Have you heard about the digital divide in education? It’s the gap between children who have access to high-speed internet and technology devices and those at the other end of the scale. In this article, we are going to look at how the digital divide impacts students, the positive action the UK is taking to solve it and let you know how you can help.
What is the digital divide in education?
The digital divide is the gap between different regions and demographics that have access to technology and those that don’t. This includes computers, smartphones, and the internet. Without these digital resources, students are left behind in this modern tech-driven world. 🖱️
Some children have no access to a computer at home or share one computer with others in the household, limiting the amount of time they spend on it. The digital divide also refers to a lack of or poor internet connection. This makes it take longer for kids to complete a task or homework.
Just think how frustrating it is when we see the dreaded loading bar on the screen or when we have to wait longer than usual for a page to load. 🖥️ Imagine a child trying to do their homework and it takes double the amount of time than it should. This often leads to children giving up on the task they are doing or submitting an assignment late.
What are the main causes of digital divide?
There are three main causes of the digital divide: physical access to technology, parent engagement and their digital skills, and the home learning environment. Underlying all of these factors is often money.
Families with lower incomes will obviously struggle to find the money needed to pay for often expensive technology products or services. They will sometimes need to work more hours meaning they are away from home more too. Plus, it’s highly likely that children in poorer households won’t have their own space to study at home. 🤔
There’s also another factor that can play a role, geographical location. For some families, it’s simply not possible to get fast internet where they live. Even the most expensive laptop in the world can’t help fix that!
What is the effect of digital inequality in education?
The digital divide in education can affect individual students in the same school or groups of students in low-income areas or even regions. The effect on impacted children’s education is that they won’t end up with the same academic results. 🥺
Many schools heavily promote the use of the internet and computers in classes. In some schools, kids have their own laptops with them throughout the school day and can effortlessly look something up online and use office-style applications, honing their skills from an early age.
🎓 This gives those children an advantage in later life including university and when job-searching. For children who attend schools with limited access to the internet and computers and less emphasis on computer literacy, it can be harder to catch up in later years, especially if they don’t have the opportunity to practice at home.
This inequality can be especially felt when remote schooling is necessary, as was the near worldwide phenomenon brought about by Covid-19.
Is there a digital divide in the UK?
Yes, there is a digital divide in the UK. This has been made even more evident with the rise of digital schooling resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. 😷
In the UK, nationwide school closures occurred in March 2020 and again in January 2021. This has sparked concerns that remote learning during these periods led to digital inequalities which mostly affected already disadvantaged children. 🏫
How many people in the UK are digitally excluded?
The NHS reports there are 11,300,000 people lacking the necessary digital skills to use the internet effectively and 4,800,000 never go online.
The Education Policy Institute released a paper about the impact of the pandemic and the digital divide in general, highlighting the following important statistics:
💻 20% of students eligible for free school meals don’t have a computer at home
💻 Parental engagement is 41% in the most deprived schools compared to 62% in the least deprived schools
💻 60% of students in the poorest households don’t have access to their own study space
Where to donate laptops or request one in the UK
While this digital divide in education has wide-reaching consequences there is a lot of effort being put in to resolve this and close the gap, which is great news. You may like to get involved yourself. ❤️
If you want to help and donate a laptop, there are projects across the UK you can contact. This is a great way to recycle a laptop and help another family in need. If you are in need of a laptop for your family, get in touch with one of the local projects listed in your area.
Bridging the digital divide in education
The ultimate goal is to make sure all children have equal access to a computer and reliable internet. That way technology is at a level playing field and students can concentrate on researching, preparing assignments, and attending online classes.
There are ways that governments, schools, and organisations can support by:
🌐 Providing alternative low-cost solutions
🌐 Assigning a device to students in need
🌐 Providing Wi-Fi at schools that is available in study areas and the library
🌐 Running campaigns to promote digital literacy
There is light at the end of the tunnel and plenty of positive action being taken in the UK. Programs such as the Get Help with Tech scheme, the Lockdown Learning scheme, and Skills for Tomorrow, among others, all demonstrate the positive impact tech companies can play in bridging the digital divide for our children. 🌟