The Financial Express

No alternative to online classes

Published: April 29, 2020 21:09:54

No alternative to online classes

The prime minister's indication that the country's educational institutions may remain closed up to September next does not bode well for the education calendar. Her projection is, however, based on the coronavirus situation. If the situation improves, such a prolonged closure of schools, colleges and universities may not be necessary. It is clear then what dire compulsion might enforce shutdown of academic activities. By September, seven-months-from the academic year will be lost. Is there any alternative to make up for the loss of classes, tests and examinations? Any short-cut method would be unwelcome. The legacy of concessionary measures had a prolonged bad effect on the country's education system. Already there is a concern about the standard of the country's education and no short-cut or compromise on examination should be entertained.

The prime minister has hinted at September but if the situation worsens, opening of educational institutions may get further delayed. So, it is better to think of a viable alternative. In 1971 an academic year was lost during the nine month long war of national independence. Then science and technology were way behind with no idea of computer and internet. Even gadgets using numbers for their operation were analogue and today the country is on way to digitising its administration and services. Under exceptional circumstances, extraordinary methods are warranted to continue with life and living. Here is one such circumstance and already one university has proved that the disadvantageous situation can be circumvented with help from technology provided there is enough will.

The educational institution credited with the distinction is none other than the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University (BDU) on Mirpur Road Dhaka. With 2,400 teachers from 16 colleges spread all across the country, the university has been successfully holding classes for its 8,000 students six days a week from 11am to 4pm. For this to happen, the university had to use Google apps. By using such apps a teacher, for example, from Barishal can connect with a maximum of 200 students of a class to impart lessons. This is enough for the purpose. Thus the university faces no disruption of its academic year. The only complaint comes from students because of high internet cost. However, the university authority has assured it would bear the cost.

Evidently, this is the way to address the problem facing the education sector. Institutional e-mail has proved important for the BDU. The bigger and reputed universities may not find it easy to follow suit but had they been mindful before when the buzz word 'digitisation' started making rounds in the educated circle, they could as well join the bandwagon. Now, according to experts, it may not be easy, but still possible if the authorities are serious about the matter. The classes for primary and secondary students on television are not sufficient to cover their syllabus. Coronavirus has left a lesson for the education sector to go all out for total digitisation. In this connection, it would not be unrealistic to suggest slashing internet costs or even offering the facility free of cost -- at least for online classes.

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