Drastic changes are taking place in several aspects of life as the world tries to rebuild itself in the aftermath of the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic. Be it daily interactions, sports, traveling, conducting of business, or more, the coronavirus has altered, or greatly affected, the world around us and almost everything it entails.
Education is also a key area that has been influenced by the spread of the virus around the globe. Restrictions to in-person meetings meant that educational institutions everywhere had to consider alternates to ensure pedagogical continuity – the shift to online platforms was, in this regard, deemed as the most viable option.
Although the move was believed to have paid off to a great extent in the developed part of the world, for countries like Pakistan—where the digital divide is immense—this shift, unfortunately, brought with it several challenges that the education system, and the several million who are associated with it one way or the other, had absolutely not anticipated.
In order to discuss some of the key issues that the country faced with regard to its shift to online education, the social enterprise, Science Fuse organized a webinar titled, “Digital Divide in Pakistan.”
Moderated by Orenda and Taleemabad Co-founder Haroon Yasin, the webinar focused on the impact of the switch from traditional means of education to online platforms on the country’s student-body, specifically with regard to Pakistan’s female internet users.
A number of shortcomings based on the shift to digital education were identified during the webinar along with several viable solutions to counter the challenges.
Massive disparity in terms of internet accessibility in different parts of the country was discussed among the major setbacks that the education system faced in its hope of moving to the online sphere.
During the discussion, Mechanism for Rational Change (MERC) Director Sumera Mehboob pointed out the acute lack of smart gadgets in most Baloch households as well as the stigma associated with the use of digital technology devices by females students.
Innovate Educate Inspire (IEI) Founder Marvi Soomro expressed her disappointment, particularly mentioning Gilgit-Baltistan among the areas that had suffered the most due to the unavailability of stable internet in the region.
Likewise, Senior Advisor to The Citizens Foundation, Nadia Naviwala mentioned that the teachers’ lack of access to online education platforms as well as their lack of skills that cater to the needs of online teaching are massive hindrances in the education system’s quest to go digital.
In the same realm, Roohullah Gulzari, Manager Ilm Exchange, CERP, believed that the curriculum being taught by educational institutions across the country was not well aligned with the different online platforms that were being used for its dissemination. He also emphasized the need for conventional teaching methodologies to adapt in the face of the shift to digital.
Offering solutions to the digital divide in Pakistan, Education Advisor at the Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training Pakistan Umbreen Arif shared that the the government was focusing on enhancing and improving the tele-school programs it had launched in the aftermath of the nationwide schools closures.
She also shared that the government had received technical support from ed-tech companies whereas The World Bank had also provided funding worth USD 2 million in this regard.
Editor of the Pakistan desk at Arab News, Mehreen Zahra-Malik, along with Google Community Manager for South Asia, Saad Hamid stressed the need for greater support for ed-tech companies that were using their meager resources to support the government and educational institutions to ensure the continuity of learning for millions of Pakistani students across the country.
Through its webinar series, Science Fuse aims to bring to light the issues surrounding girls’ education across the country along with attempting to focus on pragmatic and feasible solutions to the highlighted problems.
In the upcoming webinars, more emphasis will be placed upon discussing the problems faced by female students across Pakistan, as experts and stakeholders from diverse sectors will share important insights regarding socio-cultural and economic dynamics affecting the education of girls in the country.
The next webinar in the series is due to take place on Monday, August 31st and will be streamed live on the official Facebook page of Science Fuse.
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