Online Education: Are We All Getting Fair Access?

Mim Hossain

20 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The outbreak of coronavirus has created a cumbersome impact on the people across the world. Many countries, including Bangladesh, resorted to lockdown to control the rapid spread, resulting in adverse effects on all areas of our daily lives. Yet, recently, almost everything is going on its motion by maintaining health safety, except the educational institution.

Apart from the economy, education sector is hit hardest by Covid-19. Bangladesh closed all the educational institutions from March 17, 2020. Some private universities, moreover, schools commenced taking online classes from April, and from June, the number has increased. Also, the government is running a learning program through Sangsad Television.

Educational institutions are trying to reach out to students by numerous social media or, for instance, Zoom, Meet, Google Classroom, Whatsapp, Facebook, etc. The online classes are becoming a new normal; however, the question is how many students are receiving this service accurately?

Online education has brought a new race of purchasing a new device for their children in the urban area. Parents are more concerned about their offspring so that they are trying to provide all facilities for their education. Besides, they are purchasing separate device even for a student of primary section. Students are getting proper internet facilities as well. Nevertheless, if we see the situation in the rural area, they are meeting real challenges.

Due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh’s national poverty rate increased to 35 percent in 2020 from 24.3 percent, according to a study of the Centre for Policy Dialogue. A survey showed that 55% of the students are not getting proper internet service to continue the online study. They cannot purchase mobile data to continue online class; moreover, they cannot bear expenses to buy a new device.

A mediocre duration class may take 300 MB of data; furthermore, if a student attends three classes per day, he will require spending around 1GB of data. A regular continuance class may take 300 MB of data, and he will need to spend around 1GB of data if a student attends three classes per day.

Besides, they have several home assignments, or sometimes faculties provide some videos; so, if a student has a five-day class in a week, s/he needs a minimum of 10 GB of data. Now, the cost of 10 GB internet is a minimum 500/600 hundred taka, or if they are using broadband that takes 900/1000 monthly, also in rural area broadband internet is not readily available.

In rural areas where broadband internet is not readily available, this will cost them a reasonable sum. These facts make online classes more challenging to reach out to individual students spread all over the country in this current circumstance.

Another notable difficulty is online exams. Load shedding is a barrier along with internet service there. In rural areas face more load-shedding than city areas; moreover, most students do not have generator service in their houses. That is why students cannot concentrate on their online class or examination. Additionally, the exam format is entirely new since the traditional exam format is not applicable in this situation.

Now, who will ensure facilities for unprivileged students?

Article 17 of the constitution says, The State shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of – (a) establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law; (b) relating education to the needs of society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs;(c) removing illiteracy within such time as may be determined by law.

Furthermore, article 15(a) of the constitution says, It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, to secure to its citizens – the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.

The provision of basic necessities is a fundamental principle of state policy. Our constitution outlines the duty of state in ensuring basic necessities for all. Undoubtedly, the coronavirus outbreak has a massive impact on all the sectors; still, the unprivileged are suffering most in this circumstance. The burdens are dragging them back every day. Hence, how will they ensure the facilities for online education?

Accordingly, only students with smartphones and digital devices equipped with internet connections can take advantage of the online classes, leaving behind low-income families. This is causing difficulty among low-income families, and those living below the poverty line are struggling to make ends meet. Several school students said they were not getting any benefit from online classes as they lack digital facilities.

Many low-income families do not have TV sets either. Several school students said they were not getting any benefit from online classes as they lack digital facilities. Many schools in the rural area said that before taking such an initiative, it was required to make sure every student would benefit. Otherwise, those below the poverty line will remain deprived.

The government should also increase the budget allotment for the education sector and take some immediate steps like providing smartphones to unprivileged students. There should be a free internet service for all the sufferers. Education is the basic necessity for every citizen in Bangladesh; therefore, it cannot benefit only half of the population.


The writer is a student of the Department of Law, North South University