Wednesday, 20 October, 2021
E-paper

End the digital discrimination

Due to Covid-19, educational institutions of Bangladesh were closed from March 18, 2020. Closing educational institutions had different direct and indirect impacts on most of the students regarding their academic progress. Many nations around the world began online classes and exams. Bangladesh also did the same. In the Bangladesh scenario, online educational activities are not as easy as in the developed countries of the world because we hardly had much knowledge about online classes, materials and apps as we didn’t have the practice before. On the one hand, the majority of our teachers also lack experience with online teaching tools. On the other hand, our students have a huge lack of online resources. All of this has resulted in significant inequity among Bangladeshi students, termed as the Digital Discrimination.

According to, Ookla Speed test Global Index for September 2020, Bangladesh has ranked 133rd for mobile internet speed and 98th for fixed broadband internet speed. This is the main scenery of our internet connection. It is also the main impediment to the online classes and exams in our country. A World Bank survey found out that availability of these alternative learning methods and their uptake have been low. In this survey, aged (5-15) less than 50 per cent of students have access to online class resources. Few of them have access to mobile phones, but most of them don’t have an internet connection. For this proportion, online class is the most formidable work to do.

Let’s talk about online examinations after almost one year; many universities show interest in taking the examination online without taking into consideration as to how many students are capable of taking online examinations. In this situation, university authorities are taking examinations without finding out that most of the students who live in the rural areas are suffering a lot from lack of internet accessibility and thus lack of guidance and learning materials. As a result, they can’t perform their best in the online exams.

In Bangladesh, in our rural areas, there are poor internet networks. Some places don’t even have any internet connections at all. For this group of students’ online examination is a farce. It will spell the doom of their status in education in the case of the ‘Do or Die’ attitude of some serious and sentimental students. The darkest side of online examination in Bangladesh is the abject discrimination due to the ‘Digital Divide’.

Our pupils’ health is jeopardised due to a lack of offline routine, regularity, concentration, physical activity and posture. Weight warnings were also issued as a result of sitting for hours for online classes on a regular basis. The pupils have become frustrated as a result of sedentary internet activities. Whenever the students sit for an exam, teachers can’t guard appropriately according to the way they usually do in the exam halls. So, even if any of the students are doing any unethical task, the teachers will not be able to find out who did and who did not. That’s why the results will be totally discriminatory against the honest students. Thus, many students may lose their interest in studies and give examinations in unethical ways, which may create far reaching problems for the students and the country. Therefore, if our exams are held in the classrooms, the students will not be able to cheat. The online exam actually makes our students' lives darker according to this view.

 According to SANEM (a non-profit research organisation), 23.90 per cent students belonged to poverty-stricken families before the pandemic. After an extended lockdown, this proportion increased up to 43.90 per cent. Just think about this proportion! It means that actually most of them have not been capable of buying even data packs for online classes and exams, therefore, as far as Wi-Fi connection goes, that is altogether a far-fetched dream for them. On the other hand, though in this pandemic all the students stayed at home, one shocking thing is that many of our classmates are wandering around to earn a living and trying hard to support their families financially. This type of student could never attend online exams and classes because making a living to survive was the main concern for them. Such a study gap may have a long-term impact on these student’s lives. Gradually, they are at the risk of dropping out of school and student life as well.

A BANBEIS survey shows the proportion of dropout students for secondary at 37.60 per cent and post-secondary at 19.60 per cent. From these views, a question always comes to our thoughts, does not the online exams actually increase the digital divide among students? From classroom transition to online, it also impacted students’ health; particularly online learning changes the environment of time zone, the class pace and in this new environment students feel hazy. Teachers and students both lose interest in their classes. Many students switch off the camera and go out. The pressure of after-school work converts into stress and anxiety.

Increasing online class time makes brain fog and hard to memorise all the information, and the problem of eyesight and headaches happen as well. Actually, a massive lack of physical activity has various risks of muscle spasms, muscle rigidity and calcium deficiency. This physio-psychological problem is applicable not only to students but also to teachers. For removing all these barriers, we need an excellent consultancy of psychological treatment. In this Term, our students are totally behind in the treatment line because it takes a tremendous amount of money to afford the health cost.

On the other hand, wealthy students perform better than poor students. From the perspective of our university, they don't have sufficient management to provide student consultancy for free. Sometimes rural students forget the terms of their mental health. Parents' involvement in online class and exam time is also a significant part of the better learning experience, but in most cases in rural areas, parents are uneducated. They don’t know about the child’s educational progress, so their child cannot benefit from them, but urban parents are significantly impacting here. Urban parents are well educated and directly create a connection between teachers and their child, even they can take a private tutor, but the rural parents cannot. In online classes and exams, students stay at home. So now parents can play a vital role, but it also creates a limitation among the students.

Our education ministry and university authority failed to take sufficient steps for our students. At the first stage of the pandemic, they didn’t take care of needy students. For this reason, at the time of online exams and classes the students act as if they are in an unusual environment. All of these reasons create a complexity among students, from which comes the term Digital Discrimination. This discrimination is a challenge, which can lead students to turn violent and make them a future burden for their family and the country. The Government and other educational authorities should take combined steps to solve this discrimination. After reopening the institutions, special care of students’ mental health must be taken into account and so on. To be in the race of becoming a developing country, Bangladesh needs to solve the discrimination among the students, which has been created by the online classes and examinations.

 

Maruf Hassan, student, University of Dhaka