UNICEF: Survey confirms devastating impact of digital divide on children’s learning during COVID-19
DHAKA, 16 March 2023 – Fewer than one in five children (18.7 per cent) in Bangladesh participated in remote learning during COVID-19 school closures, which at one and a half years were among the longest pandemic school closures in the world.
This extraordinary scale of the impact of school closures was confirmed today in the National Survey on Children’s Education in Bangladesh 2021, a joint survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF.
The survey shows that the hardest hit are the most vulnerable children who have limited access to the Internet and TV, and who lack supportive devices such as computers or smartphones at home. Fewer children from rural areas (15.9 per cent) participated in remote learning, such as online and televised, compared to those from urban areas (28.7 per cent).
Significant geographical disparities also come to the fore with the highest percentage of students remotely participating in classes in Khulna and Dhaka (23.4 per cent and 23.1 per cent respectively), and the lowest in Mymensingh (5.7 per cent).
The youngest children carry the heaviest burden as participation in remote classes was lower among primary school children (13.1 per cent) compared to secondary students (20.3 per cent in lower secondary and 23.7 per cent in upper secondary).
“The pandemic’s impact on children is still reverberating throughout the country. It is critical to close the digital divide and to make the education system more shock responsive,” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
UNICEF provides technical assistance to the Government in support of learning recovery and acceleration, including on innovative remedial education.
“The Survey on Children’s Education in Bangladesh 2021 would help to understand the extent of the impact of the prolonged school closure during COVID-19 pandemic on attendances, out-of-school, drop-out, and learning loss of children, along with other education outcomes and support the Government to take steps for improving the quality and standard of education,” said Mr Mohammad Abdul Mannan MP, Minister, Ministry of Planning.
The survey also includes preliminary post-pandemic data on child marriage. The survey indicates a downward trend, giving cause for cautious optimism. According to the Bangladesh 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) – the country’s largest-scale and most authoritative survey on the situation of children – 51.4 per cent of girls are married before turning 18. The next MICS, set to be conducted in 2024, will confirm if the positive downward trend for child marriage indicated in the National Survey on Children’s Education in Bangladesh 2021 is sustained.
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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/bangladesh/