COVID-19 already left an adverse impact on the education of an estimated five crore students from the primary to university level, it would also increase the rich-poor disparity in the education system, said the discussants at a webinar organised by South Asian Network on Economic Modelling.
Children of the rich families have access to online and TV-based alternative means of education introduced by the government and private institutes for continuing education at schools, colleges and universities during the general holiday declared amid the coronavirus outbreak, they said.
Since 44 per cent households in the country had no TV and even a greater number of people had no access to the internet, a huge number of children from the poor families would lose interest in continuing education, they said.
They pointed out that parents of these children became jobless or are facing acute financial crisis for the coronavirus outbreak in the country, losing the capacity to send them to schools again.
‘We did not develop alternative means for education of children living in the remote or hard-to-reach areas,’ said Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education.
‘Those students who don’t have access to the net- and TV- based alternative means were at the risk of dropping out from schools for which the number of child labourers, early marriage and early pregnancy would increase again,’ she said, adding that their nutrition level would also be seriously affected.
The dropout rate, according to directorate of primary education, was 17 per cent.
Dhaka University English professor Syed Manzoorul Islam predicted that the number of dropouts would increase to 30 per cent again as their parents become jobless or are facing serious economic crisis for the prolonged holidays.
‘These parents would definitely try to engage their children in money earning activities which would create serious social problems,’ he said.
He also said that the University Grants Commission was set to introduce online teaching at the Dhaka University forgetting the ground realities.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics showed that the poverty rate would rise to 40 per cent from 20 per cent due to the impact of COVID-19.
Both Rasheda and Manzoor said that all three types of education — Bangla medium, madrassah system and English medium — would be impacted.
‘We could not introduce a unified primary education as suggested at the education policy 2010 even though it was adopted by the parliament,’ Manzoorul said.
Manzoorul and Rasheda also said that government should review some pending problems during the holiday like reforming the education system, executing policies and increasing allocation of more budget for education in the next fiscal year.
They suggested government stop private coaching and cancels the primary education completion examination and junior school certificate examination as those were not only creating pressure on the pupils’ mind but were also nurturing the private coaching businesses.
They further demanded initiatives for increasing the quality of education from the primary to the tertiary level by providing required facilities.
‘In case of reopening the schools, this year the globally accepted policy set by UNESCO, UNICEF of providing mask to the children must be ensured,’ Rasheda said.
Dhaka University economics teacher Selim Raihan, who moderated the webinar, said that their study showed that the salary of the primary school teachers in the country was lowest in Asia.
‘There salary must be increased for attracting competent people to this profession,’ he said.
Director general of directorate of primary education Md Fashiullah said that the government was planning short-term, mid-term and long-term action plans for mitigating adverse impact of COVID-19 on education.
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