Emphasis on strictly following health guidelines, should classes resume
Lauding the government’s move to consider reopening educational institutions for students set to appear at the Secondary School Certificate (SCC), Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams, experts have called for a revision of the syllabus as a move to hold the tests properly.
Addressing a media call on Thursday, Education Minister Dipu Moni said that the authorities were mulling a resumption of classroom learning for tenth and twelfth graders from next month.
“Classes for SSC and HSC exam candidates may resume on a limited scale if the virus situation improves,” she said.
At the same online press conference, the minister announced that the shutdown of schools and colleges had been extended till November 14 in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19.
"We have reviewed many matters, including whether some institutions can be opened on a limited scale. We will review more information over the next two weeks and try to reopen educational institutions on a limited scale,” said Dipu Moni.
The moves follow a recent meeting between the education minister and the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 earlier this month.
The panel advised a reopening of educational institutions on a limited scale, Virologist Professor Nazrul Islam, a member of the NTAC, told Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.
Chances of getting infected are now less in case of classes on a limited scale, he said. However, he added the caveat that students might get infected on their way to schools and colleges by using public transports.
The infection rate dropped below 12% on Thursday, with the overall rate now at 17.5%. The figure was over 22% during the peak period in May and June.
“Teachers should guide the students about their health safety in the classroom,” said Islam, a former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
Revising syllabus for SSC, HSC exams
Educationists praised the plans to start classes, but called for a revision of the syllabus.
“The ministry should revise the syllabus of SSC and HSC exams before reopening the schools and colleges. It will help to take the exams properly,” Ekushey Padak-winning academic and writer Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam told Dhaka Tribune.
“It’s imperative to ensure proper and adequate handwashing facilities before resuming classes,” he added.
Prof Manzoorul Islam suggested risk allowances and safety equipment for teachers.
Shutting down again is always an option
Renowned educationist and activist Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury also emphasized maintaining safety guidelines before resuming physical classroom activities.
Several European countries reopened schools despite the second wave, but with proper safety measures, he said while speaking to Dhaka Tribune.
“The government can go for a complete shutdown [of educational institutions] again if there’s any problem,” he added.
According to Prof Choudhury, schools and colleges should reopen as the curriculum for 10th and 12th graders includes lab work, which is not possible through online classes.
About two million students are scheduled to sit for next year's school-leaving SSC and equivalent exams, while 1.3 million are expected to appear at the HSC and equivalent exams.
Earlier on March 17, the government ordered all schools, colleges and universities across the country to close down after the first cases of Covid-19 in Bangladesh were reported on March 8.
The shutdown period has since been extended on several occasions, most recently until October 31, before it was extended to November 14 on Thursday.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the government to scrap this year’s HSC and equivalent exams, which were originally slated for April 1.
Students this year will be evaluated on the basis of their performances in the two public examinations they appeared at previously— the Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Secondary School Certificate (SSC), the education ministry announced earlier this month.
The government has also scrapped the Primary Education Completion (PEC) exams for fifth graders, and JSC and JDC exams for eighth graders along with the annual exams for students of Classes VI to X.