October 3, 2023, 11:16 am

Staff Correspondent

2021-11-12 21:45:34 BdST

PM urges UNESCO to declare online and remote leaning as public good  

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday asked UNESCO to declare remote learning and online education as a global public good as these are creating a new divide. 

“I also call upon UNESCO to work as a matter of priority with Governments, private sectors and other stakeholders to rally partnership and resources to make this happen,” she said while delivering her speech at the 41st General Conference of UNESCO held at its Headquarters here.

The Prime Minister said the pandemic has undermined the hard-earned achievements while it has revealed a major fault line in the education system.

According to UNESCO, close to half of the world's students are affected by partial or full school closures, she said.

“Online education evolved as a “new normal” during the pandemic. Yet, it also exposed a new divide,” she added.

In this connection, Sheikh Hasina said the advanced countries could swiftly move to online platforms. But the developing countries and LDCs were pushed further behind due to a lack of resources and technologies. “This has jeopardized our decades of gains in school enrollment, literacy rate and learning of youth and adults,” she observed.

While digitisation has enhanced better services and free flow of information, all are worried by the misuse of digital tools and platforms for spreading harmful content and hate speech, she said.

“This has a significant negative impact on the peace and stability of the society. World bodies like UNESCO should work for addressing this issue,” said the PM.

Talking about climate change, she said this is a life-threatening reality not only for Bangladesh but also for many other countries of the world.

“As a leading voice for climate-vulnerable countries, we have embarked on ambitious climate commitments. We have cancelled 10 coal-based power plants worth USD 12b of foreign investments and we hope the countries that are much more responsible for global warming will fulfil their commitments to address climate change impacts,” she added.

The Prime minister urged UNESCO to put greater emphasis on climate education and support member states to provide technical assistance to raise greater awareness and sensitivities to climate challenges.

“Faster pace of global warming has affected our ocean environment. This calls for urgent scientific research and knowledge,” she said.

As a coastal and a frontline country within the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), Bangladesh has initiated measures for a nature-based solution, she added.

“We would like to see a stronger presence of IOC in our region,” said the Prime Minister.

She said the success of UNESCO largely depends on its impact on improving the lives of the people. “As we are passing through a difficult time, the need for a strong, dynamic, innovative multilateral organization is felt more than ever before. Bangladesh is ready to work closely with UNESCO in its endeavour to ‘construct the defences of peace’,” she said adding that UNESCO has been a true friend of Bangladesh.

She said ‘Martyrs Day’, the 21st February, marking the great sacrifice for establishing Bangla as the state language, was recognized as the International Mother Language Day.

“We are also grateful for inscribing the historic 7th March speech of the Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register,” she said.

“Globally we promote the concept of culture of peace- a concept which anchors on the values of tolerance, respect and compassion,” said Sheikh Hasina.

She termed education as the basic human right and it is the most important foundation for the development of human society.

“Therefore, in Bangladesh, we have made a targeted approach to education. With concrete policy interventions, we have made significant progress in enrolment in primary education, gender parity in primary and secondary education and girls’ education,” she said.

Likewise, we have modernized faith-based education by addressing the practical need for the future work world. We are providing mother language-based education for the citizens of ethnic groups, she went on.

Around 83,000 schools in the country have been provided with ICT devices. About 327, 000 teachers have been given training, said the PM.

She said the government has been distributing free textbooks to all students up to secondary levels since 2010. This year the government distributed about 400 million free textbooks.

“Teachers have been vaccinated on a priority basis. As we have opened our schools with improvement in Covid situation, we are vaccinating students from age 12 on priority basis,” said Sheikh Hasina.

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