Asad Islam (Monash University)
Hashibul Hassan (Monash University, Australia)
Abu Siddique (Technical University of Munich, Germany)
Liang Choon Wang (Monash University)
Educational institutions of the country are closed since 18 March 2020 to contract the spread of coronavirus, therefore, many institutes adopted online education measures to help address their educational challenges. However, online education is quite limited at the university level. Though some schools and colleges from the urban areas are using this pedagogical method, rural and suburban schools and colleges are left out due to the absence of sufficient IT infrastructure ecosystem. As an alternative to the online synchronous lectures, the government is using the public broadcasting organization to provide asynchronous education programs via television and radio to deliver education to children.
However, according to the multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS) 2019 published jointly by the government and UNICEF, only 43.9 and 0.6 per cent of the households have television and radio respectively at their house, which indicates the universal program for the school students are not accessible to most of the pupils. Whereas, according to the same report, 94.2 per cent of the households have at least one basic feature phone (mobile) at their house that can also be used in delivering education. But this mostly available and common household resource has not used yet rigorously during this unprecedented pandemic.
In this reality, a research team of Monash University, Australia lead by Professor Asad Islam is conducting an impact study of a very brief tele-mentoring program on the rural primary school pupils. The study is ongoing in the five Upazilas of South-West Bangladesh in association with Global Development and Research Initiative (GDRI). Hashibul Hassan, an assistant Professor of Jagannath University is coordinating the project.
In this project, current university students and recent graduates from 22 educational institutions are serving as a mentor for a maximum of two children over 13 weeks. The mentors are making a weekly 30-minute phone call at a pre-determined time of the day. As the children in this tele-mentoring program are primary graders, mentors mostly call, discuss and interact with the parents (mothers) to provide them with guidance and support. However, children accompany their parents during each mentoring session. The tele-discussion covers direct tutoring of mentee’s curriculum, weekly goal setting for the parents (involvement time, study target), parenting assistance (solving textbook problems, idea for better psychological, emotional and social involvement, mental health support, etc.), and general counselling. The mentors have been provided with all relevant textbooks and solutions (digital versions) and brief online training before the program begins. Besides direct mentoring, the parents also get regular text messages as a nudge to involve more in children’s education.
Upon program completion, the parents will be surveyed in January 2021 to understand their involvement in their children’s education and as well as their perception about parental engagement. Furthermore, the children will be assessed to measure their cognitive (literacy and numeracy) and non-cognitive (social preferences) outcomes using standardized tests.