Digital access comes before digital learning

We appreciate the government’s initiative to purchase new digital content containing interactive and communicative lessons to help high school students harness the potential of distance education. The content, which will be broadcast on TV and also uploaded to different educational websites, will consist of recorded video lectures as well as visual presentations on various topics including infographics and slideshows so that students can easily understand them. The broader goal, according to the National Curriculum and Textbook Board, is to help make up for the learning loss caused by school closures since the start of the pandemic. With all educational institutions closed for almost 17 months now, and the prospect of reopening still looking distant amid the surge in Covid infections, this is a small but potentially impactful step targeting a vital group in the community. student population.

While, as always, good execution is key to the success of this initiative – and one wonders if it could not have happened sooner – our immediate concern is what impact this will have on the existing digital divide in the country. It is well known that the initiatives taken so far by the government to ensure the continuity of learning have fallen far short of expectations. But the little he did also did not have the desired result, due to the lack of access to digital devices and the internet among students from rural and low-income backgrounds. Schoolchildren in particular have suffered enormously, to a point that Unesco has called a “generational disaster”. According to a joint study by the Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) and the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) published in May, the prolonged school closures left at least 3.42 million elementary students and 2.50 million high school students at risk of learning. loss. Researchers behind the survey said a large number of students either did not study at all or had become irregular in their studies. Many dropped out of school and many were forced into marriage.

The future implication of this state of affairs is not difficult to imagine. Introducing new learning content is of course important, but it is far more important to ensure that its benefits accrue to all students, not just those who have the “privilege” of access. This will undoubtedly further increase the gap between the privileged and the disadvantaged in society. Unfortunately, despite repeated insistence, the education authorities have not succeeded in setting up an effective learning continuity plan during all these months, nor in proposing a precise timetable for the reopening of schools, which has become essential whatever the situation. current of the coronavirus. We urge the government to take urgent action in this regard, in consultation with experts in the field. And for now, the ever-widening digital divide must be bridged, if we are to reap the rewards of the small learning steps taken.

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