Distance learning an alternative education practice !

Distance learning an alternative education practice !

Covid-19 pandemic has changed the teaching and learning process. Online education and distance learning is evolved as a global education practice due to the COVID pandemic. COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on March 11 2020 by World Health Organization (WHO). Since then many countries announced lock down. Millions of students got locked down at places where they are. Nepal announced full lock down on 24th March. Prior to this, Government of Nepal announced cancellation of Secondary Education Examination (SEE). Board exams of class XI got suspended and class XII is postponed till another notice.

Along with many other sectors education sector is highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, industries, market and offices re-opened after 90 days lock down, education institutions are still under full shut down. Some private schools started Online Classes using Zoom, Google meet as supportive applications. Similarly, TV/Local Cable stations and radio/FM stations are also teaching students through live sessions as optional teaching method. These methods of teaching through different media are targeted for students of public school in the remote. But teaching students through optional method is a big challenge in our context. There is a large vacuum regarding facilities necessary for online and other distance learning medium. Internet, TV, radio, FM and mobile phones are basic services and devices to initiate online and distance education.

Table below shows percentage distribution of various facilities available in households.

Residence/FacilitiesRadioTelevisionComputerInternetTelephoneMobile PhoneCable Television

As per the table above only 3.4% of households have access to internet facility. Majority of household with access to internet facility is concentrated in urban centers. However, mobile phones are most common possession now day’s only 65.8% household in Nepal has mobile phones. Out of which 85% are urban and 61.2% are rural. Similarly only 19.7% households have access to cable TV, 7.4% have Computer and 51.7% have access to radio facility. (Population Monograph of Nepal, 2014, Vol III)

There are still many students who do not have access to any form of above mentioned media. Not just in the rural area, even urban dwellers have no access to modern gadgets. These data clarifies that online or distance learning is a big challenge in our context. Next, out of total students enrolled in various levels and school, only 26% students are in institutional schools. Currently, 74% students enrolled to public schools are unable to get proper education due to COVID pandemic. Besides most of the public schools are turned in to quarantine centers.

Child and Family Tracker survey by UNICEF Nepal shows that more than two-thirds of school children are deprived of distance learning. Only three out of 10 children have access to television, radio and Internet-based learning platforms. Among them, only 80 per cent of children use distance learning platforms for their learning activities. Survey further shows that poorer the household, the less likely it is that children can access or will use distance learning. The data shows that only five per cent of children in the poorest households have access to and use distance learning.

To overcome with the problem of education sector during pandemic Nepal government has developed COVID-19 Education Cluster Contingency Plan 2020 (ECCP). Three education-specific scenarios is anticipated by the ECCP in case of extended school closure; (i) up to mid-July, (ii) up to September 2020, and (iii) for the majority or entire duration of the 2020-21 academic year.

Table below developed by ECCP shows a projection of affected children i.e. how many children will be affected or will be in need of support.


LevelAffected populationProjected increase in drop-out (in the three scenarios) #colspan#Children with internet accessChildren with access to mediaChildren with no access to mediaChildren most vulnerable/ at risk
3-4 years (ECED/PPE) 97390077912194780292170128044474102280080129599
5-9 years (Grade 1-5) 3672155282737706843106026446286917897171078690468202
10-12 years (grade 6-8) 1820943160700401751602626233073886417523772207304
13-14 years (grade 9-10) 10275123359383983125974132151500890294331119862
15-16 years (grade 11-12) 6315362023750593758898325730714318108670123
Total 812604657517914379492156923109339439582702357959995090

Table above shows an alarming picture of school level education. If entire duration of the 2020-21 academic years is lost, number of drop-out students will be more than 2.15 million. Similarly, 8.12 million children will be affected due to school closure. Specially, many girls will discontinue education. In the past few years Nepal has gained a lot of praise for high enrollment of new students, especially girls, to schools. The challenge still remains. COVID-19 pandemic has added more challenge to enrollment of new students to school and dropout rate is projected to increase due to school closure.

Remote Learning Reachability Report published by UNICEF urges governments to prioritize the safe re-opening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions. When reopening is not possible, UNICEF urges governments to incorporate compensatory learning for lost instructional time into school continuity and reopening plans. School opening policies and practices must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalized groups. Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.