Digital divide

Ryan PuglisiUniversity of California, Berkeley

In my time in India, I’ve seen firsthand how far families are willing to prioritize their children above all else. While the “right to education” exists in India, the quality of curriculum remains substantially unequal for those who lack wealth. Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in access to pedagogy \that supports digital literacy. Though some of the government schools, in theory, offer a curriculum that supports technology, in practice this is little more than a scant few computers for hundreds of students. Instead of practical knowledge, students are drilled on the definition of a “hard drive” and a “CPU.” Under these conditions, computers become little more than a novelty. Given these facts, what is an education advocate to do? Few people would argue against the value of a quality education, but not many are willing to take the steps to make bridging the digital divide a reality. In the mission schools, educational centers, and madrasas that Sir Dorabji Tata and Allied Trusts (SDTT) supports, many children are getting the opportunity to interact with computers in a practical way for the first time. In the United States, children are so immersed that we often lament just how much time they spend in front of a computer screen. However, for children of low socioeconomic status in India, every moment in front of a computer is precious. These technology integration projects are a lifeline to communities that are struggling above all else to equip their students with the skills to excel. Although I have visited a diverse array of school environments as an intern in the Tata ISES program, my experience within rural madrasas have been particularly eye opening. I was surprised to learn that many wholly without government support to provide education to impoverished students. Not surprisingly, many are woefully underfunded. Despite this, they are filled with kind students that are eager to learn more about the world around them, and have a deep respect for others. Seeing these students present multimedia projects with such enthusiasm really made me appreciate how far children can flourish with sufficient resources and recognition. As a college student from a prestigious university, it is all too easy to overlook the privilege that has allowed me the opportunity to attain my academic goals. Seeing the educational programs provided by SDTT has reminded me of just how much of a duty I have to do what I can to offer others a pathway to the same success.