The coronavirus outbreak brought almost all aspects of life to a standstill. Stuck at home amid the nationwide shutdown, students all across the country were left with little to do. At such a time, the a2i Programme of the ICT Division and the Cabinet Division, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), took initiatives to ensure remote education for the students. Separate initiatives have been taken for four educational streams: Primary Education, Secondary and Higher Education, Madrasah and Technical Education. Remote classes not only helped them keep up with academics, but they also had the opportunity to collaborate over online resources.
A primary educator embraces remote teaching
Asim Sen, an assistant teacher of a local primary school in Katiadi upazila of Kishoreganj district was worried that the lockdown would hamper the progress of his students.
“Away from school and separated from friends, the children have had to sit idle at home with very little social interaction, which is necessary for mental growth. I was worried this situation would not only hinder academic progress, but also take a toll on their mental health,” said Asim Sen.
Then, he found out that the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE), with support from a2i programme began broadcasting digital content for primary level students on Sangsad TV as well as different social media platforms. Asim Sen readily became part of the initiative. He has taken 3 classes so far in the ‘Ghore Boshe Shikhi’ education programme on Sangsad TV and its Facebook page. He feels that the evolution of technology in Bangladesh in recent times has enabled this change and introduced a new concept that is being embraced by communities across the country.
Learning and collaborating online
Anonyo Zarif Akand, a sixth grader at The Holy Child School in Manikganj District, said, “I like being active; going to school to socialise with classmates and most importantly, learning something new every day from classes. I became upset when my school closed and I thought I would have to stay indoors and do nothing. Then I was informed by my parents, who are teachers, that remote classes are taking place,” Anonyo said.
Seeing an opportunity Anonyo started attending ‘Amar Ghore Amar School’ live classes on Sangsad TV and paid thorough attention to each topic. He subsequently did his homework after each class. He arranged remote group study sessions with his friends to solve further questions. He came to learn about many online platforms, specially the Konnect, a web platform developed by a2i to allow and encourage school-going children and adolescents to collaborate, share knowledge and learn.
When asked about his experience, Anonyo remarked, “When I started attending the online classes on Sangsad TV, I learned about Konnect and was curious to know about the platform. I explored the website, viewing educational content, and collaborating with my friends to help finish our homework. I also learned of several other important topics and about the good sides of the internet. Overall, I am grateful that online classes have been introduced to help us keep up with our studies.”
Including madrasah students in the digital revolution
Mr Shahjahan, whose two young daughters are in the 7th and 8th grades of the Quaderia Taiyebia Alia Kamil Madrasa in the Mohammadpur area of Dhaka, was worried about their progress in Islamic Education. He said, “I was concerned that they would fall behind. Other educational content is available and can be taught, but madrasah education is something which is hard to teach in the absence of an educated scholar.”
The programme “Amar Ghore Amar Madrasah” was the answer to Mr Shahjahan’s worries. This programme is part of an initiative jointly implemented by the Department of Madrasah Education (DME) and a2i.
Mr Shahjahan’s daughter have been following the live classes. “They found the classes interesting, and we’re glad that they can finish the syllabus through these,” he said.
“My daughters are at least making progress in their Arabic learning instead of sitting home doing nothing. Not only are they getting an opportunity to continue learning, they are also staying busy and mentally refreshed,” added Mr Shahjahan.
Technical education from home
“Even when live TV and online classes were being introduced to ensure students continue their education, I did not think technical courses, diploma certifications and skills building courses would be given importance,” says Md Arafat Mollah, an eighth semester student at the Department of Computer Technology at Joypara Government Technical School & College at Dohar Upazila of Dhaka.
However, Arafat found out from his classmates about “Ghore Boshe Karigori Shikkha”, another programme being broadcast on Sangsad TV. “Of course, lab work is not possible remotely, but I’m glad to be able to keep up with academics through the programme. It keeps your brain simulated and helps you remember the things you learn.”
“Digital classes are certainly benefitting technical students like I keep up with studies. It is better to keep learning than to not learn anything at all. The loss of time would have been harsh on me as I have the pressure of finishing my degree soon and get a job to support my family,” he continued.
In collaboration with the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE), the Directorate of Secondary & Higher Education (DHSE), the Department of Madrasah Education (DME) and Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), and with financial support from UNICEF, a2i has been broadcasting over 100 digital content for primary school students (grades 1-5) through Ghore Boshe Ghore Shikhi, a total of 640 content for secondary level students (grades 6-10) through Amar Ghore Amar School, 60 digital content for Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) students, 190 digital content for madrasah students through ‘Amar Ghore Amar Madrasah’ and a total of 151 content for technical education students through ‘Ghore Boshe Karigori Shikkha’. They are broadcasted on Sangsad TV, and uploaded on various social media platforms such as the Facebook pages of a2i, ICT Division, Ghore Boshe Ghore Shikhi, Amar Ghore Amar School, Konnect, and Skills Portal, as well as the YouTube channels of Ghore Boshe Shikhi, Konnect, Konnect Portal and Skills Portal.