Primary, secondary and higher secondary level institutions across the country will reopen on 13 June if the Covid-19 situation gets favourable, said Education Minister Dipu Moni.
The decision to reopen universities will depend on the vaccination of teachers and residential students, she said at a virtual press briefing held jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education on Wednesday.
"Covid-19 cases have increased due to the return of people who left cities for Eid-ul-Fitr. In some districts, the infection rate has risen substantially. We hope the situation will improve soon and educational institutions will be able to resume classes on 13 June," said Dipu Moni.
"We have already sent a guideline to schools on reopening. Most schools are ready to resume academic activities following the health guideline issued by the World Health Organisation and the health ministry," she added.
Classes for the 10th and 12th graders will be held six days a week. Students of other classes will attend school once a week. With improvement of the situation, the number of classes will be increased, the minister informed the media.
Referring to suggestions from health experts, Dipu Moni said a favourable situation for reopening educational institutions will be created once the coronavirus infection rate comes down and stays below 5%.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a noted virologist, told The Business Standard that the government cannot reopen educational institutions until the Covid-19 infection rate comes down below 5%.
"In fact, we have to wait to see the new infection rate till 30 May as people are moving around the country on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr," he said, adding that the infection rate might also increase if more Indian variants are found in the country.
What about SSC, HSC exams?
The SSC and HSC examinees will have to attend at least 60 and 84 days in-person classes, respectively. The government has made a short syllabus and it has been distributed to the students.
Dipu Moni said the ministry will announce the dates for SSC and HSC examinations after the reopening of educational institutions. "The examinations will be held," she said.
She further added that the ministry is preparing a short syllabus for the 2022 SSC and HSC examinees.
"The SSC and HSC examinations will be held after taking in-person classes for 150 and 180 days, respectively. The examinees will also be prepared by an assignment evaluation system. Assignments will be distributed from June this year," she added.
The fate of JSC, JDC examinees
The education minister said Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examinees are following assignments.
"The ministry will try to hold in-person examinations. But if it fails to do so, the examinees will be evaluated on the basis of their assignment evaluation."
When will universities reopen?
The government was supposed to provide vaccines to residential students and teachers of public universities before 17 May, but it failed to do so.
Public universities have already sent lists of their residential students and teachers to the health ministry for Covid-19 vaccination, but none of them has received the jab.
Now the authorities say they will not reopen the universities before the vaccination process is complete. They have also taken preparations to hold the final examinations online.
The education minister said schools and colleges will reopen before the universities. "We will not reopen the universities before vaccinating the teachers and residential students.
"We have sought the information on students from the University Grants Commission. We will take a decision after consulting the UGC about vaccinating them soon," the minister said.
In the wake of Covid-19 outbreak in the country, the government shut all educational institutions on 17 March last year to contain the spread of the virus.
Later, the shutdown of educational institutions was extended by the ministry several times following the suggestions from the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
Even though the education ministry was thinking of fully reopening schools and colleges in May this year, it could not due to the rising virus infections and deaths.
Besides, universities had planned to resume in-person classes from 24 May this year after vaccinating residential students and teachers, but the education ministry extended the time of closure due to the rising Covid-19 infections in the country.
Amid concerns over the coronavirus, the education ministry last year promoted students to the next level without holding major public examinations, but it does not want to repeat that procedure.
But the education ministry is firm in its decision about holding the SSC and HSC exams this year.
Besides, experts have suggested that the government must formulate a two-year or three-year plan for learning recovery that will include basic topics from Bangla and mathematics for primary students, and Bangla, mathematics, English and science for secondary level students.
There are 1.30 lakh residential students in 220 halls, 15,000 teachers and 25,000 employees in 46 public universities across the country.
There are 106 private universities.
Around 40 lakh students are in the higher education level and around 3.5 crore students are in the primary and secondary level institutions in the country.