The government is planning to reopen schools and colleges across the country on a limited scale from next week, for next year's Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) candidates.
It also plans to resume classes gradually for other students, provided the SSC and HSC students remain uninfected by coronavirus when attending their classes. The educational institutions will also continue to carry out their administrative activities.
Addressing a virtual press conference on Thursday, Education Minister Dipu Moni said, "We have plans to resume the classes for SSC and HSC candidates by next week. But everything still depends on the coronavirus situation.
"We will reopen the educational institutions as soon as possible provided the Covid-19 situation improves."
Sources from the Education Ministry told The Business Standard that the Ministry has asked the relevant officials to reopen educational institutions while strictly maintaining health protocols.
"Only one student will be allowed to sit on a bench and a maximum of 15 students will be allowed to join a class. The SSC and HSC students will be kept in multiple rooms in the institutions," a Ministry official said.
Professor Dr Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said, "Firstly, we will discuss the matter with experts from the Health Ministry. If they approve, we will restart classes from next week.
"We will do everything in our power to prevent the spread of the virus during classes. If we see that the students are properly maintaining health protocols, we will resume other classes as well."
A Ministry official said, on condition of anonymity, said the government might reschedule the next SSC exams if the coronavirus situation does not improve, and the current attempt of resuming classes for SSC candidates is unsuccessful.
About 2 million students are scheduled to participate in next year's SSC and its equivalent exams in February, and 1.3 million are expected to take the HSC and its equivalent exams slated for April 2021.
At the same briefing, Education Minister Dipu Moni announced that all educational institutions across Bangladesh will remain shut till 14 November to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"We are assuming that the spread of Covid-19 may increase during winter. That is why we have decided to keep the educational institutions closed. We are monitoring the situation, and if necessary, we will reopen the institutions for all."
In response to a query, the Minister said final year students of the National University cannot be evaluated without exams.
"Some students requested evaluation on the basis of the exams they took before the virus outbreak. But we do not agree with them. The final exams are very important, and the students will enter the job market after they pass. They will face difficulties in getting employment if they pass without the final exams," Dipu Moni said.
Regarding the final exams of technical students, she said, "We promoted the HSC students as we have lost several months. But the case of technical education board students is different, because they need to participate in practical tests."
Dipu Moni added that the Ministry will not celebrate the National Book Festival this year and consider other measures to distribute the books.
"We will also issue notices regarding the deduction of some tuition fees," she said.
The government has decided not to take Primary School Completion (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC) and HSC exams this year.
The PSC and JSC students will be promoted automatically and the HSC students will be assessed based on their JSC and SSC results. All students will also be promoted automatically from primary to secondary level.
On March 16, the Ministry of Education issued a press release announcing the government's decision to close all educational institutions and coaching centres from March 18 to March 31, taking into consideration students' safety amid the global pandemic.
Classes have remained suspended since then, although administrative activities gradually resumed.
The Ministry has extended the closure on several occasions – first till 9 April, then 25 April, 5 May, 30 May, 6 August, 31 August, 3 October, and finally until 31 October.