26 Oct 2021 20:12 IST

Digital divide continues to grow: Oxford University Press report

68 per cent of teachers rate poor digital access as the biggest barrier to digital learning.

Poor digital access — physical access to the internet or a device — is the biggest barrier to digital learning, as cited by 68 per cent of teachers, in a global report published by Oxford University Press (OUP), surveying 1,557 school teachers from 92 countries including India. A lack of digital competency ranked a close second, with 56 per cent of respondents reporting that teachers and learners alike lacked the skills to make digital learning a success.

The report, Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide, was published following the shift to digital learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. Teachers felt their greatest challenge during the pandemic was engaging students in online lessons — a difficulty reported by six in ten teachers (61 per cent).

70 per cent of teachers said the most disadvantaged students lost learning due to limited or no access to digital devices. 44 per cent of respondents felt that the wellbeing of disadvantaged students had been particularly negatively affected during the pandemic.

Teachers want parents to play a bigger role in their child’s digital learning. Half of the teachers surveyed (50 per cent) said a lack of parental understanding of digital tools/platforms limited the effectiveness of support available to their children; and 58 per cent said disadvantaged students tended to receive less educational support from their parents and families.

Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press said: “Our research shows, it isn’t just about ensuring people have access to the relevant devices, or improving connectivity; unless we fill skills gaps and make sure teachers, learners, and parents know how to use digital tools effectively, the digital divide will only continue to grow.”

Adding to this, Fathima Dada, Managing Director of OUP’s Education Division, said: “It is imperative that governments and policy experts come together on a global scale to address the issues identified in our report.”