The Financial Express

Social inequality rises due to school closure amid pandemic: Experts

| Updated: March 31, 2021 23:17:17

Social inequality rises due to school closure amid pandemic: Experts

Social inequality has been rising as educational institutions have remained closed across the country since March 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said at a webinar recently.

They spoke at the webinar on recovery of Covid-19 learning loss organised by ‘Economics Circle’, a network for evidence-based discourse, in partnership with The Financial Express, according to a press release received on Thursday.

Thousands of students, particularly in rural areas, have been without any learning opportunities ever since, the experts said.

Girls are particularly adversely affected by the school closure as lots of them run the risk of dropout and also could face early marriage, they said.

They urged the policymakers to focus on solving the Covid-19-related learning loss and priotise local solutions in this regard.

In the keynote presentation, Rubaiya Murshed, an economics lecturer at Dhaka University, discussed challenges in remote learning due to poor internet access, and stressed that remote learning cannot be a substitute of classroom learning.

She explained potential consequences of remote learning such as higher dropout rates, early marriage of girls, and increased learning loss.

In particular, she said that students suffer loss in basic math and language skills significantly due to the long period of school closure.

As solutions, Rubaiya suggested incentivising vulnerable students, hiring additional skilled teachers, and close collaboration between teachers, parents and students.

Kanti Ananta Nuzhat, the moderator of the session, in her opening remarks, focused on resources constraint and financial difficulties of poor students in accessing remote learning.

She also mentioned how early marriage has increased during the Covid-19 period in many parts of the country, a direct consequences of school closure for a longer period.

Asad Islam, an economics professor at Monash University, Australia, urged the policymakers to give all out efforts to bring back students, especially girls to school through utilising cost-effective methods and local-based solutions.

Referring to his own research, he said his team is providing free education to primary schools’ students through engaging university students who are currently residing in rural areas. Similar arrangements can be extended through engaging NGOs to tackle learning loss on a broader scale.

Dr Ahsan Habib, an associate professor at Dhaka University, asked policymakers to focus on targetted learning loss and then provide solutions accordingly. In this regard, enough supply of resources is required for ensuring smooth internet facilities available for teachers and student.

He also urged them to work on improving the linkage between skills needed by industries and education curriculum.

Tashmina Rahman, an education specialist at World Bank, said that budget allocation for education sector is not adequate enough despite its recent increase.

Policymakers need to give more allocation for capital expenditure in education and more stress on proper utilisation of the allocated budget, she said.

She mentioned how the World Bank prioritised its financing targets with reducing learning loss in schools, and praised the government for supporting it.

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