Students said their interest in studies was affected so

Yangchen C Rinzin

Zhemgang reported the highest number of students having difficulty in learning online last year where Classes PP-VIII remained closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The entire academic was conducted online.

The reasons given by the dzongkhag administration were poor and weak mobile network coverage, including the issues with phone storage, which did not support Google Classroom.

This was according to the education in emergency (EIE) during the Covid-19 report prepared by the education ministry.

The study covers all the dzongkhags and thromdes, schools, early childhood care and developments, non-formal educations, learners, teachers, school principals, and parent representatives.

The pandemic situation forced children to stay indoors and discouraged interactive and physical contact with others last year.

The findings from the students revealed that more than 80 percent of the students agreed that they had at least learnt something through online lessons. However, many said that online teaching and learning was a serious challenge.    

Many shared that poor and expensive internet connectivity was the biggest challenge.

The Education Monitoring Division (EMD) of the education ministry who conducted the study recommended improvement of internet connectivity to ensure access, efficient and effective online learning.

“The study concludes that the students still relied more on teachers than on parents for their educational advancement,” the report stated. “Some students hadn’t interacted and communicated with their teachers during the online teaching.”

The study revealed that most of the students clarified their doubts by meeting their teachers during mobile/cluster teaching/home visits, while others could clarify their doubts online.

The study aimed to study the implementation of EIE during the pandemic by examining the effectiveness and challenges, among others, stated that in extreme cases, teachers had to provide data recharge to those students who were financially disadvantaged.

“It was apparent from the study that only minimal students were not able to receive support from teachers due to geographical location, lack of amenities including smartphone, network shadow, and students away from their homes,” the report.

In some cases, teachers could not assess students’ work due to its geographical location, lack of facilities including smartphones, poor network connectivity, and students away from their homes.

Students of Classes PP-VIII were promoted based on the assessment last year.

Based on the students’ opinion on school closure, the report revealed that almost 80 percent of the students reported that their interest in studies was affected as a result of school closure.

Students who participated in the survey said that they were excited to return to school.

Although data revealed that 91.95 percent of the parents observed their children interacting with teachers frequently, they did not find this effective. The majority of the parents shared that normal contact teaching is more effective.

More than 70 percent of parents shared that EIE was challenging.

“Parents also expressed that online teaching can never be able to replace contact teaching in terms of effectiveness,” the report stated.

The study also found that more than 50 percent of students did not avail the 60 percent special data package provided by the government because they were not aware of such services.

Those who availed pointed out limitations such as inconvenient timing and quick data exhaustion.

The report concluded that “60% discount data services” was of not much help for students. The report recommended the need to review data package provisions for teachers and students, including training on online learning for students.

It was reported that 119,772 students used social media App such as WeChat, Telegram, WhatsApp and Messenger to access lessons. A total of 88,118 students accessed lessons through television; 60,507 students accessed through Google Classroom.

Some of the key challenges faced by the teachers, students, and parents during the implementation of EIE programmes were lack of students’ co-operation, poor financial status, lack of devices, distractions such as online games and household chores, and online lessons not being suitable for pre-primary students.

“Announcements deliberated by the concerned authority stating that online lessons were only for mere engagement rather than formal learning also discouraged students from studying,” the report found. “Many illiterate parents were not able to help their children, and some parents opted to make their children repeat.”

While it was challenging for many, EIE reportedly opened opportunities for increased interactions between parents and their children, enhancing bond and trust between them, according to the respondents.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk