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Study: Outdoor, blended learning the way forward

  • Published at 08:53 pm July 30th, 2021
School Children
File photo of some students with new books in school premises Dhaka Tribune

Most children are not interested in online learning, while many others are unable to access those classes, a study conducted by Buet and UK’s Cardiff University has found

As Bangladesh’s education sector continues to suffer because of the Covid-19 pandemic, including blended learning coupled with outdoor education in the primary education policy is the appropriate course of action, researchers of a study have said.

Blended learning is an approach that is made up of in-person classroom time as well as studying online, while outdoor education refers to organized educational activities that take place outdoors.

The researchers said it was high time these options were included in Bangladesh’s primary education curriculum as children are mostly uninterested in online learning - the current method in use - and many do not have access to devices needed to take part in that either, the researchers argued.

The study, titled “Crisis-led approaches to teaching and learning in Bangladesh: New frameworks for outdoor, blended learning in low-income country contexts,” was jointly conducted by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and Cardiff University, UK.

The researchers said their study was driven by their ongoing work with teachers, children and parents in Bangladesh on the spatiality of teaching and learning practices amid the pandemic, impact on learning, health and well-being, barriers and challenges, and thoughts on a blended learning agenda.

They opined that online learning was not an ideal method for all children, and a change in the framework was needed to ensure children’s well-being against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis.

Cardiff University, Buet, a2i and NextGenEdu jointly organized a virtual program to discuss the findings of the research on Thursday evening.

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The researchers said they had conducted a survey by speaking with 200 teachers of different public and private primary schools, as well as the families of 15 students in Dhaka and Chittagong cities.

The survey found that about 82% of schools had a playground, garden or open space, 66% had smart classrooms and 39% had multimedia classrooms.

The researchers said 97% of teachers had a smartphone, laptop or other kind of digital device.

In contrast, only 46% students used digital devices to attend online classes, 74% had limited access to a smartphone or a laptop, over 82% suffered from poor internet connectivity, 10% received education through televised classes and some others via radio.

According to the researchers, 18% of teachers said they found online teaching difficult and needed training to conduct interactive online classes for children.

One of the researchers, Prof Mohammed Zakiul Islam of Buet, said: “We have completed a review of existing evidence that provides us with a baseline for academic and other research on home, outdoor and blended learning in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and identifies gaps in the literature on outdoor-blended learning.”

In her remarks, Dr Matluba Khan of Cardiff University said: “After talking to teachers, we have found that outdoor education was once popular but is not practised anymore.

“Some teachers have tried it on their own initiative, but school authorities and parents have not been that supportive,” she added.

Prof Md Abdus Salam of Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research said: “The extended closure of educational institutions has affected children mentally and socially.

“Moreover, most are bored by long online classes while others do not even have access [to the internet],” the education expert commented.

In such circumstances, the authorities should include a framework of outdoor education and blended learning in the primary education curriculum, Prof Salam suggested.

National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE) Director Md Yousuf Ali said: “A new framework will change the way we provide education. However, it is impossible to implement it at the moment. But we can add outdoor and blended learning to our policy [and put it into practice in the future].”