The global Covid-19 pandemic, that has shaken the whole world to the core in 2020, has been adversely affecting the education sector in Bangladesh as well as other sectors, from shutting down educational institutions to cancelling exams and temporarily pushing the majority of children out of school.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the pandemic kept 1.6 billion learners worldwide out of the classroom.
At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on early childhood education in their critical pre-school year as Covid-19 shuttered childcare and early education facilities, according to a new research brief published by UNICEF.
In South Asia, almost 430 million children are affected by school closures and are at risk of dropping out of the education system due to the economic impact on their families.
Bangladesh is also among the countries most affected by the closure of educational institutions.
Closure of Educational institutions
The Government of Bangladesh declared closures to all academic institutions, dormitories, and coaching centres as well on 16 March 2020, considering the devastating spread of coronavirus.
With the growing public concern, the closure period got extended from time to time.
The shutdown of educational institutions was extended by the ministry several times starting with the extension till 9 April.
Later the closure was further extended to 25 April, 5 May, 30 May, 6 August, 31 August, 3 October, 31 October, 14 November, and 19 December.
On December 18, the government further extended its closure of all educational institutions in the country till 16 January, 2021.
Exams canceled and introduction of 'Auto-Pass'
As the global pandemic coronavirus continues to rage the world, the government also decided not to hold Primary School Completion (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC) as well as Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and equivalent exams this year.
The PSC and JSC examinees will get an automatic promotion (auto-pass) to the next class, while HSC students will be assessed based on their JSC and SSC results.
All students will also be promoted automatically from primary to secondary level.
As academic activities at all levels have come to a halt following the closure of educational institutions amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government took steps to help students continue their education remotely through television channels and online media.
The government started broadcasting lessons through television channel 'Sangsad Bangladesh' and online media, especially for the students of primary and secondary levels as the students and teachers have no scope of appearing in their respective institutions.
On April 30, 2020, the government asked the public and private universities to continue their curriculum through online classes and start their academic activities online.
Now 63 private universities and 7 public universities are conducting their online academic activities as per the UGC rules.
The Ministry of Education has also decided to conduct online classes for the academic year 2020-21 for the first year of college (class XI) starting October 4.
Challenges for upcoming 2021
Though the government is trying to make up for the loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country's education system by online learning, the digital disparity has become a major concern as everyone has no access to the internet.
Already, many questions have arisen regarding the quality of education, academic year, economic loss, delay in graduation, and future of students for long-time shut down of educational institutions in the exam.
Besides, there is still uncertainty about reopening the country's educational institutions.
The upcoming year will be a difficult year for education, which will require extra effort to overcome the crisis.
The challenges are mounting amid the second wave of coronavirus.
Now, a coordinated plan is needed to ensure a swift recovery for the education sector in Bangladesh.