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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

OUP study reveals widening digital divide on teachers and learners globally

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The Oxford University Press (OUP) has launched a new research report that sheds light on the growing inequality in digital literacy across the world.

The report titled: Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide by the world’s largest university press highlights the widening digital divide of the global education ecosystem, in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic which has spurred a digital transformation in the global education ecosystem.

The report is based on research done across 92 countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia where 1,557 teachers were interviewed on challenges arising from digital learning such as access to ICT hardware, cost of broadband (connectivity), comprehension of digital tools, and education platforms as well as the need to develop digital capabilities amongst tutors and students amongst others. 

Some of the barriers to effective teaching and learning highlighted in the report include poor digital access, cited by 68 per cent of the teachers, while 56 per cent said that skills gaps were presenting challenges to effective digital learning. Other factors such as digital incompetency amongst learners and teachers were reported as issues arising from a boom in education technologies, forcing teachers and learners to adapt and develop new teaching or learning capabilities. 

In addition, non-inclusive content and location i.e lack of vernacular content has created a learning gap between learners in the urban areas such as cities and towns and those in the rural communities respectively affects learners’ long-term development. 

While the digital divide isn’t a new issue, the disruption caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has introduced new learning models such as hybrid and remote learning that have put a heavier reliance on digital resources, deepening the divide in many countries and leaving millions at risk of being left behind. 

To bridge the digital gap, the OUP Study recommends greater focus should be placed on independent learning, building digital competency skills among educators, students, and parents, and targeting resources to address both ends of the digital divide which are competency and accessibility. 

Based on the insights from the report, the OUP is working with different stakeholders in the education sector such as governments, policymakers, across various countries, to help address the divide, and support learners’ future prospects. 

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

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