enough to do things on their own. And when you give someone a toy, and don’t explain them the merits of it, you cannot expect them to put it to good use. The same happened with the not so developed section of our society. While the rich used this internet bloom to a very good use, the poor couldn’t because even if they wanted to, they hardly knew how.
So, to sum up, education has become a business where the rich are investing, and the rich are also the ones who are paying. There indeed is a very big digital divide in India, and as long as the change is not given to people who need it the most, without degrading the value of that change, this divide will never be solved. – Raunak Agarwal