• Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

OP-ED: Have we succeeded in shifting to digital classrooms?

  • Published at 04:34 am May 29th, 2021
online education

The sorry state of education has been one of the government’s biggest Covid-time failures

Honestly, I’m not one of those who always thinks the government has no control over the people, who should have been forced to stay inside their homes. The government has announced a lockdown and no one cares to listen to the government. Yes, this is what everybody, the table-talkers, as well as the eminent and wise analysts, think. They also laugh about it.

My thesis is a bit different. We, who are laughing about it, are not in the government’s shoes. I may be managing a family, a think-tank, a company, or an organization. That’s pretty easy when I have a steady income to carry on. 

On the other hand, the government is managing the state of affairs that involves 170 million mouths. Our government is also managing its diplomatic ties and trade relations in the international arena, an arena teeming with foxes and hounds of prey.

The government has a million things to do. I understand that.

However, it doesn’t also mean that the government has done and is doing everything right. For example, to my mind, the schooling of our children is in shambles, to comment on the situation with a soft diction.

The schools have been closed for 15 months now. The year-end exams were not held. The students were assessed on the basis of assignments and were given some kind of auto-promotion or grades. The school-children have been and are continuing online classes on a limited scale and a great divide between digital haves and digital have-nots is quite visible.

This year, the government has decided not to allow any auto-promotion and is now mulling over organizing SSC and HSC exams.

The students at the university level have continued their classes on the digital platforms, but the administrations couldn’t arrange any admission tests.

The authorities have recently said the classes would resume on June 12, 2021. They have also said these decisions were being taken on the basis of advice from the health care experts: The classes will resume once the Covid situation normalizes.

The fact that I fail to understand is: Why are we considering that this virus could be contained any time soon? And how long should we wait for, to resume education for about 40 million school-going children? Why are we still not accepting that this is a new normal era and we must design our lives according to the norms of a new normal lifestyle? What’s taking so long for us to realize that fact?

Another question: Are the students all locked in homes due to Covid? Some are, but most aren’t. Let’s think about it.

We have been watching the virtual press briefings of the education ministry. However, there’s an empirical lack of clear strategy and plan regarding the educational institutions. I’m sure the ministry has something in mind to keep the institutions closed. We believe that it needs to express its thinking to the public to avoid any kind of misunderstanding. The news media has reported that teaching on digital platforms has not been very successful in the last 15 months. Most students didn’t have adequate access to internet connections and devices to continue their lessons online. An enormous portion of the students didn’t find their lessons fathomable and interesting on digital platforms. On the other hand, the teachers haven’t displayed the expected extent of responsibility while imparting the lessons.

Now, I believe the last 15 months were our best opportunity for formalizing education on digital platforms, but we miserably missed the train. If we really want a digital revolution, let us start with the classrooms. If we can successfully accomplish digital finances, what’s stopping us from doing the same when it comes to education?

I believe there’s a lack of will regarding this. There’s no dearth of companies that are engaged in digital business, and they also seem to have done very little for education on digital platforms. We also didn’t see anybody talking about the future of education in digital means.

Do we know what our children, who have digital access, are doing right now with technology? Well, the news media claims they have engaged themselves in online games. It has gone to an extent of addiction for them. Why wouldn’t they? They have all the time in the world and they don’t know what to do with it.

Consider a scenario. The parents of all these children don’t need to work; the government provides the monthly allowances for them and they can stay home all day and teach their children. But that’d never happen, and the children would certainly require schooling. But as the physical schools are closed, what would they do? What would we do? Wouldn’t we look for a really “workable” alternative way to impart education? The only way right now to accomplish that is the digital way.

Poor us; we couldn’t come up with a sound solution to digital classrooms. With a “digital” tagline, we should have done much better. By now, we should have designed a concrete strategy that would have enabled our children to be educated as much as in the physical classroom. The effectiveness of the current state of affairs of digital classrooms is far from our expectation from a government that has dreams for digital development.

Let’s be serious about materializing the dream.

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.