E-learning extension in UAE: Parents, schools stress on teamwork
All UAE schools and universities will continue the remote learning programme until the end of the current academic year.
By Nandhini Sircar and Ismail Sebugwaawo
Published: Tue 31 Mar 2020, 9:00 PM
Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2020, 4:42 PM
Parents and schools in the UAE have stressed the need for teamwork to ensure that the remote learning programme becomes a success.
All UAE schools and universities will continue the remote learning programme until the end of the current academic year as per an announcement made by the Ministry of Education on Monday, March 30.
Canadian expat in Dubai Mousa Nimer, whose son is a Year 1 student of Deira International School, said he welcomed the decision as these are unprecedented times and in the given situation, the move didn't surprise him.
"We all need to be ready now. Parents and schools need to be ready, not just prepared. It's a collaborative effort at the end of the day. We have to support the government in these trying times. It's difficult for everyone, but we are all in it together. My wife and I have divided our time in a way so that we can effectively engage with our son to finish his school work. We take half an hour breaks from our respective office work and assist him in his learning."
He further said: "We now have to function as part-time teachers as well and we have to get involved. Even for teachers, I feel it's a challenge because they in turn need to communicate with their students remotely. So, it's a different or new experience for everybody."
Leeza George, whose son goes to Dubai American Academy, is equally poised about the matter. Although it's a critical year for her son, who is due to join a foreign university in fall semester, she feels everyone is sailing in the same boat.
"Distance learning is not new to the education sector. It may seem complicated as certain things are not clear at the moment, I agree. But when it comes to external assessments by the boards, their yardstick is aligned to the internal assessments by the schools. Clarity will only come with time."
Some parents remain uncertain
Anuradha Chakravarti, whose daughter has just finished Grade 10 from an Indian school in Dubai, is yet unsure as to how one can effectively navigate through these times.
Chakravarti said: "The environment at home is not the same as that of the school. Children at home tend to be more relaxed and there is hardly any discipline. I've also heard from some of my friends that their children get up late, thinking they will log in late or finish the school work later during the day.
"Another concern is how do they do their science experiments during the distance learning programme. Even if schools say they will conduct online exams, children can quickly copy something from another site and paste it on their exam page. I am not convinced that exams can be effectively and transparently conducted in an online environment," she added.
While distance learning has started in earnest now, educators are busy replicating a passive, teacher-driven learning environment with more dynamic and independent solutions.
Smart education for students of determination
Reflecting on the needs of the students of determination, whose academic needs can be diverse, teachers said that smart education technologies can optimise the remote learning scheme even for them.
Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO and principal of Credence High School, Dubai, said: "Online exams offer alternative assessment methods to persons with special educational needs. For example, students with problems with motor skills can, instead of writing, simply touch the screen for the answer and voice to text is also a viable option for essays. The possibilities are endless."
Virtual beginning of academic year for Indian school students
As students in Indians schools gear up for the new academic year that was to commence from April 5, teachers and students will now have to settle for a virtual interaction right from the start.
"In our school, parents' orientation with the new teacher was done online last week. As opposed to the physical interaction, a group of four parents logged in at the same time with their microphones on mute mode as the class teacher was speaking and introducing herself. Before that, signature of the teacher with her photograph embedded in the mail was sent out to all students for an early introduction," said Zubair Ahmad, head HR and Administration, Springdales School Dubai.
How students will be assessed
Educators across the country have reiterated that team work and better preparedness is the only way forward.
"Schools are prepared as people realised online learning was going to extend beyond two weeks. While we have prepared and developed what we thought would work, what we are doing now is ensuring that we are communicating with students, parents and teachers to understand what works best. Dealing with change and feedback is critical in building a sustainable model of learning," said Kevin Loft, CEO and principal of GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis.
He said assessment is a critical step in the learning process as it determines whether or not the course's learning objectives have been met.
"Now that we know exams as the final step has been cancelled, schools and exam boards are going to rely on internal assessments, predictions and judgements that have taken place throughout the year to inform this process. From a school perspective, what we are focused on is ensuring every student gets the grade that they deserve, and we continue to work with exam boards to define what this looks like."
Annahita Pagdiwalla, principal of Mayoor Private School in Abu Dhabi, said the school is fully prepared as they expected the extension. "It didn't come as a surprise. Our lesson plans for all the grades are ready for this 1st term."