- 96% of rural households have mobile phones
- 59% of them do not have access to smartphones
- 49% of rural households have computers
- More than 54% do not have access to the internet
- Hours spent learning have declined by at least 80%
- Students spend roughly two hours studying per day
Last year, just a few days after the educational institutions were closed down due to Covid-19, online classes got underway.
But due to the existing digital divide across the country, many students could not attend digital classes and dropped out as a result. At the end of the year, the government's decision to automatically promote students to advanced classes was also widely criticised.
To mitigate the learning loss faced by students, the government introduced assignment evaluation in March this year. But even with the new method of evaluation, things were not quite working out. Teachers and guardians alike complained that students were merely copying from their textbooks to finish the assignments, learning nothing in the process.
The assignments, after continuing for three months, were deferred to 30 June.
The country's educationists believe that only assignments are not enough to mitigate the learning losses the students have had since last year.
According to a study conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), the hours spent by students in learning have declined by at least 80% after the closure of educational institutions. The total length of time students spent studying was reduced from 10 hours to roughly two hours a day.
GM Rabiul Islam, Principal of Monirampur College in Jashore, said that the assignments help students maintain the bare minimum of contact with their books. He added that only a handful of the students are regular in online classes.
"Coming to the college to collect the assignments sure helps the students stay in touch with the education system but it does not guarantee maximum learning output," he added.
According to another study conducted by BIGD in September 2020, although 96% of rural households have mobile phones, the majority (59%) of them do not have access to smartphones. The study estimated that only 49% of rural households have computers while more than 54% do not have access to the internet.
Md Sohel, Head Teacher of Ghanda Girls' High School in Bhola, said many students also struggle to understand the assignment questions and these students do not have anyone to turn to at home for help.
Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, said that students from low-income families have a hard time understanding assignment materials as many of them cannot afford home tutors or have sufficiently educated family members.
"Assignments is a good initiative but should not be the sole requirement to get promotion," he added.
Professor Dr Syed Golam Faruk, director-general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said that the government considers assignments as the best method to reduce learning losses at present.
"We will take recovery classes after reopening the educational institutions," he added.
Assignments for 2021 SSC, HSC candidates continue
The Ministry of Education has decided to give 24 assignments to Secondary School Certificate (SSC) candidates in 12 weeks from July. And, 30 assignments will be given to Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) candidates. So far only three assignments have been handed out to students.
The ministry says that it plans to add at least 20% marks from the assignments in the final evaluation.
Education Minister Dipu Moni also announced a possible schedule for this year's SSC, HSC and equivalent examination on 15 July.
According to the schedule, the SSC examinations will be held by the second week of November and the Higher Secondary Examination by the first week of December on a limited syllabus if the Covid-19 situation remains favourable.
Assignment for 2022 SSC, HSC candidates postponed
The assignment activities for secondary (SSC) and higher secondary (HSC) candidates of the academic year 2022 have been postponed due to the countrywide lockdown.
The suspension order will remain effective until further notice, said an official statement issued by the Secondary and Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education on 24 July.