With no guidelines for home-based learning, newly-enrolled college students left to their own devices

December 03, 2020

After the closure of educational institutions during the second wave of Covid-19, the college education department of Sindh seems to have no solid plan to shift classes online or issue guidelines...

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After the closure of educational institutions during the second wave of Covid-19, the college education department of Sindh seems to have no solid plan to shift classes online or issue guidelines for distance learning, due to which the studies of half a million college students have been affected.

Last month, after the inter-provincial education ministers’ meeting held on November 23, Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood had announced that from November 26 till December 24, all universities, colleges, public and private schools, tuition centers and madrasas would be closed while the educational institutions would observe winter holidays from December 25, 2020, till January 10, 2021.

Following the federal government’s decision, the Sindh government also announced the closure of schools, colleges and varsities by issuing a notification on November 25. The following day, the school education and literacy department, the Sindh Education Foundation and the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan issued guidelines for tele-learning, home-based assignments and online classes so that educational activities could be continued during the lockdown.

However, the college education department has neither introduced any guidelines nor informed the recently-enrolled students about how they should continue with their studies.

“This year, the newly-enrolled students in colleges were promoted without exams while there is uncertainty regarding when they will start their studies,” said Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association Spokesperson Prof Aziz Memon, adding that not only the students but also the teachers seemed anxious about the completion of courses in the ongoing academic year.

He said almost all the state-run colleges did not have enough resources to go online. Due to an acute shortage of funds, the faculty members also could not record lectures and upload them for a massive population of students enrolled in government colleges, he added. Despite the fact that the college education department had tried to develop a YouTube channel during the first wave of the pandemic but its result was a failure. The lectures uploaded on the YouTube channel were without sequence and order and it was almost hard for the students to finds lectures. Moreover, the teachers were also not trained in recording lectures.

Meanwhile, many students also do not have access to the internet. In some cases, parents do not allow their children to use the internet, smartphones and computers and resultantly, students are not tech-friendly, Prof Memon remarked.

He added that online teaching would also not solve all the problems even if the students and teachers both had overcome the abovementioned hurdles because the level of understanding the students is different from each other and online teaching cannot meet the demand of different students.

He said the college education department should have issued complete guidelines for distance learning or home-based learning.

When The News tried to know the reasons why the college education department was not issuing even simple guidelines for home-based learning, the relevant officials such as the media coordinator were not ready to comment.

However, one of the senior officers employed at the Regional Directorate of Colleges Karachi said the department had assigned junior staffers to run a YouTube channel for online learning. He, however, agreed that such incomplete initiatives were not enough to address the problems of half a million students and reduce their educational losses in the current pandemic wave.

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