Monthly Archives: January 2013

Women and the Internet in India

English: Girls getting computer class near Bar...

Girls getting a computer class near Baroda, Gujarat, India. January 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our interests in researching ed-tech users in low-income schools is female access to technology and the Internet in India.

Intel and Dalberg recently released a detailed and informative report, “Women and the Web,” on Internet access for women in developing countries, with a focus on India. Their global study found that nearly 35 percent fewer women than men have Internet access.

Dalberg’s study looked closely at Indian women, whom are less likely to have Internet access, at 8%, than the women in any of their other focus countries. For example, Internet penetration for women and girls in Egypt was 32%, and 9% in Uganda.

Internet use in India is not just low among women. India has a population of 1.1 billion but only 10.2% use the Internet, the majority in urban areas despite the fact that nearly 70% of Indians live in rural areas. Less than 4% of India’s rural population uses the Internet, according to the June 2012 report Internet in Rural India.

Dalberg found that among non-Internet users, Indian women are the most likely, at 38%, to find lack of comfort and familiarity with technology as a reason to not use the Internet.

A major barrier to Internet access for women, and especially young girls, is that they believe the Internet is inappropriate for them. One in five women in India and Egypt believe this to be true, according to Dalberg’s study. Affordability is also a challenge.

In our own research, we found boys much more likely than girls to have used the Internet. Only 14% of 9th grade girls in Hyderabad’s APS have access to the Internet. This is 40% less than the number of their 9th grade male  counterparts who have access to the Internet. In addition, many school owners see the value the Internet can bring to education, but also fear improper use by children and want to limit access. 

As Dalberg notes in their report, Internet access for women enhances economic freedom, political participation, and social inclusion, as well as increased income generation opportunities, mobility, and greater access to services. One way to introduce women to the benefits of the Internet at a younger age is through education technology. Many ed-tech solutions, such as tablets, now enable Internet access. It’s also interesting to note that Internet access for the developing world may become most prominent via mobiles, rather than computers. However, India’s infrastructure problems, such as power outages and slow 2G and 3G networks, and the high cost of Internet for low-income households, will continue to hinder Internet access for women.

Check out the full Dalberg report here. Stay tuned for our final report, which examines girls’ access to technology in low-income communities and school perceptions and use of the Internet. 

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Ten Facts about Affordable Private Schools

Our research into ed-tech solutions for low-income schools in India has focused primarily on affordable private schools.

DSCN0827Affordable private schools (APS) are an educational alternative to government schools for low-income families. These schools are unaided by the government and charge fees as low as US$2 per month, and no more than US$25 per month, for attendance. APS are popular in countries like India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Parents choose APS for a variety of reasons, including the perception that private schools provide higher quality education than government schools, and because APS are primarily English-medium schools.

The APS sector is particularly robust in India. There are an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 low-cost private schools in India, and a very large market in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, where we conducted our primary research.

Here are the top ten facts you should know about APS:

1. APS enrollment in India has been steadily increasing over the years. One study in Andhra Pradesh found that APS enrollment of seven and eight-year-olds nearly doubled from 24% in 2002 to 44% in 2009.

2. Some schools charge as little as US$2 per month fees; however, the upward bounds of what is generally considered an APS is US$25 per month. A typical APS earns revenue of US$106 per student yearly, while spending US$72 per student yearly.

3. One universal problem for APS is timely and full fees payments. Given the low-income nature of the population and the fact that school owners are typically part of the local community, APS are generally lenient with school fees payments. This can cause a number of monthly and annual financial sustainability problems for the school. 18% of APS enrollments in 2012 were offered at free or discounted rates.

4. Most APS are plagued by India’s energy infrastructure deficiencies. APS in Hyderabad tend to experience power outages between 1 and 4 hours per day, which means that lights, ceiling fans, smart classes, and computers are unavailable during those times.

5. Contrary to popular belief that affordable schools in India aren’t accessible to girls, they make up on average 48% of APS enrollments.

6. While teachers in India’s APS are generally less trained and receive a lower salary compared to government schools, they have higher teacher attendance rates and better student-teacher ratios. Only 38% of APS teachers have formal teacher training qualifications.The average APS teacher salary in Hyderabad is US$70 per month, while government teacher salaries range between US$130 and US$350 per month.  The average student-teacher ratio in APS is 27:1, lower than India’s national average of 32:1.

7. The typical APS in Hyderabad teaches the following courses: English, Telugu, Hindi, Science (includes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry), Social Studies, and Maths. APS with large Muslim populations may also have Islamic Studies, Prayer, and Urdu language classes.

8. Parent’s are attracted to APS because of the sheer number of private schools often present in every community, the perception that private schools provide a better quality education than government schools, and the English-medium curriculum at APS compared to regional language-medium classes in government schools. Because parent’s are paying customers of the school, they often influence the school owner to constantly innovate by adding more service providers or ed-tech interventions.

9. There is a relatively high penetration of technology in APS. More than 60% have computer labs and 58% have smart classes. However, these statistics can be deceiving, because while an APS may own the technology, it does not mean that they use it regularly or effectively.

10. In 2009, the Indian government passed the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act, which will impact the APS sector. Under the law, elementary education for children age 6-13, is now mandatory. RTE also requires that 25% of enrollments in government and private schools must be offered for free to poor children. In addition, Section 19 of the Act requires all private schools, but not government schools, to meet a number of standards in infrastructure, teacher-student ratio, and salaries. Schools not meeting requirements upon thee years of inspection will be closed. While this new law could greatly impact the status of affordable private education in India, the accountability systems in India’s government are not yet in place for full implementation and regulation.

While there is generally much positive press about affordable private schools, it’s important to note that private schooling does not equate better quality education. Extensive research has yet to find that affordable private education improves learning outcomes and long-term success more than government schools in developing countries. Despite focusing our research on ed-tech in the affordable private school setting, we do not take a formal stance on the APS vs. government school debate. Rather, we chose to focus on APS because they provide a unique opportunity to observe ed-tech interventions in privately run low-income schools, where such innovations are more likely to occur.

For more information on APS, keep following our blog for our final report. You can also visit Pearson Education’s affordable-learning.com or our colleague’s new site itselementary.in, which both raise awareness about affordable schooling.


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Welcome to the Ed-Tech India Blog!

Education technology has the potential to improve learning outcomes for a generation of children in the developing world.

But we’ve worked with affordable private schools (APS) in Hyderabad, India for two years, and we’ve seen the gap between the technology solutions being developed and the needs of the affordable education community.

The Education Technology in India (Ed-Tech India) project aims to bridge that gap through a forthcoming report to be published in early 2013.

Our report aims to maximize technology’s impact in education through understanding the needs, aspirations, and motivations of stakeholders in India’s low-income education system.

Through extensive interviews with stakeholders, implementation of educational tablets in two APS, and secondary research, we’ve sought to better understand the APS community’s relationship with ed-tech, and how those products can be better designed to meet the needs of India’s affordable schools. We’ve uncovered insights into how ed-tech consumption decisions are made, the biggest blocks to success, and trends being observed in the rapidly growing ed-tech phenomenon–the tablet.

Our hope is that these insights inspire richer discussions about ed-tech use in learning environments in developing countries and inform how technology products and services are built and developed for this segment.

This site is a platform to share the findings from our research and serve as a venue for further conversation on issues relating to education technology in affordable education. In the coming weeks, we will publish our final report here.

Learn more about affordable private schools here.

Our biographies can be found here.

For more information about this project, please contact us.

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