Experts on Monday urged the government to increase allocation for education, noting that the primary reason for most of the problems in the sector is allocation.
They also apprehend that the dropout rate of children would go up due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Their opinions came from a webinar titled “Tackling the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Education Sector of Bangladesh” organised by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM).
"The primary reason for most of the problems in education sector being the allocation in education, this allocation must be increased, and primary teachers must be provided with more support in terms of salary and responsibilities," said Professor Dr Syed Manzoorul Islam of Dhaka University’s English department.
SANEM’s Executive Director and Professor of Economics at DU Dr Selim Raihan conducted the webinar through video conferencing app ZOOM. Around 70 educators, students, development practitioners, researchers, and journalists joined the webinar.
"Education must not be deprioritised in the upcoming budget; rather, the allocation for education should be increased," Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) Rasheda K Choudhury said.
She expressed her concern as well that the dropout rate will increase due to the economic crisis brought forward by the current pandemic. She also pointed out that the increase in the dropout rate will increase child labour and child marriage in turn.
She expressed her concern that non-governmental teachers will face problems in getting a regular salary.
Rasheda K Choudhury said that in the post-pandemic scenario, schools and educational institutions will have to follow all health protocols, especially the guidelines provided by WHO and urged the government to start acting now in these regards.
She opined that allocation for research in tertiary education should be increased as well.
She also said that mobile service operators and internet providers must come forward in these times of crisis and provide free internet support for education.
Dr Syed Manzoorul Islam assumed that almost 30 percent of students will not be able to return to schools after the pandemic. He also expressed concern that many will face hardship in procuring educational materials and necessities.
Pointing out that online education is increasing the existing inequality in the education sector; he opined that Public-Private Partnership is necessary to address these issues.
He discussed the detrimental effects of coaching centres and the subsequent obstacles in ensuring creative education. It is necessary to stop the coaching business and implement the education policy passed by the Parliament in 2010.
Dr Islam said that to implement the education policy effectively, the Ministry of Education should seek the leadership and assistance of the youth as a more dynamic solution can be provided by them.
He made some recommendations for the speedy and smooth resumption of educational activities after the pandemic, which included redesigning of semesters and school years and cancelling JSC and PSC.
He hoped that if the youth are involved than the challenges and problems in the education sector will be overcome.
Also read: COVID-19: Online classes bring social divide to the fore
Director General of the Directorate of Primary Education Md Fashiullah described the steps taken by the government to tackle the challenges of the pandemic.
He said the government has already provided three months of stipends to students.
He informed the government’s plan to launch an Education Unit Platform which will provide students with free of cost educational services over toll-free telephone calls.
He said that With UNESCO’s support, the government has been working on a project which will conduct educational activities through radios.
"The government has already designed a recovery plan for education and provided guidelines for teachers at all levels," he said.
Associate Professor of the Institute of Education and Research of Dhaka University Dr Md Ahsan Habib said that although schools are closed, children are learning from the environment around them, which is very important.
Also read: Educational institutions to remain shut until May 30
He said Bangladesh must learn from its national experience and create a suitable plan for the education sector.
Discussing the problems and prospects of online education, he pointed out that people are becoming aware of the necessity of online education which is highly important for reform in education.
He said all should be more enthusiastic about tele-education.
The resource should not be much of a concern in conducting primary education through television, he added.
He asked guardians to be more attentive to their children and said that this is an opportunity for developing a closer bond. Guardians must be aware of their children’s mental health and provide all necessary support.
Also read: Bangladesh sees alarming spike in corona cases with 1,602 new patients, 21 deaths
In his introductory remarks, Dr Raihan briefly explained the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector of Bangladesh.
He pointed out the difficulties in conducting online education in the socio-economic context of Bangladesh. He stressed on the need to increase allocation for the education sector in the upcoming budget.
Discussing the hardship faced by teachers at the primary level, he pointed out that India and Sri Lanka, even some countries in Africa pay their primary teachers more than Bangladesh.
Notwithstanding numerous challenges and obstacles, Bangladesh has made a significant achievement in primary education; it is high time Bangladesh replicated that achievement in tertiary education, he said.
Also read: Educational institutions to remain closed till Sept if corona situation doesn’t improve: PM
Dr Raihan cited a research by SANEM on the impact of economic crisis on dropout rate and opined that in times of crisis, the dropout rate increases as well, and it is only plausible that the same will happen after the current pandemic. To address this issue, the government must start acting now.