Educational institutions in the country should reopen in phases as over 75 per cent of the primary and secondary-level students prefer going back to schools, according to a survey.
The survey showed at least 69.5 per cent of the primary and secondary-level students could not partake in distance learning for various reasons, including absence of digital devices and internet connections.
Besides, the majority of the respondents observed that dropout rate may increase significantly if reopening of schools is delayed further.
Findings of the survey styled School Education during Covid-19 Pandemic: Status, Response, Challenges and Prospects were presented at a virtual press briefing organised by Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) on Tuesday.
The survey was conducted under Education Watch Study 2020-2021 in the first phase of a two-part research programme.
CAMPE Executive Director Rasheda K Choudhury presided over the programme while it was addressed by Professor Emeritus of BRAC University and head of research of Education Watch Dr Manzoor Ahmed, Professor of Institute of Statistical Research and Training under University of Dhaka Dr Syed Shahadat Hossain, Convener of Education Watch Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, and CAMPE Programme Manager Md Mostafizur Rahaman.
In a presentation, Mr Rahaman said nearly 40 million students in the country are now out of school and subject to social, economic, emotional and health stresses besides learning loss.
Citing the survey, he said along with the 75 per cent of the students of primary and secondary schools, around 76 per cent of the parents are in favour of sending their children back to schools.
Besides, 82 per cent of the teachers interviewed in the survey emphasised ensuring proper health guidelines like mask wearing, hand sanitising and maintaining social distancing before resuming physical schooling activities.
Referring to nearly 69.5 per cent of the students being unable to partake in distance learning, he said 57.90 per cent of them do not have necessary devices and internet access while 16.50 per cent were not invited to such programmes.
However, around 62 per cent of the teachers opined that the syllabus of the students should be shortened in a bid to reduce education gaps caused by the pandemic and teaching the students more important topics first.
The survey was conducted on 2,992 respondents of which 1,709 were students of primary and secondary schools, 578 teachers, and 576 guardians.
In a five-point recommendation, CAMPE suggested reopening of schools in February in non-metropolitan areas and in March in metropolitan areas.
Reopening should be in phases, with higher classes - 10-12 in secondary level and 4-5 in primary level-in first phase and others in second phase comparing early experience.
Majority of the teachers, education officials, guardians and NGO activists think that dropout rate of students will increase with delays in school reopening, Mr Rahaman said.
Mrs Choudhury, also former adviser to a caretaker government, said the educational institutions should be opened considering the existing Covid-19 situation and the institution's capacity to maintain health guidelines.
The announcement of school reopening should be made soon so that enough preparations can be taken by school authorities and students to start schooling activities after a long gap, she said.
Calling for increasing budget allocation for education, she said additional funds are needed for the school authorities to properly maintain health guidelines in school and aware students of hand washing and mask wearing.
Schools in rural areas should be opened first in February as the spread of the disease is far lesser there, compared to congested city areas.