Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
MD Bayazid Khan

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in human history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 200 countries. South Asian and African countries too have no exception. The pandemic has forced an unprecedented shutdown of educational institutions and as a result, a massive number of children have been affecting severely due to the discontinuation of face-to-face learning. As challenges must bring some opportunities too, therefore the pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to pave the way for introducing remote learning. As the pandemic strongly demands maintaining of social distancing rigorously, therefore there were no other alternatives to keep learners in the process of learning using multifarious platforms of remote learning.

Acknowledging remote learning- a better way for mitigating the ongoing crisis, the initiative to broadcast lessons through television and radio is praiseworthy. But, it comes with a downside by creating inequality in terms of access to entire learners of primary education. Even children from poor and remote areas’ households with lacking television and access to telecasted programs (those who have television) and broadcasted Radio programs are deprived of receiving imparted lessons. On the other hand, in low and no tech areas students had no access to receive lessons on social and other virtual platforms.

The virus has enabled us to think further about how to do things differently, particularly for children who have been adversely affected in learning to build a more inclusive and equitable education system. A recent study says that the majority of students from rural areas and marginalized socio-economic backgrounds are unable to access remote learning opportunities through television, radio, the internet, and smartphones as they do not have access to these devices. On the other hand, most of the advantageous group of students didn’t find virtual classes meeting their expectations and learning needs effectively as they are habituated with face-to-face teaching-learning at schools.

Transitioning from traditional face-to-face learning to remote learning can be an entirely different experience for the learners, which they must adapt to with little or no. Therefore, it has become essential for students to engage in offline activities and self-exploratory learning besides remote learning.

However, lessons learned from the pandemic considering aforesaid realistic challenges that certainly affect children’s learning badly, think tanks need to focus on promoting inclusive alternative learning methods. A blended method consisting of both remote learning applying via homeschooling or neighborhood schooling and offline learning initiatives may be the effective strategy of building inclusive and equitable learning opportunities during pandemics like disasters.

Unlike the conventional homeschooling style applied in other countries, where parents or relatives or other knowledgeable persons act as instructors to conduct basic education at home, the ongoing situation demanded home/neighborhood schooling may be introduced by using broadcasted lessons through television and radio as well as recorded or live teaching-learning activities from social media platforms. Lessons only on core subjects should broadcast through radio and TV. Students might be supported by parents/relatives at homeschooling and by volunteer teachers (local secondary school or college students or ex. teachers) at neighborhood schooling. Dividing primary school catchment’s area proportionate to several teachers, each area may be given under a teacher to monitor and supervise home/neighborhood schooling activities and conduct face-to-face teaching once a week to each of their concerned home/neighborhood schools. Thus, students should continue the going-to-school rhythm to cope with changes caused by the pandemic and it certainly dispels monotony. But this requires the launching of a dedicated terrestrial education television channel. The use of mobile phone radio for receiving lessons on Radio could be effective to reach students of poverty-stricken and hard-to-reach areas families. In this regard, need-based low-cost simple mobile phones with radio options might be provided to students with GO-NGO collaboration. In addition, parent/relative and volunteer teachers may provide virtual training, and the catchment’s area-based responsible teacher may facilitate virtual training.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to learning. Policymakers need to think about students with different needs and for students who might not have access to digital devices in low or no tech areas. So, there needs to consider the following offline initiatives to be taken besides remote learning.

Weekly or fortnightly-based class-wise activity sheets for core subjects might be distributed to students engaged at home/neighborhood schooling. Responsible teachers for the concerned area may collect and evaluate activity sheets weekly or fortnightly and give feedback to parent/relative and voluntary teachers to dispel students’ learning weaknesses.

Voice message might be sent to guardians’ mobile numbers every day about lessons schedule that is going to broadcast on TV & Radio alongside following social contacting & health rules rigorously.

Mobile phone contact with students by the teacher might be continued to know their interest and progress in learning alongside providing feedback. Responses from mobile phone communication might be noted down in a registrar.

Evaluating activity sheets and considering mobile phone responses, responsible teachers need to visit supportable students’ homes to improve their learning.

Maintaining social contacting and following health rules strictly, teachers may allow to coming to school once a week to share achievements of their students learning and identifying ideas to be added or subtracted to existing plans.

Self Study Learning Pack (SSLP) comprising important chapters of core subjects considering lesson plan might be developed for students. In the light of SSLP, Learning Supportive Pack (LSP) for parent/relative and voluntary teachers may be developed too. It is important to note that responsible teachers of concerned areas may support students as well as parent and volunteer teachers to use self-study materials.

By Md Bayazid Khan - Bangladesh

The writer works for primary education in Bangladesh.

4 thoughts on “Primary Education During Pandemic Demands a Blend of Remote and Offline learning”
  1. Very practical advice but this needs commitment from teachers. Unfortunately, which is missing.

    1. Absolutely right. In Bangladesh we arranged orientation training for teachers on Google Meet use for imparting online teaching. Teachers of government primary schools are delivering online teaching around the country with applying uniform lesson plan. Broadcast of lesson on TV and Radio is also using same lesson plan so that students may utilize variety of learning sources. This has been introducing since May 24. Beside imparting online teaching on Google Meet, teachers are distributing lesson plan wise worksheets/activity sheets with supporting them for clarifying their understandings to the lessons by visiting home/ a place convenient to students for a locality. The second option is for supporting students who have no digital device facilities. Our government is trying. But success definitely depends on positive attitude of committed teachers as you referred. Thanks.

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