News report:

Tehran (IP) - Iran's Government has taken urgent measures to protect the health and safety of more than 15 million school students, 4 million university students and 930,000 teachers, including shifting to virtual and distance education, which ensures an inclusive and equitable education.

Iran PressIran News: After the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the first positive case was detected on 19 February 2020 in Iran. The outbreak of this contagious disease created a wave of anxiety and fear among countries around the world, including Iran.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran took urgent measures to protect the health and safety of more than 15 million school students, 4 million university students and 930,000 teachers.

Closing schools and universities, cancellation of conferences, camps and all kinds of gatherings in accordance with the recommendations of National Coronavirus Council, providing and disseminating COVID-19 guidelines for students, disinfecting educational buildings and shifting to virtual and distance education are among the most important measures taken to combat the outbreak of the disease.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the main concern of educational policymakers has been to focus on vulnerable, disadvantaged and students with other nationalities to ensure an inclusive and equitable education.

One of the most urgent measures was to facilitate the access of all students to distance education by national television. Since the beginning of school closures, teaching and learning practices on various television networks were started and the timing and scope of broadcasts increased gradually.

One month after the school closure, educational programs are recorded and broadcast daily on three different television channels. Another effective practice was to utilize the capacity of social and communication networks as a valuable opportunity for teaching about 15 million students.

Since the early days of school closure, many teachers and school principals have independently and creatively started applying the capacity of social networks to transmit large amounts of data to provide useful educational links between teachers, students, and parents.

Many teachers in several provinces uploaded their teaching and learning content to be used by a large number of students nationwide.

As school closure extended, "Students' Social Network" was launched by the Ministry of Education, creating diverse and equitable educational opportunities, as well as promoting the quality of e-learning services.

In addition, mobile-based educational software and applications were developed to create a platform for interactive group activities. Launching two campaigns of "Home Lesson" on Roshd Site (National School Network) aimed at uploading and sharing educational content produced by teachers, and "Every Home as a Cultural-Educational Hub" to enrich students' leisure time are among other activities.

The National Digital Library for Children and Adolescents (7-14 years old) was launched by the National Library and Archives of Iran as well. In line with the right to education and the development of educational equity, comprehensive planning has been undertaken to facilitate access to all students, especially those living in deprived and remote areas, students with special needs and refugee students who do not have access to the Internet.

The provision of small, portable generators, along with free audiovisual equipment has made it possible for these students to enjoy television and multimedia programs. Taking advantage of local radio and television networks, as well as social networks and messengers, keep the target students on the course of training.

There are also 10 virtual schools designed to provide quality education to more than half a million refugee and immigrant students attending Iranian public schools. The closure of schools imposes a heavier burden on refugee students. So with the cooperation of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international nongovernmental organizations, distance learning is providing for them as well.

Inter-organizational cooperation was also developed for distance learning in Iran. Providing 100 GB free Internet packages to subscribers to facilitate families benefit from e-learning content as well as 20 GB free internet packages for teachers and technology infrastructure is the result of the collaboration of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of ICT.

Actually, due to illegal and inhuman US sanctions against Iran, Iranian students, scholars, and academics do not have access to all global educational and scientific networks. While appreciating the UNESCO Global Education Coalition, which is a valuable opportunity to strengthening cooperation between countries around the world and sharing experiences of distance education, UNESCO and other major international organizations should try to push US authorities to loosen sanctions on educational and scientific networks to let Iranian educators and learners access to global domains. It would be a great help to Iranian students and educators to have access to data as their counterparts in other countries of the world.

By Gholamreza Karimi, Acting of Minister of Education for International Affairs and Associate Professor in Kharazmi University

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