The students, who need to be nurtured not only with their performance in study but also socialization, discipline, extra-curricular activities got distanced from their friends, teachers and educational institutes and that often caused even physical and mental stress. Under those circumstances, it was duty of the educational institutions and teachers to play a proactive role in securing the healthy future of the nation. But, the tools like online classes came out like an instrument of irregularities and indiscipline, at least in Bangladesh during this COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 pandemic is a global reality from the year 2020 onwards but most of the educational institutions all over the world including Bangladesh resumed their academic activities through online platforms. Although, most educational institutes are struggling with proper virtual infrastructures, yet, the effectiveness of online teaching and learning is gaining its prominence from the perspective of revitalizing the aggravating mental and spiritual states among the students along with the pandemic. From a positive side, the students are all the more joining eagerly in online platforms for their education with higher retention rates with reduced distractions and with no travel time. But along with that, several issues came up as concerns regarding online education in Bangladesh.
According to UNICEF, around 42 million children continue to be affected by COVID-19 school closures in Bangladesh, leaving students with little option but to rely on remote learning. However, not all students have access to digital technology and in many cases, students find virtual classes fall short of their expectations and learning needs.
In comparison to classroom, online learning lacks the required academic direction, assessment and inter-activeness. Online classes are often affected by poor internet connectivity, data expiry and power outages. Moreover, school is not merely a place for academic activity, it is a hub for many co-curricular activities. Students are fast losing their social skills and talents due to excessive dependence on technology. Additionally, 63 per cent of Bangladesh’s school-age children have no internet access at home, according to a report of UNICEF-International Telecommunication Union (ITU). These issues have definitely barred the effectiveness of online education in Bangladesh but the quality perspective of the same remained the greatest dilemma.
Many reports and features talked about the problems of the students using technological platforms. But unfortunately, our teachers are also very much inefficient in using online platforms for educating children. Most of our teachers are not well trained and the educational institutes did not do much to train their workforce. Initially there was heavy chaos in initiating online classes especially at the rural areas. The experience was nightmare for many of the children. Moreover, it was even impossible to avail data connectivity for many poor families during this pandemic as their income was shrinking.
Along with quality of education, the schools, colleges and universities are liable to form their students with the concept of discipline, which is greatly required to shape the future of the next generation of Bangladesh. But the online classes during this pandemic were quite far from that. The routines were not properly followed in most of the cases. The teachers, responsible for shaping the future of the nation, were irregular in taking the classes. Many classes were missed and never covered.
Moreover, the teachers took classes as per their favorable schedule and did not follow the routines provided by the educational institutes. It became a matter of convenience rather than responsibility for the teachers in terms of ensuring quality education during this challenging time. Additionally, a class is supposed to be interactive but the online classes in Bangladesh had provided very less of that opportunity. It was a one-way communication.
One important aspect of continuing smooth education through online platforms during the pandemic was to reduce mental stress of the students as well as the guardians. But we totally failed on that. Sudden declaration of classes, conflicting schedules, untimely classes and many other issues actually increased their stresses. Usually, a student has to get up early to attend his school as the classes start early in the morning and end by mid-noon. But for the convenience of the teachers, many classes were taken even in the evening. Very few classes started in the morning as our teachers got used to a convenient schedule, hurting the disciplined lifestyle of the students.
There was no monitoring from the educational institutes or the education ministry or other relevant authorities in terms of ensuring regular and disciplined education for the students of Bangladesh. Recently, we have seen that, exams are being taken in the evening and we cannot understand the reason. The private life of the students was seriously hampered and stress increased due to this irresponsible behaviour of the teachers. The teachers are continuing their private tuitions using online platforms as priority. But when it is about their regular duty, they are preferring convenience.
In almost all the countries, online classes embedded the concept of punctuality, discipline and socialization. But in our country, it embedded the concept of irregularity, authoritarian attitude and low-quality education, which is ridiculous. It is a good step of the government to keep the children and teenagers at home during this COVID-19 pandemic as we believe that step helped us to fight this pandemic better. But while almost everyone from every profession is attending offices every day, it is not understandable why the teachers could not come to their respective educational institutes and deliver the online classes from there as that could have kept them in discipline too.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is conducting all her works from her office through online platforms maintaining safety. She attends her office everyday. Then why the teachers could not do the same as they are taking regular salaries is not understandable. The trend of indiscipline, irregularity and wrong convenience set by our teachers and educational institutes is a bad example and very close to corruption.
The government declared to open all educational institutes from March 30. But this might not be a good idea as the spread of COVID-19 was the most in the summer of 2020 and we have just entered another summer. But the tragic online education system is making the students and their guardians really concerned. Even though, we believe, it is not the proper time to open educational institutes. Rather education over online platforms should be continued for few more months but under strict monitoring and discipline.
The students at the urban areas like; Dhaka, Chittagong, other divisional cities, Narayanganj, Savar etc can avail online education easily due to better connectivity and COVID-19 spread is also more at these areas. But in rural areas and suburbs, the COVID-19 spread is almost zero and the students have improper connectivity and technological support. Moreover, the rural students leave their education at different stages to a greater extent. Hence, we should open the schools at rural areas and suburbs right now maintaining the safety protocols. We need to accustom our students with washing hands multiple times and maintaining social distancing at schools.
At urban areas, we should continue with online classes few more months under strict monitoring. China got benefitted by differentiating low and high COVID-19 infected areas and we should learn from them.
We hope the future of our next generation will be protected and they will receive proper education safely. We also hope our teachers, the educational institutions and relevant authority will portray real commitment towards that purpose as only a capable next generation will ensure and maintain our development and progress.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Research Centre (DRC)