The government has yet again extended the closure of all educational institutions till 30 January across the country in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the decision will not apply to Qawmi madrasas, the education ministry said in a media release on Friday.
In the face of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, the government shut all educational institutions on 17 March last year to contain mass infection.
The ministry is now planning to reopen schools and colleges fully from February.
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard the coronavirus situation was improving day by day and in-person academic activities could be resumed in February.
"We had a plan to reopen educational institutions on a limited scale. But now we can reopen them fully as the pandemic situation seems good," he said.
He also said the final decision on reopening schools would be made after consulting with health experts.
Sources said the ministry had already asked schools to prepare for reopening in February. In the meantime, teachers have started going to schools regularly while the school authorities have initiated clean-up programmes to remove dust accumulated during the long closure.
Wishing anonymity, a ministry official told TBS that schools had been asked to strictly maintain health guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation.
"We also asked them to take steps so that students could protect themselves from getting infected," he said.
Only one student, the official said, would be allowed to sit on a bench and a maximum of 15 would be allowed to join a class.
Health experts think the government can take measures to reopen educational institutions if the infection rate is 5%.
Bangladesh logged 13 more deaths and 762 infections in the last 24 hours till Friday 8 am. During this period, 13,678 samples were tested, and the infection rate was 5.57%.
The infection rate fluctuated between 4% and 5% in the last seven days.
Professor Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said it was good news that infection rate was decreasing.
He said the government could reopen schools if this downward trend continued for 21 days.
On 31 December last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "School closure has been extended till 15 January considering children's safety. Schools will reopen if the situation improves by then. Otherwise, not."
On 16 March last year, the education ministry issued a press release on the government's decision to close all educational institutions and coaching centres from 18 to 31 March, considering students' safety amid the global pandemic.
Later, the closure was extended several times – first till 9 April, then 25 April, 5 May, 30 May, 6 August, 31 August, 3 October, 31 October, 14 November, 19 December, 16 January, and now 30 January.
Classes remained suspended since schools were closed but administrative activities had resumed gradually.
Earlier, the government also decided not to hold last year's Primary School Certificate (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC), Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and their equivalent exams due to the pandemic.
The PSC and JSC examinees will get automatic promotion to the next class, while HSC students will be assessed based on their JSC and Secondary School Certificate (SSC) results. All students from primary to secondary level will also be promoted automatically.
There are about 4.5 crore students from pre-primary to higher education level at around two lakh educational institutions across the country.