Online Education and Community Participation in Bangladesh: Challenges and Opportunities to Ensure Inclusive Learning During COVID-19 School Closure

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Online Education
and Community
Participation in
Bangladesh: Challenges
and Opportunities to
Ensure Inclusive Learning
During COVID-19
School Closure
Shamim Noor1 and Saharin Priya Shaoun1
Like most other countries around the world, after the emergence of the
COVID-19 pandemic, the education system in Bangladesh has gone through a
radical change from the beginning of March 2020 onwards. The study attempts
to analyse teachers’, students’ and parents’ perceptions and experiences about
the online education in the COVID-19 pandemic at the school level. To fulfil the
research objectives, the study selects some private schools (kindergarten to high
school) in the Chattogram District of Bangladesh. The study strongly advocates
for making the online classes more effective and inclusive for all. There is a need
to bring a strategic change from the course curriculum to the teaching pro-
cess and ensure an amalgamation of all types of interventions (online and offline
classes) for online learning activities through a unified policy direction.
Online education, community participation, COVID-19, inclusive learning,
Indian Journal of Public
67(4) 620–638, 2021
© 2021 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561211044531
1 Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Corresponding author:
Shamim Noor, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong,
Chattogram-4331, Bangladesh.
Noor and Shaoun 621
The worldwide pandemic COVID-19 has surged the largest breakage of educa-
tion systems in history which affected 1.58 billion children and young learners,
from pre-primary to higher education, in 200 countries (United Nations, 2020).
The immediate terminations of classes in every school and other distinguished
learning spaces have thrashed the learning processes of 94% of the world’s
student population eventually affecting 99% of them in low and lower-middle-
income countries (United Nations, 2020). Another study of UNICEF (2020)
shows that for at least 463 million children, whose schools were closed due to
COVID-19, did not get proper access to remote learning. 31% of school children
worldwide could not be reached through remote learning programmes, mainly
due to a lack of necessary household assets or policies pitched towards their
needs (UNICEF, 2020). Research has shown that although there are plenty of
plans to initiate online learning programmes during the pandemic, these are
mostly concentrated on small cases and not on a global crisis as it is happening
now with the COVID-19 situation, especially, in the countries which are not
well-equipped with technological facilities (Sintema, 2020).
Countries across the globe have introduced manifold solutions during the pan-
demic in continuation of the education process. Telecasting educational TV shows,
online libraries providing resources, video conferencing and online channels were
introduced in 96 countries (Basilaia & Kvavadze, 2020). More than half of the
children aged 5–17 who are attending schools are deprived of internet access in
countries such as Bangladesh, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan (Punjab),
Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe (UNICEF, 2020). The Government
of Bangladesh declared closures of all sorts of educational institutions from 17
March 2020 due to the malicious effects of the coronavirus (BRAC, 2020). In
Bangladesh, there are 38.6 million students, among whom 3.6 million students
are in pre-primary, 18 million in primary, 13 million in secondary and 4 million in
tertiary education (BANBEIS, 2018). The government commenced distant learn-
ing initiatives through Sangsad TV to continue the pace of learning for students
during the lockdown (UNDP, 2020). Initially, it was for the students of Class 6–10
and gradually extended to primary schools and Madrasas. Alternative mecha-
nisms were also introduced in some of the English-medium schools in urban areas
such as online classes through video conferencing apps (BRAC, 2020).
However, it has been assumed that community participation in any devel-
opment interventions ensures an effective and sustainable output for society.
During a pandemic situation, community peoples’ participation in education
might bring a positive outcome and students from different vulnerable posi-
tions will be connected with the education system through community-level
initiatives such as School Management Committees (SMCs), different social
volunteer groups and parents’ informal groups (UNDP, 2020). Several studies
showed that the quality of education has improved in schools due to these
community-based participation programmes and policies (Heneveld & Craig,
1996). Kendall’s (2007) study argued that the programmes and policies that
are designed to increase parental and community participation in online

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