- Project-based material to curb learning losses
- The initiative to begin at the secondary level
- Each class must complete 5 projects
- NTCB prepared 25 projects under 10 themes
- The concept came after two workshops, attended by 100 teachers
- No statistics available on the extent of learning losses
- No research done into learning losses
Although the education ministry has already developed a strategy to recover learning losses during the pandemic-induced school closures, no survey was conducted to actually gauge the extent of the losses that need to be recuperated.
Experts fear that without any prior assessment of the learning losses, good results would be hard to come by.
To help students catch up on the losses, the education ministry has taken an initiative to introduce a project-based learning strategy, which will be implemented at the secondary level grades.
The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) has developed the strategy after the ministry asked them to come up with a system to mitigate students' learning losses, Prof MdMoshiuzzaman, member (Curriculum) and acting chairman of NCTB told The Business Standard.
The NCTB has already prepared 25 projects under 10 themes, which are scheduled to be introduced from May this year.
"We prepared the project-based learning strategy after discussing with the stakeholders. I think the new strategy will be highly effective for the skills improvement of students," he said, adding that students of each class will have to complete five projects.
In the run-up to developing the strategy, however, the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (Banbeis) and the National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE), which usually conduct surveys about primary to higher secondary education, were not asked to hold such surveys.
The findings from those would have helped reveal the extent of the losses that needed to be recovered.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a NAPE official told The Business Standard that a proposal was made to conduct research in October last year, but the authorities concerned asked them to not move ahead with it.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus of Brac University, told The Business Standard that the government must do research to identify the actual learning losses.
"The new strategy is good and I welcome it. But it will not bring good results if it is taken before any assessment on learning losses," he said.
"I have asked the government on several occasions to formulate a long-term plan for learning recovery which will include basic topics from Bangla and Mathematics for primary students, and Bangla, Mathematics, English, and Science for secondary pupils. Unfortunately, the government has ignored it," he added.
The members of the NCTB, however, maintain that students will be able to recover their learning losses after they successfully complete the projects.
"Our focus has been on increasing the students' capacity to learn, not just recovering learning losses," Prof Moshiuzzaman said.
"We will make video tutorials detailing how to implement the projects. Students will be divided into groups of 5-7 for the project. They will collect information, make decisions and give presentations. The process will also help develop key skills including communication, problem-solving and decision making," he said detailing the nature of the projects.
"We made our decision after holding two workshops, which were attended by some 100 teachers, NCTB officials, Primary Teacher's Institute instructors and pedagogy experts. They have agreed that the standard of the new strategy is world-class," he added.
Professor Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, told TBS that the education ministry has to take more initiative to recover the learning losses. Teachers also need to be trained to adopt the new strategy.
"It is also equally important to supervise the overall implementation phases, otherwise, it will bring no good result," he said.
The 10 themes under the new project are – My Family (Amar Paribar), Nature and Environment, Our Festivals, Each and Every Task is Important, Local Solutions To Health Problems, Food and Nutrition, Sustainable Utilisation of Wealth and Waste Management, Liberation War in My Locality, Adolescent Health and Mental Health Care: Problems and Solutions, and Covid-19: Problems and Possibilities.
According to the NCTB officials, the project would cover a range of relevant issues including cooperation and coordination, mutual trust and respect, morality and responsibility, behaviour, patriotism, tolerance, non-communal attitude, environmental consciousness, democratic attitude, self-dignity and gender consciousness, among others.
Similar to the secondary education level, the Primary and Mass Education Ministry did not do any research to identify the learning losses of students.
Without any assessment, the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) has asked the primary schools to take extra classes every day for 20 minutes to fill the gap of the learning losses.
"I believe that we can recover the learning losses if the teachers take classes properly," Alamgir Muhammad MansurulAlam, director-general of the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) said.
A recent survey conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development found that as many as 7.86 million primary and secondary school students suffered learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 22% of primary school students and 30% of secondary school students suffered learning losses during the school closures, the survey said.
The survey was based on two interviews of 4,872 people in rural and urban slums across the country, first in March 2021 and then in August the same year.