The educational institutions have heard further closure notice till 31 August to contain transmission of the coronavirus apprehending more education loss and there was no recovery plan. From 17 March till 31 August total of 88 working days will be spoiled and till 16 March, students got 41 working days that they could not utilize properly due to sports, other school functions, admissions and traditional sluggish nature of first quarter of the year. The ministry of education has been devising plans to make up the loss the students have so far incurred.
Three plans, not a specific recovery plan, have come out so far. One of them is if educational institutions can be opened in September, an annual examination could be conducted in December. If it is not possible, the auto pass will be declared to promote the students to the next higher class. Furthermore, the most important and relevant parts of the lesson to be taught and at the behest of the ministry, NCTB has been doing ‘curriculum mapping’ for this purpose. If current trends of infections and deaths from the coronavirus continue, the closing period may extend well beyond September that had already been declared by the prime minister. She has rightly said that our children are the future of this nation who need to be protected at any cost.
According to plan 1, the strategy has been developed roughly if classes resume in September. It says till 30 November classes for grade one to four will continue and the annual examination will be held in December and the classes for grade five will continue till 15 November. Plan 2 says if classes can be started from 1 October, they will continue till 20 December. Then the ministry will decide when to conduct the PSC or annual examination. This year about 32 lac students will appear in the PSC examination. However, in both the plans shortening the syllabus till grade four has been under consideration. Bangladesh Examination Development Unit has developed a plan and 41-page recommendations that can be termed as plan 3. None of these are the specific recovery plan.
However, curriculum mapping should be done as per the learning gap’ as BEDU suggests. If schools can be kept open from September to November, examinations will be conducted on 100 marks shortening the syllabus. If schools cannot be opened in September but in November, in that case, the MCQ test for one hour for each subject will be taken and the JSC examination will be taken in Bengali, English, Mathematics and Science, leaving other subjects. The results of the grade eight of the annual examination will be sent to the respective education boards. Moreover, ten percent of students can be recommended for scholarships. If schools cannot be opened even in December, students will be upgraded to the next class without any examination. All of these are assumptions.
Virtual learning has quickly jumped into the educational arena during this corona pandemic. Any ICT device witnesses the flood of online classes conducted either by teachers individually or by educational institutions or by service providing organizations. However, risks falling by the wayside as many students, especially those from more impoverished families and disadvantaged groups, are finding it difficult to cope with. While universities are devising their own plan to resume semesters, how do we make up for the loss in the studies of the vast number of school and college-going children remains a big question?
Overall, an urgent rescue and recovery plan is necessary to offset the impacts of the pandemic on education. Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), a civil society forum of education NGOs, warned that progress made in the last two decades in education is in danger of being lost due to the immediate and longer-term consequences of Covid-19. UNESCO has raised similar alerts for low and middle-income countries. To address this threat, CAMPE had urged the government to initiate a three-year education recovery plan.
South Asia is one of the most populous regions in the world, with a total population of 1.85 billion (23.75% of the world’s total population). The region comprises of eight nation-states such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. About 74% (1.37 billion) of South Asia’s total (1.85 billion) population live in India. The region covers 3% of the world’s geographical area. To check the devastating spread of coronavirus, the governments of the South Asian region have imposed measures like country-wide and local lockdown along with the closure of educational institutions in different dates of March and April. Since then, with a fear of spreading of coronavirus through close physical closeness, the authorities are not taking the risk to reopen the educational institutions.
However, governments are easing lockdown rules to facilitate economic activities. Nevertheless, there is no possibility of opening educational institutions because students are the future and the governments do not want to put them at risk. Instead, various draft-plans, proposals and measures are coming up for continuing the teaching-learning process through various modes of communication technologies. The world will never be the same again has been termed as the least hazardous prediction one can make about the consequence of the COVID-19 crisis. This crisis will surely change all societal institutions. The precise nature of that change is, at this time, unknowable.
Afghanistan closed its educational institutions on 27 March, Bangladesh 16 March, Bhutan 5 March, India 24 March, Maldives 10 April, Nepal 24 March, Pakistan second week of March, and Sri Lanka closed its educational institutions on 16 March. As a consequence of these closures around 4, 04, 69,495 students of tertiary level in the South Asia region have been affected. On the other hand, from pre-primary to upper secondary education, this number is around 39, 60, and 94,600. Totally from pre-primary to tertiary level as many as 43, 65, 64,095 students of South Asian countries have been affected.
Both public and private educational institutions stand affected by the prolonged closures and suspension of classes. It also leads to uncertainty over finishing students’ academic years. Completing academic careers on time is critical for the future educational stages of the students of schools and colleges. Considering the present reality, students living in remote rural areas fear being left in the lurch compared to their urban counterparts. According to UNESCO, by 24 March, over 150 countries have implemented nationwide closures apart from local shutdowns, impacting over 80 percent of the world’s student population. Education authorities across the globe are scrambling to handle the unprecedented crisis, looking for immediate measures and trying to understand the longer-term implications.
Why students today learn more from the internet than the classrooms is that the former is more engaging and provides for unlimited time and space for learning. Today’s students have an addiction to screen learning in audio-visual mode. We need to encourage them to join global communities on social media and other engaging platforms. This provides them with exposure to diverse cultures, work ethics, and learning environment and enhances their learning experiences manifold. Four pillars of education, namely, learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together should always remain engraved in the thought process of teachers. In the future, success will not depend on a degree, but on the ability to learn, interpret, apply, and innovate. A 21st-century teacher is the one who can train students to use and interpret information effectively to derive benefits for society and the nation.