According to the Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr. Tariq Banuri, HEC is working on different strategies to resume academic activities online for students countrywide affected by the closure of institutions in Pakistan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Face-to-face teaching is halted at all educational institutions across the globe after the Coronavirus pandemic. Countries with resources and capacity have opted for the online education system. Pakistan should move towards online classes until circumstances become normal in line with the approach the developed countries have opted for during the current situation. Coronavirus has badly affected the education system not only in Pakistan but across the globe”. Said Dr.Tariq Banuri
On Thursday, the federal government announced that education institutions across Pakistan would remain closed till May 31. The government also announced that the closure would be treated as summer vacations and if the coronavirus outbreak was dealt with in the meantime, the institutions would reopen in June.
Agreement with the Telecom Companies
Dr. Banuri said that HEC has already inked an agreement with telecom companies to offer special data bundles for students, especially those living in distant areas, at affordable prices.
Regarding poor or no connectivity in remote areas, Dr. Banuri said that government and telecom companies are addressing these issues step by step.
Relief for Underprivileged Students
Universities have been directed to provide HEC with the data of students, who due to absence of a smartphone could not attend the online classes or get their hands on any of the educational materials due to unaffordability. HEC is working over to arrange phones for such students in order that they might not miss out.
Implementing Learning Management Systems (LMS)
Initially during the lockdown, HEC has been instituting a Technical Support Committee (TSC) to help universities’ staff adapt to the online mode of education.
In order to maintain and not compromise quality education standards and protocols, HEC has asked all universities which have well-built Learning Management Systems (LMS) to initiate online classes, according to an official notification.
Moreover, universities facing technological, technical, or spatial limitations can remain closed for academic activities till 31 May 2020 and mark the said period as summer vacation, HEC has clarified.
In the meantime, these universities shall make arrangements for conducting online classes in case the closure is extended because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the notification stated.
Such universities shall plan, acquire, train, and shall be able to execute an LMS from June 01, 2010, so that ongoing semester could resume even in an eventuality of the extended closure of universities.
In the coming weeks, HEC will also set up a National Knowledge Bank (NKB) aiming to provide students and teachers access to a wide variety of academic resources.
The commission has tasked National Academy for Higher Education (NAHE) to recommend online tutorials to increase the skills of the teachers imparting online education.