It seems not astounding that reopening of educational institutions will be in someday. But it is obvious that we have hardly any rooms to back to the pavilion of education with old normal when reopening as experienced traditionally over decades and for sake of life replacing the old normal into the new ones would be a must.
Since the onset of corona pandemic the country’s education has been undergoing online that has already made a long debate over the issues of students’ inclusion and efficiency in regard to outcome based teaching and learning. Meanwhile, the ongoing pandemic has affected around 40 million students across the country. According to UNESCO, more than 1.5 billion learners are bearing the brunt due to Covid-19.
Truly, online education has not brought up with its effectiveness to the optimum level. In recent time UGC conducted an online survey found that universities in Bangladesh are not yet capable of conducting their academic activities online due to lack of technical facilities and funds. The distant education provided to the students of schools and colleges has been echoed the same as majority are deprived of accessing to this education.
So, reviewing and working to find out new options are the demands of the day. With considering the fact, the Ministry of Education along with education experts of different schools is thinking over the issue how this ongoing crisis in education sector can be mitigated. In this line, physical reopening of the educational institutions is being considered as the priority.
Typically, the questions may be included as pertinent in the regard of reopening education physically that is it possible to back to our institutions with old normal? Can the old normal ensure safety for students and teachers at the institutions? Should we back to the educational premises discontinuing online education?
In regard to the above questions probably the answers will be “No”. Though it seems that the educational institutions may go on with double blows when reopening; one is likely to be the replacing of the old normal to the new ones and another is applying all those for the protection of the individuals.
No doubt, teachers will have enormous responsibilities to tackle the situation fairly well as the stewardship will be on their shoulders.
Another question is that why old normal should be discarded during the reopening? Old normal is allied with all odds inconvenient to tackle the crisis, rather there may be a chance of huge spread of the contagion if things not administered in a befitting way.
For example, lack of sitting arrangements with social distancing, ensuring healthy atmosphere in the class and enough protective equipment like masks and face shields for students and teachers can add more woes to the existing crisis. Along this, the students of primary schools will be more vulnerable than those studying colleges and universities as having the knowledge over cleanliness.
Despite hurdles many European and African countries in the world have reopened educational institutions with hard guidelines performed mandatorily to ensure maximum health safety of students and teachers. It is reported many times that many have become successful in reopening schools except a few countries who were blamed for lax enforcement of health guidelines in schools.
No matter, it is hoped that in someday the scientists of the countries will be able to produce the effective vaccine that will help guard lives but will it lessen the spread of infection? According to the WHO, the world free from virus infection may be prolonged.
Obviously, reopening educational institutions with new normal is expensive. It is also challenging to redesign the physical class model that is a must for containing the spread. Also online education should not be discontinued, rather online and physical class model should go on simultaneously.
It will be very imperative to ensure enough personal protective equipment for every individual at the institutions and students should be encouraged regarding ensuring their overall hygiene.
Maintaining safe school operations, social distancing and ensuring standard class size must be in vigilant. Apart from these, sanitizers and water with soap must be available at the entrance of every institution.
More importantly, UNESCO, UNICEF, WFP and World Bank did not go against the reopening of schools, rather went on with an effective guideline leading to the new normal for restoring student life.
Lastly, we are all concerned that prolonged closures of the educational institutions will be likely to exacerbate inequalities, deepen the learning crisis exposing a great despondency. So, it is time to review many alternatives getting twig to the new normal.
Alaul Alam: teaches at Prime University