Covid-19: UAE students prefer digital learning to classrooms

distance learning, online classes, remote class, uae schools

Dubai - According to a recent Khaleej Times poll, 61.45 per cent of the students prefer e-learning.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 23 Aug 2020, 1:30 AM

It's that time of the year when children get ready with new schoolbags and books and eagerly wait to meet up with their friends, after the long summer vacation.
However, things are different this year, as majority of students and parents are opting for virtual learning over on-site learning. And the shopping list for those who choose classroom learning also will see some difference with hand sanitisers, masks and gloves being the new entries to back-to-school purchase list.

According to a recent Khaleej Times poll, 61.45 per cent of the students prefer e-learning while 38.55 per cent of pupils want to opt for in-school classes.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education among parents also showed similar results with 59 per cent supporting distance learning in the first term of the new academic year.

To ensure that students do not miss out their studies, schools in the country moved classes online in the month of March due to the coronavirus pandemic. While many had initially indicated an inclination towards on-campus classes in the new academic year, Khaleej Times reached out to parents and students again, to explore the reasons behind the altered decision.
Distance learning has more takers
Madhulika Chatterjee, whose daughter Nandini is a Year 10 student in Jumeirah College, said the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the recent past is certainly acting as a deterrent.

"My daughter is 15 years old, so initially I was of the opinion that she is grown up enough to be able to take care of herself with regards to all safety precautions. However, I am now worried if it would be prudent to expose her to so many peers, teachers and staff on a daily basis," said Madhulika.

Many others like Aditya and his sibling Aditi Gandhi also plan to start the academic year online. "Though we would love to return to school for a variety of reasons, we have decided to opt for online education for the first term with safety being the need of the hour," said Aditya, Grade 10 student of the Winchester School.

Nothing about school will be typical this year as many more plan to start the academic year virtually. Filipino mother Cirsel Ferrer Kaul, whose 12-year-old is in JESS School, Arabian Ranches, said: "I am not comfortable sending my son to school yet. Online schooling is a much better option at the moment as we've stayed vigilant throughout the outbreak and do not want to expose our child to so many outsiders suddenly."

Reiterating similar thoughts, Zoya Shaikh, mother of a Grade 2 student, said: "I have a seven-year-old daughter and how does one implement social distancing measures, hand sanitisation and wearing masks for younger children? Wearing mask for long hours and focusing on studies is not possible for children at a tender age. Also, I've also been apprehensive about a second wave of Covid-19 as has been the case in many countries. So, I would prefer my daughter doing distance learning at least in the initial phase and follow a more wait-and-see approach."
Some vote for blended model
Others opting for on-site classes realise institutions that are set to open after the summer break will not be returning to the classroom learning environments they left behind, when schools across the country shuttered down.

Children will have to get used to a 'different way' of interacting while on campus. Pupils who've opted for hybrid learning models are now gearing up 'diversely' for school in the new term, in these unprecedented times.

Big changes in preparedness entail shopping for masks and sanitisers ahead of the new term. Class 10 student, Jayden Shibu of Amled School Dubai, said: "My parents are 100 per cent comfortable sending me to school. I have been preparing for it for some time now and I am looking forward to meeting my friends and teachers again. I'll carry a separate pouch in my school bag that will have essentials like extra masks, hand sanitisers and tissues that comprise my other vital purchases. I even bought a bigger water bottle as water dispensers in school are not allowed this year.

"I also had a few sit-down sessions with my parents telling me how to behave in school and what precautions to take. Our back-to-school orientations will be longer and different this year, we've been informed by our institutions. I do realise my buses, hallways, cafeterias and classrooms will look very different now and I am mentally prepared for that," added Shibu.

A Year 10 student of Cambridge International School, Dubai, Alaniz Mary Magdalene who has opted for blended learning, is optimistic despite the adaptive challenges.

"After distance learning being put into practice for so long, going back to school will once again require us to make adjustments. Having a combination of the two learning techniques will provide for a student the most effective way of schooling," opined Alaniz.

According to Canadian expat in Dubai Mousa Nimer, last few months had been transformative and educational for her seven-year-old son. "He has become more aware of the importance of maintaining a hygienic lifestyle and has been practising it by default. When he returns to school, we as parents are very confident and are not too worried about the measures, thanks to his school's great transparency and communication practices."

More news from Education