Sunday, 22 May, 2022

Digital Bangladesh: Education during Pandemic

Dr P R Datta

Digital Bangladesh: Education during Pandemic

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This is not meant to be a criticism of the monumental endeavour that Bangladesh's present Government has undertaken. We must all acknowledge the development, progress, and economic growth over the last decade. The country is making enormous progress in all aspects of our lives, particularly those that can be measured in monetary terms. I don't particularly appreciate making negative or unconstructive criticism, and constructive criticism is always welcome. On the other hand, progress and growth should be accessible to the general public, and the people should be a part of this success. A few people's accomplishments should not be considered a success for the majority of the population. We are all aware that the current situation resulting from COVID-19 is unpredictable and has brought about one of the most challenging humanitarian crises in the history of civilisation. Still, we must all respond to the crisis in the most appropriate way possible without further harming ourselves.

Until recently, most of Bangladesh's educational institutions have been closed for more than 18 months. As a result, learners have experienced significant setbacks in their educational journey. Even universities have failed to provide digital learning environments for students, except for a few private universities that have managed to offer online education on a limited scale. Due to school closures in South Asia, hundreds of millions of children and teachers have been forced to transition to remote learning in a region with limited connectivity and device affordability. Many educational institutions do not appear to have the resources to provide online education. At the very least, more significant provisions could be made in Bangladesh to provide digital education to a more considerable number of students. Universities could do this more effectively, and it appears that they do not have the necessary resources to provide such an online instructional platform.

Following the pandemic outbreak, the countries' education sectors experienced operational changes. We have seen countries return to normalcy following the end of a long period of suffering. While many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and advanced countries, educational institutions did not close for an extended period.  Many institutions and schools could offer their courses to their students digitally without any problems or interruptions. However, our students in Bangladesh are not as fortunate, and digital teaching and learning is a new area for Bangladesh. By introducing a digital method of education, European institutions, schools, and organisations quickly adopted a sea change in teaching and learning. Not only this, even before the pandemic, students' learning processes began to be introduced to technological equipment such as smart boards and various other digital methods. The United Kingdom is one of the most technologically advanced countries globally. Almost all higher education institutions have transitioned to digital learning modes with minimal disruption from the start of this pandemic. In this crisis, it is understandable that institutions must follow the trend and implement the digital learning process to improve their performance. The educational institutions have provided for the students' learning in a way that has piqued their interest.

During the outbreak of the pandemic situation, the students experienced learning disruptions. In such a case, the institutions were forced to alter their operational procedures to ensure that their learning was not disrupted. Many reports indicate that students' mental health has been harmed as a result of school and college closures. Although students may have enjoyed the closure of educational institutions at first, it has damaged the future of the same. It is true that changes in learning techniques, such as transferring the learning medium into the virtual world, will pique people's interests. Institutions that were physically operating in the education sector implemented various technological aspects to continue and sustain the learning process for the students.

Technology assists students in meeting their needs. As a result, teachers can modify their lessons to fit the specific needs of each student. Technology also enables students to devote more time to fundamental learning and improve it. It also helps to motivate students to grow and to be inspired. Technology directly and positively impacts every child and student learning experience. The primary goals of digital learning are to improve accessibility in education, improve student performance and motivation, and help them save time and money. Digital learning has given both teachers and students greater flexibility in learning and teaching in terms of time, space, and age. Students can feel satisfied and involved in their communication in the digital learning environment thanks to digital collaborative learning tools.

The demand for digital learning mode has risen dramatically after the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown situation. Because of this advanced process, the academic institute can now carry out their teaching practise via an online platform. Students' self-directed learning abilities have improved. It has ensured that they understand their course requirements by locating online resources and applying them to their problems. By introducing various types of advanced technology, digital learning has altered the process of teaching practice. While there are many advantages to providing such an educational platform, it also has some disadvantages, such as a negative impact on self-control. Some students may have difficulty interacting during the digital learning process, which can impact their performance. However, digital learning helps students and teachers build creative thinking abilities and learner-centred interaction, which is beneficial. Student learning methods have improved as a result. Individual development can be easily monitored in digital learning, which is tremendously advantageous for enhancing learning quality.

 Information and communication technologies have made a significant contribution to this educational field. Introducing various devices and tools has had a positive impact on the digital learning process. Self-study and distance learning is now possible that allow students to access material via the internet and present it in the classroom without travelling to the academic institute. The use of information and communication technology has increased the quality of learning and teaching processes. It has enhanced its effectiveness, allowing the tutor to demonstrate creativity, increasing the speed of the learning process, providing clarity, and attracting a wide range of didactic material. Most students are more interested in their studies due to the changes in the teaching process. The process of digital learning has aided in increasing the student's interest in the focused subject. The improvement of the teaching process in the digital method has triggered the process of cognitive learning in students. For example, when students had the option of physical learning, they only had to manage the process of listening. Students' memory processing power has improved due to the implementation of digital learning methods, as the process includes watching, listening, and remembering. Most students believe that the digital learning process is more effective than the physical learning process. After implementing digital learning methods, students' academic performance has improved.

However, to ensure digital learning is most effective, both teachers and students must understand the dynamics of the platform and how to handle it. The teaching process can be improved if teachers are properly trained. We have witnessed in UK institutions that some teachers have encountered difficulties because they are not accustomed to teaching in a digital format. It can be stated that if they can use the online resources available during their teaching, they will provide better information to the students. Some students also experienced difficulties during the digital learning process, which could be due to changes in the teaching and learning process. In addition to improving the learning process, the teaching process for teachers should also be organised.

Aside from the death and economic consequences, the epidemic impacts our education. Most educational institutions closed during the epidemic, which affected billions of learners and students worldwide. Because of Covid-19, almost no educational institution in Bangladesh could offer classes to enrolled students. In mid-March 2019, all public and private educational institutions closed their doors, as has occurred in other countries where social distancing is a problem. The educational sector in Bangladesh responded to COVID-19 in a disorganised and disorderly manner. The academic response evolved in tandem with the outbreak, and schools were closed long.

Some schools/institutions have attempted to provide live interactive courses, pre-recorded content, and homework-based digital sessions. This, however, is not the situation across the country. The first response was a nationwide broadcast of pre-recorded lists aimed at primary school students. Aside from the advantages of non-interactive education, the fact that half of all households do not have television means that many people are excluded. To ensure that students receive an uninterrupted education system, the Ministry of Education has assisted teachers in continuing online classes and the free flow of knowledge. The relevant authority has started broadcasting distance learning education for schools, colleges, and universities, but limited in scope. We must all recognise the Bangladesh Government's efforts to ensure that some educational provisions are available to students and, as a result, took some bold strategies. On the other hand, long-term strategies should be embedded in a country's educational policy so that any response is not haphazard but relatively robust and planned.

With the use of internet resources, the possibilities for a digital education system are nearly limitless. The employment of technology in the classroom can help both teachers and students. Students prefer online classes because they learn at their own pace and are more engaged in self-directed study. The most crucial element to stress is that learners have a lot of leeway in developing their learning styles. When it comes to joining a class online, students do not need to do any additional preparation to join the class whenever and wherever they want. The learning path is available to ensure that no student falls behind. People in Bangladesh who participate in online lectures say they feel more confident about completing online tests on time, even if it is their first time. It's fantastic that the online class has helped students escape all kinds of anxieties. Creating digital citizens and contributing to online content management becomes more manageable in a more digitally advanced country. Bangladesh is going forward at breakneck speed in terms of technology growth and digitalisation. The economic situation has significantly improved, and as a country, we are increasingly serving as role models for many other countries in various fields. This is the appropriate time. The government, educational institutions, parents, and the general public should collaborate to build an effective digital education system that will educate our students in the event of any nationwide lockdown and allow us to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Let us all believe that education is the essential thing and that it is our responsibility to educate our children even in times of difficulty. The process of teaching and learning should not be stopped; instead, it should be continued.


The writer is Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK