Abu Dhabi: Children across the emirate of Abu Dhabi will resume in-class learning from August 30 onwards, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) announced today (July 21).
The green light to schools, however, comes with a requirement to implement policies that ensure the safest possible return to school for all students and teachers.
The guidelines will shape the reopening of 201 educational institutions regulated or overseen by the Adek.
In a statement sent today, Adek said it has worked extensively over the last few months with schools, parent representatives, teachers and the relevant authorities to make these return-to-school policies as comprehensive as possible. The policies are organised around four main pillars: safe operations, teaching and learning, staff and student wellbeing and community support.
In terms of preventive measures, schools must organise time and space to ensure social distancing and minimise interactions between people. Protective equipment must be in place, including screens, partitions and other measures. Hygiene standards must also be maintained hrought the premises, with schools required to regularly disinfect and clean all areas
The Adek is also working with schools to ensure that students also receive support in a number of areas, including fee discounts, payment deferrals and monthly instalments for term fees.
Following the release of the policies and guidelines, as well as the aggregated parents’ survey results, schools must now announce their reopening models by July 30 to enable parents to take an informed decision about where they wish to enroll their children. The following term will be the start of the new academic year in most schools, except in those following Asian curricula.
Global best practice
“We are committed to ensuring the safest possible return to in-classroom education for students and teachers and the guidelines, aligned with global best practice, take into account every aspect of school operations,” said Amer Al Hammadi, Adek undersecretary.
The Adek decision has been announced after a comprehensive parent survey undertaken by the authority in June. Responses were received from 63 per cent of parents approached on topics such as school reopening, duration of the school day, and transportation options.
The survey found that 45 per cent of parents are willing their children to school, and that 21 per cent are undecided on their preferred school reopening model. At the same time, 34 per cent are willing to continue distance learning, insisting it enables them to manage their time more efficiencely.
Emirati parents showed a higher inclination for distance learning, with 39 per cent of them opting for it compared to 33 per cent of expat parents. The Adek said this could be attributed to the wider availability of childcare assistance in Emirati households; the survery found that 74 per cent of Emirati households have access to childcare assistance, compared to 26 per cent of expat households. In addition, there tend to be more vulnerable people, such as the elderly, in Emirati households, with 66 per cent of Emirati parents saying they have vulnerable members at home, compared to 31 per cent of expat parents.
Among the parents who opted for a return to classroom learning, 34 per cent preferred a full-day return, and 16 per cent preferred a half-day model that balances between safety and learning.
The survey findings will be used in conjunction with the comprehensive guidelines to help 201 education entities under the ADEK umbrella shape their individual plans for the new academic year.
“We would like to thank parents for responding to the survey. They are invaluable partners in the success of our students and the education journey as a whole. Everybody has worked so hard during our recent enforced period of distance learning and parents deserve tremendous credit,” Al Hammadi said.
“Following an in-depth analysis of responses, we are now better-positioned to help schools ensure their planning process for reopening is well-informed and supported by data and insights from their own parent community. We fully understand that parents still harbour some concerns about a safe return to school and we want to reiterate that distance learning provisions remain in place for all schools, irrespective of the reopening model they choose. As we continue to assess different scenarios and models for the new academic year, we remain in constant dialogue with federal and local authorities to ensure the health and wellbeing of all students, faculty, and staff,” the official added.
When schools reopen, 40 per cent of parents have indicated that they will continue to opt for bus transport for their children, down from 46 per cent in the previous academic year.
And in terms of transfers between schools, at least 85 per cent of families indicated they will not move children to other schools when the academic year begins.
The Adek has also issued a Parents’ Guide, which provides a full understanding of the school reopening guidelines.
“As key stakeholders to our operations, we are committed to supporting parents in making informed decisions that are based on facts, and a deep understanding of the procedures that are place to ensure uninterrupted learning for the coming academic year,” Al Hammadi said.