At present, 63 private universities are conducting their online academic activities
Educational institutions across Bangladesh are resorting to online classes following its closure for an indefinite period because of the ongoing general holiday imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Although the private institutions are engaging themselves in large numbers, some government and public institutions are also getting interested in the virtual platform to run their academic activities.
The government has been observing a nationwide general holiday since March 26, which was extended till May 5, to contain the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and maintain social distancing. The educational institutions have remained closed since March 17 in the country.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 27 hinted that schools, colleges, and other educational institutions might remain closed till September if the Covid-19 situation remains unchanged.
Following the premier's statement, some secondary-level private institutions launched online education to continue academic activities.
Although the virtual classes initially began at only a few private educational institutions after the general holiday, the number started to rise gradually later. Those failing to manage virtual classes are trying to cover up the academic losses via uploading videos of lessons online.
Sources at the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education said the Directorate of Primary Education asked the primary schools to take online classes initially. Following the directive, the institutions have taken an initiative to circulate the recording of the lessons for the classes.
Also, the state-run Sangsad Bangladesh Television began broadcasting pre-recorded lessons for primary school students since April 5.
Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Secretary Md Akram-Al-Hossain said they are taking a multi-dimensional approach to cover up lessons that are being missed because of the long holiday announced for the coronavirus crisis.
"In addition to Sangsad TV, we are uploading video classes online which are added to YouTube channels. We will keep the students engaged with online academic activities even after the coronavirus crisis is over," he said.
Md Fashiullah, director general at the Directorate of Primary Education, said the lessons recorded to be broadcast on Sangsad TV are being uploaded on the YouTube channel called "Ghore Boshe Shikhi" (learning at home).
"We are also developing a separate portal for 'Ghore Boshe Shikhi' where classes will be uploaded so that students can check those online any time," he added.
Prominent institutions taking virtual classes
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, some secondary-level institutions, particularly prominent ones, have resorted to virtual classes along with online ones.
Motijheel Ideal School and College is taking virtual classes for students from fourth to 11th grades.
"We have launched virtual classes for fourth and fifth graders from April 18, and after a week we started the classes for sixth to 10th graders. Classes for 11th and 12th graders are ongoing virtually since April 20," said Dr Shahan Ara, principal of the institution.
"The classes will continue till the holiday is over."
She said the participation in such initiatives is higher among the college students.
Cambrian School and College is operating virtual classes in 15 of their campuses across the country.
"We already have made the contents ready for primary to higher secondary levels along with the infrastructure for virtual classes. The classes were launched soon after the holiday was announced," said Lion MK Bashar, chairman at BSB-Cambrian Group.
Willes Little Flower School and College acting Principal Md Abul Hossain said they have started taking virtual classes for a week, in both Bangla and English medium.
Viqarunnisa Noon School and College Principal Prof Fougia Rezwan said they are taking video classes online since the holiday was announced and will go for virtual classes soon.
Private universities continue online education
For private universities, online class and evaluation were in place for many days and they started implementing it fully since the shutdown was declared.
In the wake of the coronavirus situation, the University Grants Commission (UGC) on March 23 urged all public and private universities to continue classes online while asking them to shut down to curb the spread of the pandemic.
On April 21, the commission wrote a letter to the universities seeking information on online classes.
The letter asked the universities to inform it about whether online classes were in place, the number of departments that are taking the classes, and attendance rate of students.
At present, 63 private universities are conducting their online academic activities while seven public universities have launched online classes.
Minister urges to continue online academic activities
Education Minister Dipu Moni on Thursday urged all universities to continue academic activities online, including examinations and admissions, in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The education minister made the request via video conference at a meeting with the UGC and vice chancellors of public and private universities.
At this virtual meeting, the Ministry of Education and the UGC reached six decisions to ensure that universities could properly run their academic activities online, including exams and admissions.
As per the decisions of the meeting, the UGC will come up with a guideline within a week on how private universities can conduct online academic activities.
UGC Chairman Prof Dr Kazi Shahidullah said they will develop a guideline within a week on how the private universities can continue academic activities in current situation.
However, education sector insiders said it is not possible to engage 59,000,000 students in virtual classes. Besides, the initiative is not possible for the government primary education level right at the moment.
But, online academic activities will continue and a major portion of students is also expected to take part in virtual classes too, they added.