EDUCATIONAL institutions have remained closed since March 17, 2020 after COVID-19 infection cases were first reported on March 8 that year. The outbreak, which has marked a surge since early March this year, has also held back the holding of two important public examinations — the Secondary School Certificate and equivalents which usually take place in February and the Higher Secondary Certificate and equivalents which usually take place in April, for 2021. Soon after the outbreak, the government started airing classes on Sangsad TV — secondary classes beginning on March 29 and primary classes on April 7, with some private schools and colleges catching up with the trend on the internet and private television channels — to make up for the lost classes. A government study in October 2020 showed that only 4.1 million of the total 41.8 million students, from the primary to the tertiary level, had access to online and outreach classes that were aired on television and radio, which almost negated government efforts in the absence of the required connectivity infrastructure. The government has now employed the National Academy of Primary Education and the Bangladesh Examination Development Unit to evaluate the efficacy of alternative learning methods.
The government coming to do research on what it introduced a year ago shows that there has been inadequacy of research related to national education and its timeliness. In the later days of 2020, the government started asking students to do assignments. Reports on the ground suggest that a large number of students were also left out of the process as they were in the case of outreach classes. The government evaluation is meant to establish the efficacy of the alternative learning and progress of students and to decide if intervention needs to be made. But the teachers’ assessment of the assignments done by the students shows inadequacy that holds back the government evaluation. Besides, as it came up, many students were helped by their guardians and private tutors in completing the assignments and many copied the answers that were readily available online. Experts, in such a situation, think that sincerity is still missing from government efforts on how to continue with education that has been greatly harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak for more than a year so far. The government appears to be continuing with small-scale, short-sighted experiments one after another in national education when it should put in efforts to create the connectivity between the students and the schools and among the schools so that lecture-based interactive teaching could be continued.
Alternative learning such as the ones based on assignments cannot take the place of classroom teaching especially in cases of primary, secondary or, even, higher secondary students. Alternative teaching such as the ones based on outreach classes cannot work if all students are not connected to the educational institutions by way of a strong infrastructure. The government must, therefore, put in the required efforts and sincerity to continue with the national education.
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