Instant messaging platform WhatsApp was most commonly used medium by schools to send learning materials to students during COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, found a report.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020 Rural, facilitated by education-focussed non-governmental organisation Pratham, showed that this was true for both government schools and private schools.
The ASER 2020 report said WhatsApp was by far the most common medium used for sharing learning materials and activities, followed by phone calls and visits.
Here, a higher proportion of students enrolled in private schools received materials through WhatsApp than their counterparts in government schools. Accessing materials/opportunities via phone calls or visits was more common among children enrolled in government schools.
The survey was conducted over phone in September 2020 across 584 districts across 30 states and Union territories. It reached a total of 52,227 households and 59,251 children in the age group of 5-16 years, as well as teachers or head teachers from 8,963 government schools offering primary grades.
Enrollments see a dip in some age categories
The report said among boys in the 6-10 age group, there has been a sharp increase in the proportion of children not currently enrolled, from 1.8 percent in 2018 to 5.3 percent in 2020. There is a similar increase among girls in this age group.
However, this proportion has increased much less among children in the 11-14 age group, among both boys and girls. The proportion of children not currently enrolled has actually decreased over 2018 levels among the 15-16 year old age group.
To understand these patterns better, parents of children who are not currently enrolled were asked which year the child had dropped out and why this was the case. Their responses showed that across the entire 6-16 age group surveyed, more than half of the children not currently enrolled had ‘dropped out’ in 2020.
However, the vast majority of these children are not ‘dropouts’ in the usual sense of the term: they are awaiting admission to school. This is particularly true for children in the 6-10 age group, and explains the spike visible among the 6 year olds in particular.
The report added that because schools are closed, many young children have not yet secured admission to the first standard. The increase in not enrolled children in the 6-10 age group is therefore likely to be more a reflection of children waiting to enroll in school rather than of children who have indeed dropped out.
Learning activities at home
The report said overall~ 70 percent children did some activity when the survey was conducted. However, 30.5 percent government schools and 28.1 percent private schoolchildren did not do any activities.
Overall, compared to two years ago more number of households now have access to a smartphone. This is even as access to other goods like televisions and motorised vehicles has remained flat.
If a smartphone was available in the family, it is very likely that the child’s access to available material was via WhatsApp. Interestingly, even among children whose families had no smartphones, almost a fourth (23.4 percent) were able to access WhatsApp using someone else’s smartphone.
However, in families that had no smartphones, more than half of all children availed of materials through physical visits (either going to the school or the teacher coming to the home).