WhatsApp was found to be the common medium through which online learning material sent among the school students during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a survey carried out by ASER Centre.

In its first-ever phone-based survey carried out in September this year, ASER explored the provision of and access to distance education mechanisms, materials and activities for children in rural India, and the ways in which children and families are engaging with these remote learning alternatives from their homes.

“Overall, about one-third of enrolled children had received some form of learning materials or activities from their teachers during the week preceding the survey,” ASER said in a statement.

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“This proportion was higher in higher grades than in lower ones; and higher among students in private schools than in government schools,” the statement added.

“Regardless of school type, WhatsApp was the most common medium through which activities and materials were received. However, this proportion was much higher among children in private schools (87.2%) than those in government schools (67.3%),” it added.

According to the report, about 31.8 per cent of children in government schools received some materials via personal contact with teachers and in private schools whereas 11.5 per cent of children received the same when the teacher visited the household or else when a household member went to the school.

The report further shows there are states where only less than a quarter of all children had received any materials. These states include Rajasthan (21.5%), Uttar Pradesh (21%), and Bihar.

One major difference visible by school type is that children in private schools were much more likely to have accessed online resources than those in government schools, the report said.

ASER 2020 covered 26 states and four Union Territories and recorded the stories of a total of 52,227 households and 59,251 children in the age group of 5-16 years, as well as teachers or headteachers from 8,963 government schools offering primary grades.

According to ASER, effective ways of “hybrid” learning need to be developed, that combine traditional teaching-learning with newer ways of “reaching-learning”.

The report also suggested that in order to improve digital content and delivery for the future, an in-depth assessment of what works, how well it works, who it reaches, and who it excludes is needed.

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