More children studying in private schools have a smartphone at home compared to government school students, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey.

A child studying with a smartphone while her mother cooks, the ASER 2021 report found that smartphone availability at school children’s homes shot up by 30% since 2018Image for representation/PTI
news Education Thursday, November 18, 2021 - 15:08

More than 67% children enrolled in schools across the country have at least one smartphone at home, but over 26% among them still do not have access to the device, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey. The 16th ASER report released on Wednesday, November 17, pointed out that there is a sharp increase in the availability of smartphones from 36.5% in 2018 to 67.6% in 2021. However, more children in private schools have a smartphone at home (79%) as opposed to government school going children (63.7%).

The report states that younger children are more deprived when it comes to access to smartphones, with as many as 40% having no access despite having devices at home. The survey aims to capture the transition in the education system in the country as the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of receding.

"At least 67.6% children have a smartphone at home. But even in such households, 26.1% children still have no access to smartphones. There is also a clear pattern by grade, with more children in higher classes having access to a smartphone as compared to children in lower grades," the report said.

Bihar (53.8%) has the highest percentage of students who do not have access to smartphones despite a device being available at home, followed by West Bengal (46.5%), Uttar Pradesh (34.3%) and Rajasthan (33.4%).

The survey revealed that there is substantial variation in access to smartphones by grade of children. "More children in higher classes have access to smartphones as compared to children in lower grades,” it said.

Noting that the household economic status makes a difference in smartphone availability, the report said, as parents' education level (a proxy for economic status) increases, the likelihood that the household has a smartphone also increases .

"In 2021, over 80% children with parents who have studied up to class 9 or higher had a smartphone available at home, as compared to just over 50% children whose parents had studied till class 5 or less. However, even among children whose parents are in the ‘low' education category, over a quarter bought a smartphone for their studies since March 2020," it added.

The ASER is a citizen-led household survey that provides nationally representative estimates of children's schooling status and their foundational reading and arithmetic skills in its standard format. The survey reaches children in the age group of 3-16 in almost all rural districts of India.  The report is based on a survey that was conducted in 25 states and three Union Territories. It covered a total of 76,706 households and 75,234 children in the age group of five to 16 years. A total of 4,872 schools, which had reopened post their closure due to the pandemic, were surveyed while in-charges of 2,427 schools that had not opened at the time of the survey were contacted via phone.

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