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Online Education in Pakistan; COVID-19 and Beyond

Since its outburst in the late December 2019, COVID-19 has inflicted across the world and like any vital sectors education sectors and system affected or has been suffered students, colleges, universities have been deeply impacted according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over 800 million learners from around the world have been affected 1 in 5 learners cannot attend school 1 in 4 cannot attend higher education classes, and over 102 countries have ordered nationwide school closures while 11 have implemented localized school closure. Pakistan also ordered closures of school all over Pakistan and approached online system or turns online education in Pakistan into TV during COVID-19 in response to the unpredictable dieses thanks to that Pakistan quickly deployed the federal program Teleschool for Pakistan students, and the provincial program Taleem  Ghar for students in Punjab. Although during COVID-19 Pakistani students suffered multiple problems because of poor technology developments and worst services of state. The pandemic affected more than 30 million children in Pakistan approximately 12 million children in Punjab according to World Bank survey one million children drop out of primary and secondary school. With the existence of these problems Pakistan ministry of Federal Education try to find a better solution for the online academics system.

Online Education in Pakistan

Since inception Pakistan fellow the traditional educational system but in 1974 Pakistan was initiated first mega distance learning project was started with established of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU). As the demand for information technology- based education at universities increased the government of Pakistan took a step toward introducing ICT R&D fund was established with the aim of “education for all” and lifelong learning. In 2002, the establishment of the HEC led many universities in Pakistan to facilitate higher education. To further design and implement policies for the promotions, improvement, and evaluation of higher education in Pakistan HEC initiated and sponsored many projects such as E- learning, a digital library program, the Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN), the Pakistan Research Repository (PRR), and a campus management system. And also tried to approach distance learning, also called distance education, e- learning, and online education in Pakistan learning is a form of education in which the main elements include physical separation of teachers and students during instruction and use of multiple technologies to provide better facilities students- teacher and student- student communication through technologies because of COVID- 19 and also emerging concept to switched from traditional education system to the modern system and element distance barrier. It is growth is one the supreme energetically mounting areas of education. Despite its rapid growth across the globe, there is a large bridge to cross between developed and developing countries.

In Pakistan to analyze the challenges for online education in Pakistan is learning particularly during recent world pandemic Pakistan education system and all stakeholders, which include students, faculty, education institutions regulatory bodies and the government. The challenges being faced by all of them collectively are multi-faceted and can be broadly classified as societal, technical and regulatory, yet the online education system has potential to turn Pakistan into a literate nation.

Pakistan Turn Education to TV during COVID-19

A tele-education channel was launched by prime Minister of Pakistan Imran khan to keep the students associated with their education through dedicated lectures for class Ⅰ to Ⅻ. This initiative took a lot of effort from the quarters and must be appreciated at all times as it will have far-reaching implications in the times to come for the education of our young students. The dedicated TV channel, tele school, would be available on satellite, terrestrial and cable networks so that it would be accessible to most parts of the country, including hard to reach remote areas, ensuring equity in learning. Challenges was faced during COVID- 19 coordinating across multiple players has been challenging, since institutional planning involved almost ten different stakeholders within and outside the government. There has been limited student engagement, requiring continuous innovation especially for areas with historic low educational outcomes. Assessing impact on student learning has also been difficult given the limitations of education TV. Beside these challenges another challenge was the related to behaviors and societal limitations and lake of acceptance for online education by students and general suspicion of elders regarding online education system similarly lack of individual space at home homes in joint family systems, i.e. for families where parents and children both need to work and study from home respectively and the unfriendly atmosphere is a serious challenge. Moreover, our non- disciplined lifestyle and lack of focus during e- learning further the students from taking online classes. While the less attention span for online learning is a reality, people’s shyness from e –learning and being camera consciousness are also practical issues being faced by both the students and teachers. One of the biggest challenges for instructors is the technical skill required to deal with e- learning systems. Instructors are required to develop and restructure their courses in a way that suits online requirements, which ultimately increases their workload, as they need to work not only on course development but on the proficiency or acquisitions of their technical skills. Hence, they may resist this new technology that may hinder the potential of e learning. University teachers in distance learning programs mediated by learning management system may face more challenges such as communication and collaboration with isolated students, as well as difficulty in assessing students especially during their final project vivas and presentations. Teachers would need to change their way of conducting or marking exam papers. Students also face issues regarding e- learning systems. Researchers have argued online courses are successful when the students are involved and active participants. Students may find it difficult to study on-screen material, as they are accustomed to the methods of paper-based readings. Another problem faced by students is social isolation from instructors and peers, especially in distance learning programs. There are eight identifiable barriers to students learning in an online context: administrative issues, social interaction, academic skills, technical skills, learner motivation, time and support for studies, cost and access to the internet, and technical knowledge.

Technological issues

The list of technical challenges is not long enough. Yet, the first issues is the unavailability of the internet in remote areas which makes the students living in those areas unable to get benefit from online education. The bandwidth limitations across the country, with only a few exceptions, when combined with the increased usage burden on feeble internet infrastructure, add to the misery of most of the students. Another challenge is the expensive high- speed internet. The digital infrastructure is underdeveloped in Pakistan.

Lack of policy

Another set of challenges pertains to the government and the regulatory side. As the primary responsibility of ensuring quality education lies on the shoulders of the government, the absence of a pre-defined policy for online learning is the government’s fault. To exacerbate the situation, the government and regulatory bodies do not seem to be on the same page. For instance, the government ministry issued the notification for the closure of universities after the outbreak, while the regulatory body encouraged initiating online classes. This dilemma is causing immense trouble for the students at large. Although guidance informs of prerequisites were provided yet a policy and its implementation is a challenge that need to be sorted out.

Opportunities

Firstly, it is high time to see opportunities in these challenging times. For a paradigm shift from traditional teaching towards inclusively effective and equitable e-learning, due to socio-economic conditions, a large number of students still avoids schools; e-learning may involve them in studies. This initiative could promote primary education and focus on the Tele school has the potential to reach those out-of-school children (OOSC), as this channel is available online on YouTube and available on TV. It would help promote education in remote. Since in remote areas the Internet is not available yet they have access to TV.

COVID-19 is a paradigm shift in education system transformed from traditional to modern education system from blackboard to multimedia and provide equal opportunities to all or promoted distance learning although it has its challenges in country like Pakistan because of poor technological infrastructure or lack of policy regarding online education system. Beside these problems but state strived hard to tackle with these issues due to Tele school was initiated by Prime Minister Imran khan and the outcome was to good it will decrease the illiteracy rate in the country.

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Rohuddin Malikzada
Rohuddin who's an Afghan national studied from School of politics and international relations Quaid e azam university, Islamabad and writes on history and current affairs.

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