The education system of Bangladesh comprises a mixture of diversified providers, namely government-run schools, private schools, madrasahs, English-medium schools (British curriculum), and schools run by NGOs etc.
These educational institutions provide education until the higher secondary level (class 12) and tertiary education is provided by different public and private universities and colleges.
According to 2018 data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, more than 10.5 million students are currently seeking secondary, higher secondary and tertiary-level education in total.
The nationwide closure of all types of educational institutions since March 17 due to Covid-19 pandemic has impacted almost 100 percent of the total students of the country as the education system of Bangladesh is mainly classroom-based.
Within this period, different types of institutions were disrupted differently and classes have fully stopped. Also, examinations of different institutions, including the HSC 2020, got delayed for an uncertain period.
As a result, the students who were supposed to get admitted to different universities over the next five months are leading an uncertain life. Also, university students are suffering as their class tests, midterm examinations, term-final examinations and semester-end examinations have been suspended as well.
Thus, the government suggested conducting online classes and using the tools of distance education.
Respecting the government instructions, some institutions e.g. East West University, Islamic University of Technology, North South University, and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology have arranged online classes by using google classroom, Meet software etc. They have also redesigned their courses.
For example, East West University is currently offering courses without any sessional classes so that the students can carry on their studies. They are even conducting online examinations.
RAJUK Uttara Model College has arranged class tests at home under the supervision of guardians, through WhatsApp.
Some institutions are also using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Some are using Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) and Learning Management System (LMS). Also, some are using Facebook messenger, Facebook live etc.
But unfortunately, most of the public universities are still lagging to some extent when compared to private universities.
The consequent result is that the students of the universities conducting online classes would graduate before the ones that are not conducting any classes.
We also have to remember that no matter how we try, the university authority without proper support cannot fully operate the online education system. To ensure undisrupted learning during this disrupted situation, if we can take the following measures, I believe we all can move forward collectively.
• The appropriate authorities of each institution from secondary to university level could organise teleconferences with the management of the respective institution, telecommunication sector, online platform and course providers, and other stakeholders to make their plan for offering online education.
• Organising meeting and encouraging all telecom service providers to increase internet connectivity service for online education, especially in the rural, remote and under-developed areas.
• Upgrading the bandwidth and lowering internet charges for online education service platforms.
• Train up the teachers, technicians and other teaching staff in the use of e-technologies.
• Courses could be re-designed, and changes in assessment and examination system could be applied.
• Flexibility could be allowed and appropriate methodologies could be developed to facilitate distant learning.
• The institutions and teachers concerned could be encouraged to choose appropriate delivery methods depending on their e-readiness regarding online platforms like MOOCs, Moodle, digitalised TVs, mobile apps, Facebook live video, online tutorials, TV and radio streaming etc.
• Guidelines of UNESCO regarding Open and Distance Learning (ODL) could be followed
The author is Controller of Examinations, Bangladesh Open University