Online education and reality in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is battling severely against COVID-19's panic and pandemic. Economy, business, tourism and education are rigorously affected due to COVID-19. In the threat of coronavirus epidemic, all the educational institutions are kept closed until further order by the government in Bangladesh. This shutdown happened as a preventive measure to combat against coronavirus.
Education sector of the country is in the challenges of COVID-19. All educational institutions have been closed for more than a month. All students are worried about the uncertainty of class and exam starting. They are passing idle time in their home and anxious about lengthy of semester duration. Students in primary level are psychologically suffering from this accidental discontinuation of the learning from the school.
Death toll and the number of infected people in coronavirus in Bangladesh are geometrically increasing day by day. Students at any level are on the risk of infection by COVID-19. However, the authority has recommended the teachers, students, guardians and all concerned to remain alert in dealing with COVID-19.
Online education gets its moment due to COVID-19 epidemic. Recently some public and private university teachers have started taking online classes and some faculties have announced the presentation of online assignments and homework. In addition to that some classes in primary and secondary level are going ahead by the teachers in TV. But question is that how much it is effective for the students.
Online classes are not more effective than the direct classes in the classroom. Through online classes, teachers may not run the classes according to a specific plan. At university level, most of the students of public universities come from poor and middle class family; they may not have internet access due to their financial crisis. On the other hand, the scenery of private universities is different as most of the students there are from economically solvent families. So, they can avail internet access easily.
Universities and other educational institutions of Bangladesh haven't faced such disruption in past also. Some countries, those belong to developed nations are running their e-learning systems for the students like USA, UK and China. The main condition of online education is to ensure the internet facility and access to online course content for all students. Teachers should make course content more accessible and vibrant for the student at the danger time of COVID-19.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, we are facing first-time unexpected experience. We are unable to deliver lectures in the classrooms and assign the team works for students. That's why we have to adapt with uncertain circumstances and develop strategies to continue learning such as online education. If authority of educational institutions give the direction to start online teaching, many poor students won't have the ability to sustainably access them because they lack laptops & internet connection. Moreover, in rural and hill tracking areas modern infrastructure facilities are not available. It is a big challenge for online education in Bangladesh. However, if the ministry of education can give free internet facilities to all the students; online leaning may be effective in that case. Otherwise, some students will be deprived from online education and teaching.
Though online education is a new platform of learning for both students and teachers, face to face interaction is very important for a successful class. Because, in a real classroom a teacher can easily control the whole class and monitor all the students at the same time. The teacher can identify less attentive students in classroom and can attract them to the class in his own way by taking instant measures. Moreover, during the lecture time, students may have queries that can be easily answered shortly without any hamper in the flow of lecture in the real class. But due to the absence of real face-to-face communication between teacher and the students in online classes, it is very difficult to make online class successful.
Interrupted supply of electricity is another vital obstacle for online education. Still now, mass people have zero access to electricity. Unstable power supply and poor power quality hamper online education. For example, a teacher may live in an area where electricity is available but students may live in a remote area where there is no electricity. So, it is a common challenge in Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, students are not used to such a pattern of learning. Not only students but also many teachers of primary and secondary levels of education prefer the practice of traditional teaching methodology. In my observation, even many university teachers are reluctant to use Power Point Presentation (PPT) and multimedia for teaching.
In addition to above challenges, online education is expensive for the students compare to traditional learning. To do so, students need to have the access to the smartphone or laptop. They also require buying enough data. Smartphone technology may be more ubiquitous than the past, but the ability for poor students is yet to purchase a smartphone and achieve its potential outcome. So, it's another challenge of online education.
Beside challenges, online education has many opportunities also; first opportunity is course contents rethinking to adapt online by the teachers. Teaching online is different from conventional practices, which suggest they need to think critically about what contents are included and excluded when giving online teaching. A teacher can easily redesign a course's outline to suit online teaching platforms that offers him an opportunity to update the teaching outcomes of his lectures and review whether all the contents arrange in a line or not.
Secondly, online education is a platform where teachers do not need to learn exclusively through lectures. They can record videos of their lectures and making PPT, so students can access course content more than once. Moreover, they can form team to promote peer-to-peer learning in online. This opportunity also has noteworthy potential for expanding how students learn in a technology-driven world, both online and especially in the classroom.
At last, as all educational institutions have been closed for a long time at the current calendar year, University and other educational Institutions should explore the alternative like a double shift in every day, four months semester, and limit discretionary leave and weekly leave to make up losses for the students. So, respective authority should sincerely consider the matter and take the appropriate initiatives for the education sector.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam