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Technical Issues Hamper Distance Learning for Lebanese Students

Technical Issues Hamper Distance Learning for Lebanese Students

Thursday, 19 March, 2020 - 11:45
A worker cleans a classroom desk of a school closed as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus in Sidon, Lebanon February 29, 2020. (Reuters)

Decisions issued by the Lebanese government to close schools imposed a forced indefinite holiday on more than one million students, prompting authorities to consider alternatives.

During a recent Cabinet session, ministers discussed the launching of distance teaching, in cooperation between the ministries of education, communications and media, including the production of television programs and modern interactive methods between teachers and students within educational classes that would be broadcasted on Lebanon’s state-owned TV channel, just as it was during the civil war in the 1970s.

The decision to close schools was accompanied by a circular on the adoption of distance education through social media technologies. The Educational Emergency Committee also announced, on more than one occasion, that the official examinations for the secondary school certificate would be held this year, ruling out any proposal on their cancellation.

However, the plans of the Ministry of Education collide with the technological reality in Lebanon.

Karim Zarzour, a specialist in this field, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the internet in Lebanon does not meet the need for distance education, saying that the Ministry of Communications has increased the capacity of use without improving its quality.

He added that the Education Ministry’s plans would work for a group of students, but others, especially in public schools, would be excluded. This would cause stratification among students, Zarzour said, noting that a large percentage of them does not have a smartphone, tablet or computer.

While the distance learning level converges between public and private schools, free schools suffer from a difficult situation that prevents them from being able to cope with this educational emergency, because their students are often from underprivileged and semi-destitute groups.

This means that the Education Ministry’s efforts to compensate for the forced school closure will face many difficulties, as the technical ground is not ready in terms of resources and equipment, just as the educational curricula are not interactive.

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