Prolonged school closures as part of the country's Covid-19 measures threatens progress in education in the nation of 1.3 billion people.
In a new study, Indian experts warn that the country's great strides to combat illiteracy are at risk following the outbreak of Covid-19.
The global pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of India's education programs to extraordinary situations like Covid-19, with the authors saying that the last two years should be a 'wake-up call' as a whole generation is on the brink of remaining illiterate.
With India slowly emerging from Covid-19 lockdowns against this backdrop, the country is also slowly waking up to the pandemic's fallout on children's literacy when schools closed.
Despite a tepid return to a new normality, the country has not avoided the possible long-term effects of the pandemic, particularly on education.
The study shows that India's 10-year progress in education is under threat as it reveals what the study calls "the catastrophic consequences" of extended school closure in the last year and a half.
In recent decades India has become a success story with the Delhi government's achievements on the significant increase in its citizens' access to schooling and initiated programs for enrollment rates, especially in primary education.
The 2011 figures reported that the national literacy rate stood at 74 per cent, a 14% increase compared to 2001 rates. The figures were higher among middle and secondary classes of students and children between 7-10 years old who gained literacy and primary education accession over the years.
Additionally, the gap between male and female literacy had narrowed, a sign of the Indian Government's success in the education policy.
Furthermore, the Indian state of Kerala has become the first in the country to reach the highest literacy rate with 94 percent.
However, due to the pandemic, the most recent study paints a bleak picture suggesting that the country's achievement could be rolled back.
Students from rural areas, where most of the country's population lives and marginalized communities, confront many hurdles as they seek to access education.
Extended school closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic is the beginning of a chain of reasons for such a gloomy condition.
Blocks over education
The study of almost 1,400 covering 15 Indian states showed that 37 percent of children from first grade to eighth in rural areas were not studying at all, and almost 50 percent of third grade to eighth were unable to read more than a few words.
Although the results are slightly better in urban areas, the proportion of children who could read fluently was barely over half, in both rural and urban spheres.
Hence, over 93 percent of parents from rural and urban areas desired the schools to reopen since, for many of them, school education is the sole hope to have a better life.
The Covid-19 pandemic also exposed the country's poor internet connectivity and wealth divide. The lack of smartphones and a poor internet connection made access to online education next to impossible for many students.
On occasions, schools were unwilling to share study materials online, which led to learning difficulties due to the lack of materials. Some teachers, on the other hand, were out of touch when students required help.
Because of such apathy and a monitor-free environment, students were losing interest in studying, and many instead chose to spend their days playing outside.
Furthermore, the study displayed that parents who hadn't completed their education could not help their young children. Thus, primary students had difficulties understanding their online classes.