PolliPathshala: An effective e-learning platform for the rural area’s students

Bangladesh is a relatively small agriculture-dominated country of 147,570 km2 with a huge the population of about 160 million and an active workforce of 73.9 million (67% of people of the workable population is between 15 and 59 years with an adult literacy rate of 61%). The country enjoys a demographic dividend as the youth constitutes one-third of the total population and thus represents a development priority agenda for the Government of Bangladesh. Although unemployment in the country is low (4.30% in 2014), the rate of underemployment is quite high (28.7%). Substantial underemployment exists in rural areas, home to around 80% of the total population, as well as in urban areas; and it is higher for females than for males [1].

According to Bangladeshi government statistics, 38 percent of secondary students dropped out in 2016, 42 percent of the females and 34 percent males [2]. The major causes behind the dropouts are financial difficulties and to support their family financially. A large number of dropout students are moved to the abroad for work.

With a total of 7.5 million Bangladeshis living abroad, the country has ranked sixth among the top 20 countries of origin for international migrants. Every year, around half millions of Bangladeshis, leave the country to work abroad. Bangladesh's economy depends on the emigrants' remittances. Bangladeshis often face quite harsh working conditions and inhumane treatment at their respective destinations. Male migrants are employed in the construction industry and in informal business services, such as cleaning, driving, or tailoring. They also work in manufacturing, agriculture, and retail. Women are employed as housemaids in private homes or cleaners in public buildings and offices [3].

Most of the labor migrants from Bangladesh who work in the abroad are unskilled or low-qualified with poor communicative skills. Bangladesh has been ranked 71 in the latest edition of an English proficiency index and it has also fared low regionally. With some basic computer’s skills and English communication proficiency, they can have better sustainable work for them in abroad.

There is increasing concern among national and international development on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education. About 54 percent of respondent teachers think they are skilled in computer operating. However, the classroom observation data show that 42 percent of teachers are skilled, 47 percent are moderately skilled and only 3 percent of teachers are not skilled in computer operating.

Education is the basic need for the socio-economic transformation and the advancement of a country. It is the prime ingredient of human resource development. Current global discussions focusing on the use of a computer from all sections of the society should have the chance to share effectively in the education system. When Information and Communication Technology (ICT) practiced in schools, this system influences children’s lives by shaping their perceptions and conceptions, values and ideas and guiding them along the path of cultural development and assisting them to become world citizens.

Bangladesh has come a long way in achieving education for all, now it’s time to achieve ‘quality education for all’. Schools worldwide are achieving better education results through the effective use of ICT to complement, to support and, at times, to change the teaching and learning process. The use of technology in the field of education is becoming indispensable worldwide.

The rural students are underprivileged to acquire ICT skills compared with the urban due to some technological limitation and financial binding. In the case of a rural girl’s students, the situation is worse.

Knowledge has become the currency for the future. The ‘Anytime, Anywhere and by Anyone ‘nature of e-learning makes it an attractive tool for dissemination of skills and knowledge of the developed countries to the developing countries. It could also be useful for the portion of the population in a developing country, which cannot enroll in the formal educational programs.

In the case of Bangladesh, the teaching resources are also very limited. Compared to the number of students, the number of teachers is really very small. In this situation, E-learning could be a very effective way to deliver quality learning-materials to all the learners. When illiteracy is one of the major issues in Bangladesh and the goal of 'Education for All' is being vigorously pursued, employment of E-Learning could be a good solution for attracting the learners for ensuring attendance in the primary and secondary schools. While attracting the learners is necessary mainly for the primary level; for secondary and tertiary level, E-Learning is sometimes more than necessary to ensure the quality of education.

The effectiveness of using e-learning tools in the classroom has been studied and proved time and time again. Information technology is capable of capturing a student's attention through a visual representation of concepts taught, sounds, moving pictures as well as interactive activities. Educational institutions today understand this and are already making use of this functional medium in various aspects of their day-to-day activities. From classroom teaching, assigning homework, assessing students and delivering results, technology, and more importantly the internet, is being embedded into the very core of the educational system. In Bangladesh, however, the use of the internet among students is limited to social networking and entertainment. The reason being, lack of appropriate content from the field of education and absence of research-based activities and assignments from schools. Inquisitive students often feel lost in the humongous sea of information available on the internet. If they could find something that was close to their school syllabus, they could find it useful and relevant to them [4].

In the age of rapid technological advancement, some vital skills of technologies our students should acquire from school to cope with the next industrial revolution.

To implement such curriculum in addition to the existing curriculum with the availability of e-learning facilities a holistic strategical approach is required. There are some massive challenges is waiting to implement such skill-based curriculum. The teaching-learning process, environment, resource, teacher, assessment and overall curriculum must be reshaped. More precisely we need to focus on three most prioritized courses of action which are formative assessment along with interactive teaching-learning method, self-motivated and well-trained teachers, and visionary educational leaders to ensure quality education.

There is a need to develop class-based and subject-based quality learning materials (including self-learning & subsidiary materials) for both teachers and students.

Due to inadequate knowledge on how to use ICT devices on education, most of the teachers are often less motivated to use them. ICT capacity development of teachers, trainers, curriculum developers, and education managers needs to be improved through the training of the teachers and awareness.

Students, teachers and guardians are not aware of educational portals and digital content. Students and parents should be guided in the appropriate use of technology.

Compared to urban areas in semi-urban and rural areas teaching strategies, physical structures of education institutions and internet connections are not adequate. Proper utilization of e-learning facilities and internet connection is required in the rural areas to reduce the educational quality discrepancy between rural educational institutions with an urban educational system.

Considering these aforementioned issues Alo Bhubon Trust initiated its project on education named “PolliPathshala” to promote e-learning facilities within the school of the rural area and to diminish educational quality discrimination between rural and urban educational system. The founder chairman of Alo Bhubon Trust Prof. Dr Golam Abu Zakaria has a long history of working in the education sectors of rural areas such as the development of primary and secondary school since 1999.

In continuation of these activities, Alo Bhubon Trust has taken the initiative to conduct various educational activities through online courses titled “PalliPathshala” with the aim of imparting vocational education to the students and training of teachers on online education activities. These include:

1. NCTB Syllabus based teaching

2. English speaking course

3. ICT and freelancing course

4. Technical education

5. Health and environmental awareness education etc.

 

The ultimate objectives of “PolliPathshala” is the establishment of entrepreneurship using the resource in the underprivileged remote areas through identity and developing skilled manpower, to compete in the real globalized world.

References:

1.      Mannan, M A. E-LEARNING IN BANGLADESH: COUNTRY REPORT. www.academia.edu/16071687/E-LEARNING_IN_BANGLADESH_COUNTRY_REPORT.

2.      Report, Star Online. “'38.3 % Secondary Students Drop out in 2016'.” The Daily Star, 21 May 2017, www.thedailystar.net/country/38-percent-secondary-students-drop-out-2016-bangladesh-education-banbeis-report-1408615.

3.      Benjamin Etzold, Bishawjit Mallick. “International Migration from Bangladesh - Country Profile Bangladesh - Migration.” Bpb.de, Bundeszentrale Für Politische Bildung, 29 Nov. 2015, www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/laenderprofile/216104/international-migration-from-bangladesh.

 

Akhter, Nahid. “E-Learning in Bangladesh.” The Daily Star, 27 Jan. 2011, www.thedailystar.net/news-detail-171765