When blended education system is a must to keep pace with upcoming 4th industrial revolution, it is a major challenge for Bangladesh to make advanced technologies economically accessible for all. "In today's world, blended learning is a recognized and advanced way of education.
So, we need to embrace blended learning to cope with the ever-changing world. But we have to make advanced technologies economically accessible for all," educationist Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique told BSS. He added: "We will have to face some challenges to make blended learning successful in a developing country like Bangladesh. One of the foremost challenges is economic." "It's true that we have marched forward a lot in the field of technology. It's not like that we have crisis of technology. But the majority of people in Bangladesh especially in rural areas can't afford high-end technology," he said.
Prof Arefin, also former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, said Bangladesh has already entered the era of the most advanced 5G network technology. To make the 5G technology economically accessible for all, the government will have to ensure required facilities for the people of all classes and areas, he mentioned. He suggested making required technological equipment and internet facilities free for students.
"As much as we can make the education sector free, we will be able to increase the access. That is why Bangabandhu had made primary education free for students at the very beginning of Bangladesh when apparently the state treasury was almost zero," he said. Prof Arefin, also chairman of the board of directors of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, said now Bangladesh's forex reserve and assets have increased hugely. "So, we need to provide such incentives and support in the education sector," he said.
He said if the internet and technological facilities cannot be made free right now, at least separate discount rate should be fixed for students to increase their access in blended learning. a2i's Future of Learning Team is also working to promote blended learning in the country. In this regard, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni has said the government is focusing on blended education system to maintain pace with the upcoming 4th industrial revolution.
"Bangladesh is marching towards fourth industrial revolution.
We missed out the 1st three industrial revolutions and now we have to be a part of the 4th industrial revolution and we cannot miss out on this one," she said this at a recent webinar on blended learning. Dipu said there is the opportunity of demographic dividends that "We must utilize, and for that we also have a very narrow window of opportunity left. So given all these factors, we have to go ahead for blended education."
Mentioning the horrible situation of Covid-19 pandemic the education minister said: "We couldn't do a face to face or classroom teaching at all, but we switched. We switched very quickly to all kinds of modalities, whether it was television, internet, radio, even mobile phones and no tech options as well giving assignments and paper based assignments.'
Dipu said unless the country is digitally advanced today, it has not been possible to continue the educational activities during the Covid-19 pandemic. She said the government used all kinds of modalities as the national aspirations and its global commitments are the 2030 agenda SDGs, Digital Bangladesh agenda and being a developed country by 2041.
"We learned a lot of lessons in the last 18 months or so and we now understand that we cannot go back to the old ways. We have to utilize all the resources that we have and in order to ensure that a blended learning System is required," she said. But she reminded the fact that these are very important issues for everyone, but especially for a country like Bangladesh which is still at a stage of development where "we have diverse needs, diverse needs of diverse environments, diverse population needs, different economic data and all that."
"So we need to be inclusive and we need to allow whole development vision," she mentioned.Dipu said: "We are trying to ensure a blended learning system, is inclusive for all. Because, firstly learning takes place in schools but it can also take place at home and in communities."
A blended learning system should take into account all these three environments and innovations which are needed to introduce in all three forms of technological modalities- high tech, low tech, even no tech, she added.For students with no access to technologies, there has to be alternatives on how learning opportunities can be created in their homes and communities as well, she said.
She said even with students who have access to high tech, it does not mean that they would always be learning from the screen and they should need a healthy blend of high tech, low tech and no tech opportunities.Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury said blended learning programme has already been introduced at public and private levels with the cooperation of ad-tech institutions. "
There are various challenges in implementing blended learning particularly in primary level. Lack of teachers, lax of technological knowledge of teachers and lack of adequate resources are among those challenges," he mentioned. He sought all-out cooperation from all for making required infrastructural development as well as ensuring devices cost-effective and available, connectivity and content and learning management system (LMS).