By Ishfaq Majid & Shazia Kouser
E-learning or online learning is a system where the learning takes place through the internet by utilizing an electronic device. The demand for E-learning has increased during the current pandemic because educational institutions are closed for traditional forms of teaching and are utilizing E-learning to reach out to their students.
For the success of E-learning, the availability of internet is a crucial. The quality of learning depends on the speed of the connection. While the Indian states are using 4G Internet services, Jammu and Kashmir is lagging behind due to ban on 4G internet services since 5 August, 2019. The users are able to surf the Internet at 100-110 kb/s but that speed doesn’t allow them to stream online videos. This makes e-learning an unfulfilled dream in J&K.
Due to low internet speed, the teachers are unable to deliver the lectures on online Apps like Zoom, Cisco and Google Meet. The students face a similar problem while accessing online education in the state. The videos continue to buffer and the content is not delivered in a proper manner to students. It is believed that the users usually come across new things when they explore the internet but people in J&K are lagging behind due to frequent internet shutdowns and speed throttle issues. The students and faculty members lack an awareness about educational apps and the way to teach and study online.
The mobile companies in J&K have covered major cities with 100% network coverage, while the people in village struggle to connect to internet due to slow mobile network. It has been seen that the villages where the mobile companies install a site are able to take benefit of online education. The rest of the villages struggle with connectivity issues. The users on low network are unable to get a proper internet speed which hampers education. A survey was conducted by The Tribune among nearly 600 schools situated in the border areas of Jammu from Kathua to Poonch. Due to poor mobile network, the e-learning is a dream for students in these 600 schools.
From a global perspective, the online education system has brought about a revolution. It has empowered us to provide education without boundaries. Imtiyaz Ahmad, who teaches at a primary school in Pulwama, believes that online education cannot do much in Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view the frequent suspension of internet services and speed throttle issues. He further said that the students belonging to rural areas of J&K can hardly afford a smartphone. The online education system is a waste for lower primary and primary classes.
The financial condition of families matters a lot in online education. The students belonging to low income families are unable to purchase electronic devices used for continuing online education. In J&K, the poorer families admit their children to government-run schools. The families are not in a condition to spend their hard-earned money in purchasing costly mobile phones for their children. Even if parents manage to purchase a mobile phone, the students are unaware of online resources. The parents also find it very tough to manage the cost of internet data packs.
Keeping in view all these concerns, the administration in J&K should start whitelisting websites for 4G internet services. The mobile companies should be made accountable for establishing mobile towers in far flung areas and should ensure that each and every village is covered with good network connectivity. Workshops and training programmes should be organized for teachers and students for best use of online resources. The teachers and students should be made aware about online education and the technological means to connect with one another. The administration should come up with a comprehensive policy for providing tablets to students and the computer lab facility should be kept available in every school.
Ishfaq Majid and Shazia Kouser are Jammu and Kashmir based-Research Scholars at School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. Their writings have appeared in The Diplomat, Economic and Political Weekly, The Rising Kashmir, Medium, Qatar Tribune, Mainstream Weekly, South Asia Journal and Café Dissensus. Follow them on Twitter: @ishfaqmajid07 and @ShaziaKouser06
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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