Primary Education Policy

Primary Education: The Post-Pandemic Challenges and Way Forward

The post-pandemic challenges are different in the countries as per their situation and experiences. Image source: WHO
Ratan Kumar Sarkar
Written by Ratan Kumar Sarkar

Around the world, the billion-dollar question is: when this devastating, bitter and abhorrent pandemic will be eradicated from the world. Many scholars, scientists, research organizations, journalists have tried to explore the answer to it, and in Bangladesh, the journalist and literary Anisul Haque has done the same. He explored much information, news and statistics and eventually revealed an expectation in his writing (the Prothom Alo, 30 April 2021) that this detrimental pandemic can be checked hastily in Bangladesh. As per a research report from Mckinsey.com, normal life will come in the UK in the middle of this year. The USA says they will be able to enjoy their Independence Day on 4 July in a much more open environment. All these expectations are based on vaccination. We have to vaccinate 13 crore people by October-December and have this hard reality immunity can be grown in Bangladesh; that is the checkpoint of the pandemic. Whatever the destination with some conditions, the schools are going to be open, and we have to think deliberately about the post-pandemic challenges and take obligatory measures accordingly. Over one year, all the schools are closed all over the country and both students and teachers are de-touched from classroom activities. The only learning opportunity is through the Bangladesh Television program, which is not available, as it is telecasting through the television cable network. The unavailability of the device is another barrier, particularly in low-income families. What should we do at the end of the tunnel?

Drop out and attendance

Even though primary education in Bangladesh has achieved substantial progress in enrollment, quality is far beyond the expected level and exist as a long-term issue before the pandemic. Attendance is one of the significant factors of reaching the quality, which was much more challenging ever before and now it has been fallen in a more hard reality due to pandemic. Many pupils have been derailed from the education stream for many reasons that originated from the pandemic, which will be one of the crucial post-pandemic challenges in the education area. Migration, detachment from the study, involvement in earning, family needs etc., are some of the reasons many students will not return to the education stream. Eventually, they will be dropped. It will create a disaster in the education system that will badly impact every corner of the society, especially on building human resources.

Quality, the ever crisis and deterioration

Education quality is a crying need and deafeningly outspoken by the educationists, civil society, intellectuals, and other concerns. The crisis is undoubtedly more profound and spread out due to this detrimental pandemic. Students are detached from books, classroom activities, and examination systems for a long time. The vacuum has been filled with the mobile game, involvement with non-academic activities, or many other destructive actions. Obviously, all these causes deteriorate the education quality and situation becoming worsen continuously. This is tremendously a significant challenge to expedite the education progression, and we have to pay great attention from all corners to make it happen. Education-related community urges to increase investment in education and demand the education expenditure up to 20% of the annual budget. Nevertheless, this will be other post-pandemic challenges for the government as other sectors like the health sector also demand an upsurge of the expenditure. Already production and wealth flow has been shrunken; on the other hand, the cost has been widened. 

The economic flaws and depression

Many of the survey and research pointed out the families’ degradation. Numerous of them are moving under the poverty level, and a considerable amount of the SDG achievement has already been spoiled. The plentiful daily labourers, small business people, transport labourers etc., have lost their job and income sources due to this abnormal situation. This economic loss makes family depressed, discontinues the supply chain of food and nutrition, and eventually negatively impacts the learners. The slow movement of the economic cycle put its a bad effect both individually, socially and nationally.

Psycho-social effect and post-pandemic challenges

Any disaster and emergency make a psycho-social adverse impression, and it is more impactful to the students, especially for primary school-going students. The nature of the pandemic itself a panic to the little kids, and imposing rules and regulation like staying home create more stress to their mind. Students lost their regular life practices like the involvement of classroom activities, getting in touch with friends and teachers and an overall effect of school premises. Experiencing all these conditions and getting the learners refreshing and cheerful, and lively in the schooling system is challenging.

Some approaches to the way forward

Extension of school hour: Intending the benefit after a long time break and coping up with immense shortcoming, school hour should be extended when and where possible. In the early days after opening the schooling, some co-curricular, innovative and recreation measures can be taken as ice-breaking procedure.

Learning camp: There may have slow learners who cannot go at the same pace in every class as other learners can do. Individual attention and, in some cases, more innovative modality might be needed for such kind of learners. So, a learning camp may be initiated for this section of pupil in out of school hour. Having this detrimental period, a learning camp may be an appropriate intervention to expedite the learning process of the slow learners.

Child to child approach: Proposing to filling up the learning gaps, child to child approach may appear as a strong intervention. In and out of school hour, the fast learners can take responsibility for the slow learners to some extent to make sure the learning support. In such a case, both of the section of the pupil may be benefited.

Mid-day meal: As a notion, mid-day meal has been accepted, and so it was being implemented (before the pandemic) somewhere; but the practice is not universal in Bangladesh. Demand for mid-day meal in the situation after the pandemic is not only for the sake of nutrition; nevertheless, this can appear as an opportunity for change and a caring environment. The program bears a psycho-social positive impact, especially for the deficient area.  

ICT as a learning modality: Every crisis bears some opportunities also. During this pandemic situation, the multidimensional use of ICT appeared like such an opportunity. In some schools, particularly in cities, teachers are conducting on-time classes, and students are attending the class. Nevertheless, the practice is not common, and attendance in an online class is very low. The online class is internet-based, and the unavailability of the proper electronic device is another barrier. Still, the use of ICT has been appeared as an innovative window and making the concerns familiar with it and exploring the ground-breaking activities carries a prospect.

Wrap up

The pandemic created a panic situation worldwide, but the post-pandemic challenges are different in the countries as per their situation and experiences. We should figure out our approaches and modalities as per our demand, opportunity and resources. However, preparation should be taken deliberately and meticulously. Otherwise the hindering will be continuing.

About the author

Ratan Kumar Sarkar

Ratan Kumar Sarkar

Ratan Kumar Sarkar works as a Program Specialist in the BRAC Institute of Educational Development, BRAC University, Bangladesh.

Leave a Comment

1 Comment

  • Thoroughly analyzed with a number of useful suggestions. Felt great while reading as, almost all the personal reflection from us(the general people) can be found in this article. Thanks to the writer for his researched focuses on the whole situation.

    Couple of thinking areas to explore from past experience of a “Primary school classroom”.

    Expansion of school hour would be a heavy task as almost a ‘two year school time gap’ for the children must have affected the attention level of the early grade students. Surely a step by step approach may resolve this issue.

    A proposal towards the policymakers could be to – reduce the amount of administrative works for the primary school teachers after re-opening, so that they can increase their level of lesson input with less stress level. Which can surely bring positive impact in the post pandemic period for primary education.

    Thank you.