COVID-19 and The Tertiary Education System in Bangladesh

:: Muktasha Deena Chowdhury ::

COVID-19 pandemic is a global reality of the year 2020 that had almost halted the educational activities during the beginning of the lockdown phase worldwide. Most of the educational institutions all over the world rose to the challenge, broke the spell of the initial perception and inertia due to the pandemic, introduced policies requiring all universities to go digital and resumed their academic activities through online platforms. Situation of Bangladesh was no different than facing the reality and then moving on with it.

Many educational institutes in Bangladesh were forced to adopt online technologies for conducting their classes and examinations. Internet based video conferencing applications, such as Zoom, Google-meet, Facebook Messenger etc., became especially useful during the quarantine days.

Within a few months, almost all private and public universities started conducting classes over the internet, without much directive or pressure from the government. In fact, some universities started conducting regular online departmental meetings since the onset of the pandemic in order to disseminate the decisions of the management to the faculty members at the earliest. This harmony between the administration and departments made the transition smooth.

In some universities, faculty members were provided at first with the manual of the online platforms to be utilized in addition to video demonstration. This was followed by comprehensive live training so that each faculty member could raise their inquiry on the processes to be followed and get familiar with it. These trials also made the administration conscious in making the faculty members well-equipped and confident with the IT facilities, the online glitches and ways to trouble shoot the problems. Thus within a short period, all stakeholders including teachers, students, and management got used to these new systems, despite a lot of challenges.

Some advantages of this online education system are higher rate of students’ attendance, reduced cost, systematic arrangement of study materials, punctuality of the teachers etc. Vis-à-vis there are some disadvantages also. The main disadvantage of this online system is conducting fair examination as there is no way to monitor properly through this platform and also the sudden disruption of internet during classes or examination. Despite all the challenges the students of some universities are all the more joining eagerly in online semesters with higher retention rates, finding the e-learning process as a greener option with learning and assessment progressing with reduced distractions and with less of a time investment as commuting is not a requirement.

Though during this period many universities practiced conducting classes using online platform, so for the future, we should think about a robust change in eLearning perspectives, at least for tertiary levels by introducing a good education system that is a blended learning system of education which incorporates the aspects of both online education and classroom based examination along with working on minimizing their drawbacks. This combination of “online-based education and classroom-based examination” can increase the percentage of student-enrollment in tertiary level of education without compromising with the quality even after this pandemic.

It is hoped that it will be another landmark for establishing digital Bangladesh which was the electoral pledge of the present government more than 12 years ago.

The writer is the Assistant Professor (Statistics), Department of Business Administration, Asian University of Bangladesh, Email: muktasha@gmail.com

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