Students in Bangladesh adjust to remote learning via national TV during COVID-19 lockdown
Wide availability of TV makes it easier for children to continue education remotely
“It's not too difficult for me to study online or on the TV if I have to,” says Effat Muntaha Yusha, 13. The teenager asserts that she and her 12-year-old brother Tasmid Islam have easily adjusted to remote learning at home using the Internet and television. Though, she adds: “It can sometimes be very monotonous.”
Effat normally studies in class eight at Milestone School in Dhaka. But these are not normal days, because Effat and her classmates are housebound under the terms of the Bangladeshi government’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, which resulted in the closing down of all schools and educational institutions in the country from 18 March 2020.
The decision meant that 42 million children, including those already out-of-school, are no longer able to attend school and may be prevented from doing so until September. Many of those are now studying remotely for the first time.
Less privileged children must not lose out
UNICEF is working with the Government of Bangladesh to offer effective remote learning programmes using TV, radio, mobile phone and Internet platforms to reach the maximum number of students. UNICEF has also helped produce guides to assist teachers that are giving remote classes.
Unlike in many developed countries, most children in Bangladesh do not have access to the Internet. This is why the initial education response focused on delivering classes on TV, as television sets are more widely available in households.
“We want to ensure that remote learning is an option for as many children as possible during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Nor Shirin Md. Mokhtar, Chief of Education, UNICEF Bangladesh. “Equity of education is at the heart of our thinking, which is why lessons taught over the TV are already being complemented via mobile phones and the radio.
“It’s important that less privileged children don’t lose out. We urgently need to act now to give them alternative ways to learn and to help them rebuild routines,” said Mokhtar.
But even for dedicated students, remote learning is often a challenge. Not least because there is less scope for social interaction on television and online.
“While the better part of the day is when I attend class lectures through the TV or internet, the worst part of this is when I cannot understand what the lectures are about, 13-year-old Effat said.
Social media can be a distraction
Tahmidul Nahar, 43, is a teacher and the mother of Effat and Tasmid. She said that she has not found it too difficult to help the pair with their studies during the lockdown.
“They're self-sufficient and finish their studies before I have to ask them, so I quite enjoy it.”
The siblings say that social media and online games can sometimes be a distraction when being educated at home. But with a mother who is a teacher, they are particularly fortunate in having extra support and guidance. Both are optimistic that the pandemic will not have long-term negative consequences after they are eventually able to return to school.
“Although it's sometimes difficult working from home, I don't think this pandemic will have any bearing on my exam results or my future career,” Effat said.