As the UAE cautiously reopens following the Covid-19 restrictions, it remains unclear exactly when and how many children will be heading back to classrooms.
With physical lessons temporarily on hold, schools, teachers, parents and pupils have all been forced to find new ways of adapting to the situation. Technology has been used to facilitate e-learning and UAE schools are taking special measures to ensure that pupils continue to receive the level of education required.
Bharat Mansukhani, Regional Managing Director – Middle East, International Schools Partnership, which owns and operates Nibras International School (NIS) and The Aquila School in Dubai, says that e-learning is monitored at its schools to ensure that their high standards continue during the restrictions.
“Our schools continually monitor the tools we use so that we are able to provide safer platforms that can deliver high-quality teaching and learning at ease,” he says. “Distance learning lessons are monitored by the leadership teams in all our schools to ensure our distance learning provision is of top quality.”
Our schools continually monitor the tools we use so that we are able to provide safer platforms that can deliver high-quality teaching and learning at ease.
Mansukhani says that teaching targets have also been changed to facilitate e-learning at NIS, while simultaneously providing pupils with the education levels they need.
“The curriculum targets have been adapted for distance learning and our schools have made sure that each child is making progress and attainment towards the curriculum goals in each grade level.”
Adapting to paperless learning
With the distribution of text books and paper temporarily disallowed, The Aquila School Dubai has adapted by providing materials online in both Arabic and English.
Mansukhani says that the school is also using new online programmes to support students. “At ISP, our schools use online textbooks as much as we can. Our guided reading programmes are also using online resources for both Arabic and English. Our schools have also incorporated programmes like Reading Eggs and Mathletics to support our students in their distance learning.”
Mansukhani believes that online learning has been beneficial to students as it has allowed them to be more flexible with their approach to education, preparing them for the working world and providing them with skills they can use throughout their lives.
He also says that utilising technology for development can evolve their online behaviour for the better.
“Beyond the knowledge they are receiving through the curriculum, our students are further developing skills that they will use forever. Not only has distance learning begun to prepare them to be able to work from anywhere, but they are becoming informed digital citizens who are able to use technology as an enabler of progress rather than a disruptor.
“There are so many other skills that are being fine-tuned during this time — communication skills, presentation skills, the ability to prioritise, multitask, be self-motivated and, most of all, the opportunity to decide the type of learner they want to be.”
Working with parents and business
Dr Jennifer Ricks, Director of Curriculum and Professional Learning, American Community School of Abu Dhabi, says that her school has been working alongside parents and UAE businesses to encourage students to embrace independent learning and develop new skills. “ACS works in partnership with parents and companies to empower students to shape their future,” she says.
She believes the school’s curriculum also empowers the pupils to take a flexible approach to their own personal development.
Our four core pillars, academics, athletics, arts and service, ensure that students gain skills across a platform of experiences developing their flexibility to adapt to any situation.
“Students progress through middle school empowered by a student-centred curriculum to grow in self-awareness and discover their talents. Our four core pillars, academics, athletics, arts and service, ensure that students gain skills across a platform of experiences developing their flexibility to adapt to any situation.”
This new digital way of learning will improve our students’ knowledge, make them resilient and give them confidence for the next academic year.
Sangita Chima, Principal, Amity School Dubai, says that the school has taken a number of steps to ensure that both the students’ emotional and educational needs are met.
“As a school student in the UAE, you get access to a range of online resources along with customised lesson plans to suit your child’s educational and emotional needs. Virtual field trips are conducted by local museums, theatre sessions, STEM classes and more are regularly organised to ensure that learning is enjoyable and stimulating for every child. This new digital way of learning will improve our students’ knowledge, make them resilient and give them confidence for the next academic year.”
Agrees Dr Paul Richards, Superintendent of American School of Dubai (ASD). He believes that the restrictions on face-to-face teaching have been beneficial in some respects, allowing students to independently learn online and his school plans to continue developing these new skills when the pupils return to campus.
We will leverage what worked well during the distance learning period through asynchronous assignments such as self-direction, self-pacing, differentiation and use of technology.
“We will leverage what worked well during the distance learning period through asynchronous assignments such as self-direction, self-pacing, differentiation and use of technology. When we have students on campus, we will leverage this opportunity by increasing feedback sessions, advisory meetings, and other opportunities that promote human connection and community. We believe the new normal will be a blended learning approach, and that it will be better.”
Building a sense of community
With students learning in isolation from their peers, schools say it is important to maintain a sense of community. According to Bharat Mansukhani, Regional Managing Director – Middle East, International Schools Partners (ISP), “When you are a part of an ISP school you are part of a community; we have ensured that our schools continue to come together as communities. Many of our schools continue to host school assemblies. They have live lessons that are purely aimed at checking in on student well-being.”
Sangita Chima, Principal, Amity School Dubai, also says that in addition to weekly meetings with parents, special measures have been taken to meet students’ needs during distance learning. “Individual attention and counselling is also given to students who need support. Teachers continue to ensure that lessons and extracurricular activities are engaging, in order keep the essence of community alive among classmates and peers.