Who is impacted by ONORC and how?

Dalberg Policy Insights

How are students coping with remote learning since physical closure of schools in March 2020?

Despite government, private and civil society actors coming together to roll out a wide range of remote learning resources, students were falling behind during the physical closure of schools since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 60 per cent of students had used any remote learning resources; and even among those, nearly 80 per cent reported that they were learning less or significantly less than in school. The study suggested that the main reasons were:

  • Digital channels are not as accessible as often perceived

    10% of students overall do not have access to any of the following devices – smartphone, feature phone, television (TV), radio, or laptop/computer with significant variation between states.

  • Even when students have access to devices, awareness around using them for remote learning maybe low

    Of the respondents who did not use any remote learning opportunities, 45% of them reported not being aware of any resources from which to learn.

  • Fewer girls, younger students, rural students and government school students use high-tech tools

    Use of WhatsApp and YouTube when compared for different categories; girl’s usage was 8% lower than that of boys; usage by younger students (5-13-year-old) was 16% lower than that of older students (13-18-year-old); rural students’ usage was 15% lower compared to urban students and for students of class 1 to 5, government school students’ usage was 10% lower compared to students from private schools.

  • Availability of key offline resources, textbooks and teachers remain far from universal

    Despite many states distributing textbooks for the new academic year, nearly one in three parents still ask for support with textbooks and other learning materials. Nearly 30-40 per cent of students are not in touch with their teachers, though this varies significantly by state.

  • Remote learning resources are generally perceived to be less effective than in-school teaching

    Other than home visits, more than half of teachers surveyed perceive remote learning materials and methods to be less effective than classroom teaching.

  • Poor mental health holds students back

    About a third of elementary students (as perceived by their parents) and nearly half of secondary students feel that their mental and socio-emotional health has been poor or very poor since May 2020.

  • Students from migrant and scheduled tribes (ST) families face more challenges

    While students from migrant and ST families use remote learning resources at similar levels to their peers, when parents were asked if their children were learning as much as before the pandemic, 15% more migrant parents and 9% more ST parents reported that their children were learning less now. Parents of children from migrant families (60%) and from ST families (53%) rated their children’s mental and socio-emotional well-being as poor or very poor compared to the status reported for the overall sample.

  • While students in private schools mostly used WhatsApp, private tuition and live video classes, their government school peers mostly used textbooks, teacher home visits and YouTube for learning, so that there were no major differences in overall usage levels. 

  • Over half of the students who used remote learning did so across multiple resources

    WhatsApp is the most used tool by students and teachers alike (over half of students and 89 per cent of surveyed teachers). Many parents, adolescents and teachers see value in technology tools, some even believe they are more effective than in-person learning. Moreover, students who are perceived to be learning more are also more likely to have used high-tech tools.

  • More than 90 per cent of students expect to return if schools re-open in the next three months, mainly to learn more and to better prepare for exams While health concerns are by far the largest deterrent to returning to school, a sizeable number of respondents cited financial constraints as well – 10 per cent of families could not afford to send children back to school and 6 per cent needed children to help earn an income.