The decision to open schools on 23 May and universities on 24 May is still okay. However, the second wave of Corona that we experience today will determine the course of action whether it will allow us to open the educational institutions according to the declaration. In the academic year 2020-2021 many students have dropped out, many will not come back to school again and it is ten million across the world, many have been displaced and migrated with their family members. The possibility of their returning to school looks is very thin. It is the imperative of the time to offer financial support or loan without interest to the families of these vulnerable children. 23 lakh students from eleven education boards are going to sit for SSC examination this year. What is going to happen to them?
According to academic calendar SSC was supposed to start from 1 February and HSC from 1 April but things did not happen accordingly. On 30 March educational institutions were supposed to be opened and after 60 days’ class, two weeks for preparation for SSC exam were planned but everything has been thrown into uncertainty due to the advent of second wave of corona. The SSC examinees of 2021 got only three months classes last year and since then the doors and ways of schools have been closed till now. While schools remain open they attend classes, keep in touch with teachers and go to private tutors that means, they remain in the wave of reading and writing. What will actually happen to the SSC examinees still remains uncertain. The forecast and plan released from education boards bear the hints that exam may take place in August. By this time NCTB has produced and sent the short syllabus for them. This exam is very important for them even though they sat for two examines namely PSC and JSC. All concerned remain in tension over this exam as it is the turning point of student life. But the students have been away from the touch of their teachers and have been deprived of exchanging ideas with them. Last year students saw ‘auto pass’ which directly and indirectly affected near about five crore students. The higher educational institutions have seen session jam of one and a half years. So, I want to propose to minimize the learning loss the academic year need to be extended or changed from January to December to July to June. Our education boards are discussing and trying to search what is happening in other countries and how they are taking the exams. Through online mainly MCQ test can be administered but it is difficult in terms of essay type questions.Online classes to be made more vibrant in case of prolonging the Covid situation and educational institutions can be divided into several catchment areas giving responsibilities to a particular teacher, conscious guardian and students studying in higher educational institutions. The local education officer and the head teacher/principal can form a committee of such type. The ongoing online classes seem to be almost an unknown phenomenon to the students of remote villages and slum areas. The students of science group are the worst victims of this situation who don’t have any scope to do practical classes. It’s true if we could manage online classes properly by giving digital devices to the students and monitoring the classes that we miserably failed to do. So, suggestions have come from different corners that internet to be used free of cost though it has the probability to be used by the students for other purposes and even their getting addicted to it, still it should be taken into consideration more seriously as it is the only alternative to face to face teaching till today.
Online classes are going in a broken and scattered way that raise questions how far it is contributing to minimize the loss of education. So, its capacity and diameter must be increased. The learning loss could have been made up to a great extend if proper management regarding the use of online classes could have been ensured. Students could receive their classes being at home. Last year we experienced ‘auto passes’ and `auto promotion’ that has definitely caused a huge loss to the students and this year it should not be repeated. A huge number of children are passing their days under mental pressure and tension because of the disruption in their usual studies while maintaining social distancing and worsening poverty of the families. The world apprehends that around ten million children will not come back to school and Bangladesh occupies a significant position in this list. In this perspective, it is the imperative of the time to keep the students in touch with studies by any means. That might be true that they need not study only their textbooks. They can go through any other books which will enlighten them and develop their skills and a portion of them already have gained some skills by watching classes on various subjects on Youtube, FB, Messenger. They are keeping themselves exposed to the world and the latest occurrences of the world which can be considered as the fundamental and surviving skills. This sort of gaining skills take place informally that can be made formally annihilating the discrepancies lie here.
The principal sectors of damage due to Corona are health and education that call for priority and special attention in the impending budget. The damage in the health sector is visible whereas the damage and loss in the education sector cannot be seen but need to be felt and accordingly short, medium and long term policy should be adopted to minimize the loss it has incurred and for that reason special attention is needed for making the budget in this field. The plan can be extended even up to three years. To address all of these shortcomings and loopholes already discerned in education, academic year can be extended or shifted. It can be from July to June instead of January to December. The specialists expressed their opinion in the virtual meeting on coming budget arranged by CAMPE. Along with increasing the budget the ability to utilize it properly must be ensured through proper monitoring, transparency and accountability. Special allocation to be made for digitizing education by giving materials and tools to the students and giving training to teachers on how to use modern devices. The money which was not spent in the current fiscal year can be added to the coming education budget. Most countries of the world focus on these areas while preparing their budgets and plans that we cannot ignore.
The writer works for BRAC Education. Email: [email protected]