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Ways to close learning gaps and ensure digital learning for every child: UNICEF policy brief |

The learning gaps and the digital divide have been highlighted in several national and global reports following the culture of online classes that started post-pandemic. UNICEF recognised the global barriers to digital learning in schools in its report of 2020, which showed that two-thirds of the children could not access online learning globally. The UNICEF Policy brief titled ‘Digital Learning For Every Child: Closing The Gaps For An Inclusive And Prosperous Future’ published in September 2020 highlights the ways to bridge the huge learning gaps caused due to digital divide. The article elucidates key strategies highlighted in the report.
To begin with, the report explains that the digital divide does not only mean the unavailability of basic services and internet but the opportunity to have a beneficial engagement for sufficient time in the online period with affordable internet. How the digital divide can be bridged and equitable learning can be ensured are these:
Higher investment in electricity and connectivity focussing on the underprivileged users

  • The G20 members, national governments and the private sectors need to coordinate large-scale investments to ensure electricity and connectivity to the millions of unconnected children around the globe
  • The GIGA initiative of UNICEF helps in accelerating digital connectivity to the remotest of schools through public-private partnerships. The initiative ensures bringing electricity and connectivity to not just the schools but to their neighbourhood households as well

Work on reducing the cost of connectivity and devices

  • States and government organisations working with telecommunication and private and public companies should come together to subsidise the cost of data, lowering the cost of learning devices and providing free educational content without monetising children’s data
  • In May 2020, the Airtel Africa-UNICEF partnership made the browsing of selected educational websites and content free of any data charges in 13 African countries

Identify and address barriers in the form of cultural and social norms for children

  • The digital divide caused by entrenched gender norms, where girls get reduced access to the internet needs to be addressed at a normative level
  • For this awareness and information needs to be provided to the parents, guardians and communities so that children get adequate resources irrespective of gender

The steps that need to be followed by educators for the implementation of effective digital and blended learning are these:
Developing a clear pedagogical approach for guiding the use of digital learning from a young age

  • Educational processes and pedagogical principles should be synced in with digital initiatives by the collaboration of software developers and educators
  • Digital solutions should be designed to be culturally sensitive and contextualised, to cater to various countries and meet diverse learners’ needs

Providing teachers with the skills to incorporate technology in the classroom

  • Teachers need to be trained professionally for using technology to enhance learning and facilitate the learning of digital skills
  • They can then use digital solutions to expedite the learning process and offer interactive experiences to the learners, through digital tutors, curricular playlists and virtual classrooms
  • They can also employ technology for lessening the onus of doing repetitive administrative tasks and focus more on teaching

In addition to these, protecting children’s well-being, and designing personalised digital content to benefit learners from diverse backgrounds are some of the ways recommended in the report for ensuring smooth digital learning for every child.

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