Sohan Mahmud teaches at a coaching centre in the capital's Mohammadpur area. He went on a trip to the United Kingdom in the first week of March but could not return to Bangladesh as per schedule as passenger flights have been suspended for an indefinite period in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sohan communicated with his students and their guardians back home and offered to take classes online during his stay in the UK. The students and their guardians accepted the offer happily and listed their names for online coaching.
Buoyed by his students' enthusiasm, Sohan started to take live classes using Zoom and other social communication tools from April.
Although Sohan offers online classes from the UK, a good number of teachers ─ confined to their home during the pandemic ─ in the country are doing the same thing for students, especially those living in urban areas.
Online coaching is becoming increasingly popular day by day, while students are not showing much interest in taking part in the recorded classes initiated by the education ministry because of poor delivery and management.
Sohan told The Business Standard that he thought it would be difficult to get students interested in remote learning. But it was a great misassumption on his part, he said, adding that around 70-80 students take part in his online classes, while at his coaching centre he had 30-40 students.
"I am getting my fees on time and students and their guardians always request me not to stop the classes," he added.
Muaz, a higher secondary student at Government Science College said, "Recorded classes aired on Sangsad TV are boring. We cannot ask questions and the classes are not rich either. On the other hand, classes offered by coaching centres are rich and we can ask questions to our teachers. These classes are interesting as well."
Muaz's father Saleh Ahmed said he was worried about the education of his two sons ─ one is Muaz and the other is a seventh grader.
"Spending time amid the shutdown was difficult for them, and they also were not taking part in the recorded classes being run by the education ministry," he said.
"In such a situation, the academic coaching centres started to offer classes online. Now my children are attending the classes and concentrating on their studies," he added.
Meanwhile, another parent said his daughter passed her secondary school certificate (SSC) examination this year with the highest grade point average (GPA-5). Her higher secondary classes are uncertain as nobody knows when schools and colleges will reopen after the current coronavirus shutdown. However, he admitted his daughter in a coaching centre that offers online classes.
"It is a good initiative on the part of the coaching centres. My daughter is happy with her teachers as she is enjoying her classes," he added.
According to Coaching Association Bangladesh, there are about 1 lakh coaching centres with around 15 lakh teachers across the country. Around 5-10 thousand coaching centres are in Dhaka city alone.
Mahbub Arefin, founder of Bangladesh Cadet Academy, told The Business Standard that they are taking classes online using Zoom, giving homework and administering examinations.
"We ask the parents, especially mothers, to act as invigilators during the exams. The parents submit students' answer sheets to the coaching centre," he said.
"Our services keep students busy with study. And that is why the demand for online coaching is increasing," he said.
Asish Kumar Mollik, director of Onnesha Academy, said all their classes are attractive as they select the best teachers for conducting live classes and use modern equipment.
"Students feel they are doing classes at the coaching centre. We use the most sophisticated technology. Our teaching system is also rich as we hire good teachers," he said.
State-run Sangsad Bangladesh Television started airing lessons for secondary level students, from class VI to class IX, on March 29 as all educational institutions have been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The classes begin at 9:00am and continue till 12:00noon. They are then broadcast again from 2pm to 5pm. This routine is being followed everyday from Sunday to Thursday.
But a good number of students do not take part in the classes. Many who live in rural areas do not have internet facilities and television sets in their homes, and some students from urban areas do not show interest in the classes.
Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said, they are trying to make the lectures richer and connect to more students.
Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, joint convener of Coaching Association, Bangladesh, told The Business Standard, "We teach students who are interested in taking tuition beyond school classes. We never force anyone to get admitted to our coaching institutions. And today they are so interested in the online classes."
Coaching or shadow education is available across the globe, and it has gained popularity even during the pandemic, he added.