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Dubai schools complete one full term with 100% in-person learning

As schools head into spring break, educators are hopeful that more Covid restrictions will be eased in the future



File photo for illustrative purposes
File photo for illustrative purposes
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 19 Mar 2022, 9:42 AM

Last updated: Sat 19 Mar 2022, 11:10 PM

Dubai schools are heading into spring break after an academic term that saw the resumption of 100 per cent in-person learning.

The start of the academic term witnessed a spike in Covid-19 cases, which disrupted students' education and prompted schools to switch to online classes. But the situation improved, with institutions bringing students back to campus in a staggered manner. Eventually, schools were able to resume in-person classes for all.

Campbell Douglas, principal/CEO, GEMS Wellington Academy - Al Khail, said: "Stopping the need for bubbles, allowing people to be mask-free outside, and eliminating the need for temperature checks on entering the building have all felt like huge strides forward. They give a sense of freedom and a return to normalcy."

He highlighted that the resumption of trips, extracurricular activities and socially-distanced events also helped mark a return to pre-pandemic times.

"These are what give our schools life and for our students, (they're) experiences and opportunities to remember," Douglas said. "They are integral to learning and to the formation of character. Both teachers and students are so glad they can partake in these vital aspects of school life."

Back to school in high spirits

School communities have greeted the return to a 'new normal' with excitement. Head teachers reiterated that institutions adapted swiftly to unprecedented disruptions, changed curriculum courses and transformed the educational mindset completely.

Sangita Chima, principal, Amity School Dubai, said: "Great happiness and a feeling of triumph is expressed with the high energy chatter in the corridors and classrooms, as all students are engrossed in creative work around the inspiring learning spaces in our school."

Though it was challenging to resume in-person classes initially, Chima said the school received necessary support from Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

"With (their) support, we implemented all recommended mitigation strategies necessary to maintain health and safety while giving access to in-person learning all throughout the pandemic," she said.

Dr Jay Teston, principal, Nibras International School, said: "Since September, we’ve remained open for face-to-face learning, except fora one-week closure, and our students, teachers and families couldn’t be happier. We consciously made that decision so that we could balance the needs of our students with the need to mitigate the spread of Covid and ultimately keep our community safe.”

Tech-supported learning is critical

Educators highlighted that the pandemic has been a stunning reminder of many vulnerabilities and the reality of interconnectedness.

Therefore, technology-supported learning for both teachers and students will be an inherent component of the curriculum going forward, as free and open-source technologies become necessary tools.

Antony Koshy, principal, Global Indian International School Dubai, said: “Some good things from the Covid era will stay, such as use of online tools and support for students, new communication channels, among others. But what we all look forward to is building relationships, taking advantage of the teacher-student rapport and being able to effectively guide and monitor student learning and progress. We look forward to more hands-on and collaborative learning experiences as a part of education delivery.”

Meanwhile, in the new term, schools are looking to strengthen the social and emotional journey of each student, educator and parent in the school community.

Implementing an accelerated learning curriculum with mindful digital transformations while future-proofing future disruptions are the way forward, educators said.

Dr Brian Gray, principal, Springdales School, Dubai, said: “We have made some significant expenditures to support online learning from latest models of laptops for all the teaching staff, revamped the entire network infrastructure and doubled the bandwidth capacity to eliminate lag time, increase speed and do away with incidents of drop out. A budget of over Dh1.5 million has been allocated towards this.”

Increased focus on collaboration

Principals underline that they hope the new semester will eventually lead them to no longer having to socially distance.

“Group work, collaboration, working together towards common goals and group communication are all vital to the learning process. While these can, of course, still happen to some degree in classrooms, the social distancing protocols mean these aspects of learning are not as effective as they could be," Douglas said.

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He added that collaboration and group work are not only essential for enhancing the learning process, but also for students' social development.

Wayne Howsen, principal, The Aquila School, said: “We hope that by the start of the new term and eventually by the next school year, all the rules will be relaxed. It will be good to see whole faces again, and for the new pupils who have joined us in the last year or so, we really want to get to know the face behind the mask.”


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