UAE: How schools restored normalcy after Covid-19 lockdowns

Experts say the resumption of 100 per cent in-person classes across all Emirates will mitigate learning loss



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 17 Nov 2021, 5:28 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Nov 2021, 5:30 PM

The strong vaccination and testing drive, along with offering jabs for children from the age of three, have been instrumental in the UAE schools returning to normal.

Ben Cooper, primary principal at GEMS Wellington Academy - Al Khail, said: “The future is bright. As restrictions are lifted and we welcome the full community back to school, we can do what schools do best, which is celebrate the learning cultures as one community together. We can provide more opportunities for creativity and for individuals to express themselves through any medium they wish to do so."

With authorities announcing full face-to-face learning in schools from the second term (for most schools) beginning in January 2022, experts say this will mitigate learning loss.

Cooper said the transition to online learning was quick and reactional, which meant many problems were resolved with short-term solutions. But the road to recovery has been much more strategic.

“We have carefully listened to the needs of our students and our families – ensuring they are safe, happy and transitioning back to normal school life successfully. We have carefully considered recovery plans and personalised teaching programmes have been put in place, and our students are now performing at the same level academically as they were prior to the pandemic," he said.

Cooper acknowledged that teachers, in particular, worked tirelessly over the past two years to "ensure no child has been left behind."

Simon Herbert, principal/CEO at GEMS International School - Al Khail, said the pandemic altered almost every aspect of life, but a renewed air of optimism surrounds the current education ecosystem.

“There is a rational and cautious opening and return to ‘normal’. Just this week, we have seen the permission granted to spectators to be present at sports matches. UAE schools have proven themselves to be safety-conscious while also dedicated to enhancing the well-being of students, and the government has clearly recognised this success through further latitude on regulations," he said.

At the onset of the pandemic, schools switched remarkably quickly to online learning, well-supported by parents.

“Adjustments were made along the journey and our teachers are to be commended for their creativity and flexibility during an extraordinary year. This attitude among educational staff in UAE schools prevented too much learning loss and in some ways allowed technological gains, which are now part and parcel of our practice. But the swift and clear return to face-to-face learning, as guided by the government, is truly welcomed by all," Herbert said.

Schools in Dubai and Sharjah are already operating at 100 per cent capacity. With this new announcement, institutions across the Emirates will welcome back all students.

Seema Umar, vice-principal, The Central School Dubai, said: “The UAE education sector has provided a solution to the dilemma being faced by all schools. With its foolproof plan, the UAE has set the global benchmark for the reopening of schools. I see a bright future for the UAE’s education sector.”

Officials stressed that educational facilities will be constantly monitored to ensure the application of all Covid safety measures.

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Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal, Credence High School, said: “Credit goes to the leaders of this great country and the frontline workers who have successfully controlled this pandemic. It is heartening to see students back in school.

"The UAE education sector is booming and progressive, be it in the field of early years, K-12 schools, or universities. The UAE has become an educational hub and has earned an important place in the global map.”


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