Digital Bangladesh becomes boon for students amid COVID-19
The government’s ‘Digital Bangladesh’ endeavor has become a boon for the country’s around 40 million students as digital devices are now their only way to continue learning due to unexpected closure of their educational institutions for more than three months over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The government has been forced to shut down all educational institutions since March 17, and later extended it till August 6 for containing the deadly virus, while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has hinted that schools may stay closed till September next if the prevailing situation does not improve.
Just few days after the closure, the primary, secondary and higher education directorates had started disseminating digital lessons through state-run Sangsad Television as well as various online platforms like YouTube and Facebook, while the government has instructed all colleges and universities for taking online classes to keep students in touch with academic activities from home.
“Since we guardians are working from home at this moment, we can communicate with teachers more often. I find it (online classes) pretty good and helpful.” Arshi Quazi, an IT entrepreneur and mother of a seven-year-old girl, told BSS.
She said her daughter Fatiha, a kindergarten student of a Dhanmondi school in the city, is enjoying the online classes through her tab and concentrates on homework as well after attending the virtual sessions every day.
Quazi, however, said though non-technical teachers are struggling to this end, they are taking help from others and doing good. “Teachers and students are trying to cope with it … hope things will be better gradually,” she said, expressing concern over sending her kid to school unless the pandemic is over.
As internet is not cent percent available for all students across the country, the education ministry focuses more on delivering classes on TV, as television sets are widely available at households.
“It’s not very difficult for me to study online or on the TV if I have to do it,” said Effat Muntaha Yusha, an eighth grader of an Uttara school in the capital.
She, however, said the class content over TV or online can sometimes be very monotonous.
“Currently, we are broadcasting three classes with 20-minute duration each every day from Sunday to Thursday through Sangsad TV for primary students across the country,” Director General of Primary Education Directorate Md Fashiullah told BSS.
Besides, he said, his directorate with the help of a2i, the government’s flagship programme of the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision, developed a YouTube channel named ‘Ghore Boshe Shikhi’ (learn from home) where digital classes for the students are being uploaded.
“We’re also sending SMS to the guardians of students when classes for particular subjects will be aired on TV as we have the telephone number database of guardians of all two crore primary students,” the director general said, adding 1.4 crore of them are enrolled in the government schools.
Apart from these, district and upazila administrations are also facilitating online classes for the students in their respective areas.
However, the availability of remote learning facilities to every student across the country still remains a real challenge as there are many students from underprivileged families who don’t have even access to TV sets.
Fashiullah said they are going to broadcast classes over radio from next month to connect with hard to reach students as much as possible. “Those who don’t have access to internet and television, can listen to class lectures on radio soon,” he added.
Teachers have been instructed to keep contact over phone with those guardians and students who don’t have access to either internet or television for inquiring about their home learning progress, he added.
Like the primary education, Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) is also broadcasting classes for secondary students through Sangsad TV, while the recorded classes from the 6th to 10th grade are being uploaded on two YouTube channels –Kishore Batayan (Youth Web) and Amar Ghar Amar School (My Home My School).
The classes through Sangsad TV have received an overwhelming response from the students while the activities will further be geared up in days to come, said DSHE Director General Dr Syed Md Golam Faruk.
Meanwhile, UNICEF has also started working with the government through developing guidelines to assist teachers to offer effective remote learning programmes using TV, radio, mobile phone and internet platforms to reach the maximum number of students.
“Equity of education is at the heart of our thinking. It’s important that less privileged children don’t lose out. We urgently need to act now to give them alternative ways to learn,” said Chief of Education, UNICEF Bangladesh Nor Shirin Md Mokhtar.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) officials said they have also directed all 151 public and private universities for taking online classes.
“As per the directives of the UGC on launching online classes, we have initiated a move taking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dream of transforming the country into Digital Bangladesh as a challenge,” said Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) Vice-Chancellor Major General Ataul Hakim Sarwar Hasan.
It is very interesting that in the normal time 82 to 85 percent students used to attend the classes, but in the virtual classes their attendance is almost 90-95 percent, he said.
“We have already completed the first semester and are awaiting UGC’s approval for taking the final examinations online,” Major General Hasan added.
Recently, State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak has announced that the government would set up 5,500 more digital labs after the name of Sheikh Russel, the youngest son of Bangabandhu, at the school level to promote ICT-based education in the country.