China presents distance learning models in wake of COVID-19

Coronavirus in Pakistan

BEIJING: Large-scale, national efforts to boost remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic are emerging in Pakistan in education institutions across the country may remain closed till May 31.

Distance learning is no novelty to many. As confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan ticks over 4000, online learning returned to the limelight in the field of education.

Providers of online learning products and services offer valuable education resources when schools are closed. 

Gwadar Pro App, quoting Pakistan’s Ministry of Professional and Technical Training (MoFEPT), stated on Friday that free educational resources available online now includes Sabaq Foundation, Knowledge Platform, SABAQ, Taleemabad, Online Campus and International Online Platform.

On top of these platforms, the Internet is flooded with educational apps offering learning opportunities for students. Web-based school management softwares such as the Academic Institute Management System (AIMS) have a number of modules to conduct remote learning. 

As per AIMS’s official website, its functionality is fully integrated using a single, powerful and completely secure database on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model allowing operations where boundaries do not matter as long as there is a cellular coverage in the area.

However, some Pakistanis may not have easy access to Internet at any time. Provided that there is not sufficient available bandwidth, educational radio and television are feasible options.

According to Rapid response reference note: Remote Learning and COVID-19, a brief carried out by the World Bank on March 20, in many developing countries where broadband access to the Internet is not widely available or where online learning is simply not a viable option in the near term, the use of more traditional distance education approaches, such as educational radio and television, is potentially very relevant.

It was also mentioned in the report that Pakistan’s iron-clad friend China offers many potential models for policymakers to consider and learn from since different approaches to the use of online learning emerges at mass scale during the current COVID-19 outbreak in the country, representing a leading edge laboratory for experimentation and quick implementation that should be of relevant interest for policymakers around the world.

“China is in many ways unique in its ability and capacity to transition its schools quickly to online learning, given strong government support for the digitization of learning materials in the past, a comparatively high level of device ownership and broadband connectivity among learners, especially in richer, more urban areas of the countries,” said the report, adding experiences almost two decades ago under the SARS epidemic also helped.

With schools in China remaining closed due to the pandemic, China has launched a national cloud learning platform and started broadcasting primary school classes on public TV in February, so as to help millions of students who are restricted to homes “keep learning even with classes suspended”, according to China’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Also, China has launched an online program to help teachers in middle and primary schools and kindergartens improve their online teaching ability in March.

In light of nationwide school closure due to COVID-19, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood Wednesday announced that the education ministry in cooperation with the state-run PTV channel had launched an initiative called ‘Teleschool’ to disseminate SLO based educational content for Grade 1-12.

The channel would begin broadcasting educational programmes next week for students affected by the closure of education institutions amid the COVID-19 outbreak, said Shafqat Mehmood.


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