The recent pandemic-driven shift toward a greater focus on digital education has had far-reaching impacts. With the pandemic forcing societies to reevaluate how education is delivered, not all students are equally well-equipped for the new trend of virtual and hybrid learning.
For instance, roughly nine million students don’t have adequate technology or internet access for effective virtual learning. Of these students, a disproportionate number are people of color.
Although unintentional, the shift to online learning has created a racial divide in education access. This segment of the digital divide is causing some students to fall further behind their peers. While resources for parents can help, there are often barriers beyond knowledge and skill.
The digital divide and impact on Black students
Throughout American history, there have been racial disparities in the education system. From segregation in the first half of the 1900s to modern technological barriers, the education system has been one of unequal access. Activists, parents and students have fought, protested and voted to make incremental changes to this system of inequality. The current digital divide is only the newest barrier in this pursuit.
Black families face a complicated problem in the modern education system, especially with the current trend for digital learning.
They are more likely than others to live in remote-only school districts, yet less likely to have the necessary resources to succeed at remote learning. Not only does a lack of computers and internet access enhance this problem, but parents of Black children are less likely to be able to work from home or to afford childcare. This scenario creates something of a Catch-22 that is all too common in lower-income groups.
Financial inequalities can become somewhat self-perpetuating in a society when the necessities of daily living preclude lower-income families from investing in their family’s future. When that means not being able to help their children meet their educational needs, it can contribute to generational poverty. Black students are disproportionately impacted by accessibility, usability, affordability and quality of education.