Even just six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our lives would be thrown into turmoil by Covid-19. Millions of people around the world are living under house arrest due to the attack of Covid-19. Offices, courts, industries and businesses have been temporarily closed since March. Educational institutions have not been spared of the effects of coronavirus. Although higher educational institutions in developed countries have taken advantage of online technology to continue their academic activities, educational institutions in developing countries are struggling to do so. Educational institutions in developing countries mainly depend on classroom-based teaching systems. Now the question is what steps can be taken to fill the gap in our educational activities created by Covid-19.
UNICEF is assisting the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and the Ministry of Education to ensure that children continue their education while schools are closed due to Covid-19 in Bangladesh. The UN agency is working with the government to help children continue their education using TV, radio, mobile phones and internet platforms to keep children away from the virus. The initiative involves children's education in a participatory manner, involving parents and students, monitoring students’ participation, and evaluating how well students are learning. UNICEF has already started assisting the government in formulating and implementing a plan for continuing education for children to continue their education through ensuring access to information under the Information Technology Division of the Government of Bangladesh. Under this, the class is being broadcasted on Sangsad Television, through which the students of primary and secondary levels have been able to continue their studies from home.
Necessary steps should be taken to provide our
students with necessary logistic support so that they
can take part in online classes and continue their
academic activities without any hindrance
Starting online classes via live videoconferencing is somewhat challenging due to inadequate internet connection or lack of proper electronic devices. In this long period, if the academic activities are stopped completely, it will be very difficult for the students to make up for this loss. Now teachers are uploading course materials every week online (Facebook group/Google classroom) so that students are involved with the minimum reading. If some slides, some information, short videos, etc on different topics of the curriculum are provided at regular intervals, the students will be able to watch them as per their opportunity. Thus, it will be possible to keep them attached without completely isolating them from academic activities. One of the barriers to online classes is taking exams. Although classes can be taken online, the complexity of how the test can be taken is not cut. In this case, 'open book exam' can be a good alternative. In the case of the open book exam, a creative question paper is usually prepared which, although the questions are related to the subject studied, cannot be answered directly in the book. Encouraging such testing will not only make it easier to hold exams online, but will also help students develop their creativity. Students with special needs (visual, hearing and intellectual disabilities) have been harshly affected by the long closure of educational institutions. Since such students are accustomed to learning in special environments and need a separate instructor for them, if we move on to online classes as part of overcoming this ongoing stagnation, their problems would not be solved. Apparently, there is no other option but to provide the appropriate educational materials to the special students. State structures may become somewhat normal when the infection rate of coronavirus will be decreased. However, in the case of various epidemics in the past, events like the second wave have been observed, so we need to be prepared enough to go into a long lockdown again. As a part of this, both parents and children should be brought under the training of 'Home Teaching'.
After the government announced the closure of educational institutions due to coronavirus last March, many schools started teaching students online from May. However, private schools, especially English medium schools have started teaching online using Facebook or Zoom since the beginning of last month. But in government schools, more emphasis is being laid on the teaching process according to the school syllabus through Sangsad TV than online.
Conducting online classes in context of Bangladesh have been a tough task. Most of the students do not have access to a laptop, PC, or a tablet to attend an online class. Many students cannot attend online classes due to lack of access to devices. The most important factor for online classes is internet connectivity but a large number of the students across the country are not supported by proper internet connections to continue with online education. As in the current situation, we have no choice but to be homebound, necessary steps should be taken to provide our students with necessary logistic support so that they can take part in online classes and continue their academic activities without any hindrance.
Wadia Ayshi is a student at the Department of English,
University of Dhaka.