Dubai: UAE schools have adopted a long view on e-learning, extended from its two-week run till the end of the academic year in June as a precaution against coronavirus.
Principals and teachers said they were expecting e-learning would be extended (by at least three months) in light of developments regarding COVID-19, adding they are fully ready for the long run.
Schools had used the recent two-week spring break to set up e-learning by installing or upgrading hardware and software and training teachers. Last week saw the unprecedented blanket switch to complete e-learning, with no major disruptions.
Following an official announcement on Monday that e-learning would continue till end of school year (end of the new term-one for Indian schools), educators on Tuesday backed the move.
Jelitha Rose, a primary teacher at Global Indian International School (GIIS) Abu Dhabi, said: “At this moment, students’ health and wellbeing are of prime importance. Students may have stopped coming to school, but their education has not ceased. This long-term perspective [on e-learning] is needed to ensure the continuity of learning and should be adopted.”
GIIS Dubai principal Ramesh Mudgal said “we are absolutely in agreement with this measure taken by the [UAE] government because it is in the interest of the entire community”.
Tech as ‘great enabler’
After listing a host of in-place measures to sustain e-learning, Mudgal added that “we are completely prepared for these uncertain times and technology is a great enabler for us in this… We are in regular touch with our staff and teachers, training them and equipping them with necessary skills. At the same time we are in touch with parents, answering their queries, addressing their concerns effectively and we are supporting the students and parents in all possible ways”.
Students’ learning has not been disrupted – and will not be – during the online phase, assured Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO – Principal, Credence High School, Al Khail.
“We are well prepared for remote learning to be imparted for a term. Our teachers and leaders have undergone a rigorous training for remote learning and they are able to provide remote learning to our students quite successfully,” she said.
“Our students are learning online and following a structured timetable of work. Teachers are delivering real-time online lessons and interacting with students face-to-face like in a normal classroom. We have included lessons for co-scholastic activities like Physical Education, Art, Dance, Music, Reading, and Moral Education along with all their scholastic subjects. They are practicing mindfulness and learning to stay positive at all times.”
Professor M. Abu Bakr, principal of Scholars Indian School in Ras Al Khaimah, said close coordination with education authorities and their support has made e-learning a UAE success story.
“The government had reached out to schools in advance and asked them how they would manage the transition to e-learning, if they needed guidance and support. They had also asked parents if they needed internet access and devices for e-learning,” he added.
“As a school community of teachers and students, we face no issue in extending our e-learning system. We have 100 per cent readiness and we have also a great response from our parents.”
Michael Gernon, Chief Education Innovation Officer, GEMS Education, said, “We welcome the clarity provided in the statement regarding the extension of remote learning – this will be very helpful for schools, teachers, parents and students to now plan for the longer term. At GEMS Education, our remote learning provision has been of extremely high quality and focused around live interaction between teachers and students, whole class teaching, and smaller group collaborative sessions. In this way, we are delivering high quality learning, ensuring all our students continue to make expected progress, and also ensuring that all curriculum standards are being covered and met. Our ability to do this and ensure that teachers are planning for progression and continuity have been at the heart of our unique offering. Every school has a remote learning plan in place and we are monitoring the quality of delivery in the same way that we would during a normal school term. As such, we can be assured that our students are receiving the very best and are being fully supported in their remote learning. The feedback from our parents and students has been overwhelmingly positive - we will continue to listen and, where necessary, refine our practice throughout the remainder of this academic year.”