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11 August, 2020 06:51:50 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 11 August, 2020 06:53:55 PM
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Time to review the education sector

Different researches demonstrate that not more than 30% students studying at tertiary level of education have access to online education
Alaul Alam
Time to review the education sector

Since 18 March of this year, educational institutions of the country have been closed for sine die in a bid to contain the spread of the virus and social gathering is strictly prohibited in the country. Like other countries in the world, our education has experienced a drastic change leading to the impetus for online education system. 

UNESCO data reveal that globally, more than 1.2 billion learners have been affected due to closure of educational institutions in 144 countries. According to the recent survey, almost 40 million students in the country are facing academic collapse despite the ongoing online and prerecorded classes to avert the great blow already upon them. On top of that high-stake exams such as HSC, PSC, JSC as well as opportunities for job are still uncertain due to the continuous surge of Covid-19.

For the students of schools and colleges Sangsad TV began broadcasting prerecorded lessons delivered by a team of teachers across the country after educational institutions were closed. The only purpose is to make a smooth functioning of the country’s education sector. But a pertinent question comes from many walks of the specialists that how far we have attained success in providing inclusive education–education for all in the pandemic in such a way. 

The research findings conducted by a non-government organization reveal that distant classes through Sangsad TV or online classes have limited appeal among the students as more than 50% students are not attending the classes and the most vulnerable are the students from ethnic minorities and madrasa students. Causes are many. For example, many poor families in the rural areas do not have any television set and parents living in poverty discourage their children to receive education, leading to the higher rates of child-labours, child marriages amid the pandemic. 

In addition, private schools and colleges in the country are struggling to survive in this time and trying whole-heartedly to provide online education for their students. Many private institutions have faced financial collapse leading to the verge of extinction. 

The scenario is different in case of government and non-government institutions where teachers away from their institutions hardly have any concerns to the academic interests of students as if they were in a holiday mood in general. 

At first, private universities of the country started taking online class, later on public universities also started conducting online class for their students. A long debate has been over the issue of online education in Bangladesh context. 

Opinions of schools of experts in the related field and survey findings conducted by different organizations reveal that online education is not enough to meet the demands of the students of the country as it has not worked contributing to inclusive education.

Different researches demonstrate that not more than 30% students studying at tertiary level of education have access to online education. This newly adopted trend has more challenges than its advantages leading to contributing a digital divide among the students of different spheres along with poor internet coverage in rural areas and people not having access to a digital device. In this unprecedented crisis students’ inclusion to online education is a big challenge, let alone conducting test and assessment.

In recent time, UGC conducted an online survey where around 19,000 students and 7,000 teachers took part found that universities in Bangladesh are not yet capable of conducting their academic activities online due to lack of technical facilities and funds. 

The UGC sent the findings of the survey to the Ministry of Education suggesting for provision of free internet and other facilities for the universities so that a sustainable online education system could be developed. But no significant outcome in regard of this is yet to be seen.

Apart from this things get worse as mobile data has become more expensive with the new taxes. The mobile operator companies say that the internet package equivalent to Tk 1000 has increased to Tk 1300 that has caused another blow for the students financially not well- off. 

Though reopening of country’s educational institutions is a big challenge, some European countries have stepped forward to reopen educational institutions amid the pandemic for averting a long-term educational catastrophe. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently in a video message that returning students safely to classroom must be a “top priority” as countries get local transmission under control.  

Certainly, the initiative taken by the government in a bid to include students in digital platforms is laudable. As online platform in teaching and learning has not come up with maximum endeavours due to some limitations, it is imperative to review the education sector closely taking outcome-based strategies that can ensure maximum inclusion of students. Also time has come to think otherwise as we may endure a more prolonged pandemic and require years to spend for the effective vaccine of the virus. More importantly, student-centric initiatives should be encouraged in all regards where every teacher will have the potential role to avert a catastrophe in education. 

The writer teaches at Prime University. Email: malaulalam@gmail.com

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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