A number of Dubai private schools following the blended model this term will hold exams online for uniformity between distance learners and classroom students. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A number of Dubai private schools following the blended model this term will hold exams online for uniformity between distance learners and classroom students. Almost all schools have a mix of distance learning and classroom lessons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to internal exams, some schools will hold term exams online only.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal, Credence High School, said: “The school is following a blended learning model where some students are coming for onsite classes and some are learning remotely from home. We are conducting exams online where face-to-face students attempt the papers from their classroom and remote students from their home. Students are monitored through video and proctoring software.”

The move is not linked to the prevailing situation regarding the pandemic, she added.

Nargish Khambatta

“At Credence, the blended learning has been continuing successfully since September 2020 with all safety protocols in place. We have had no positive case for students coming to school for face-to-face learning. Therefore, the school is continuing as before,” Singh said. “In fact, on the request of parents, the number of days for face-to-face classes have been increased from two to four days a week after taking approval from KHDA [Knowledge and Human Development Authority]. Now, more students are coming for onsite classes.”

‘Interesting times’

Nargish Khambatta, principal, GEMS Modern Academy and vice-president — Education, GEMS Education, said: “Examinations for [GEMS] Indian schools will be held in the hybrid format that we followed last term. For those who are attending regular school onsite, the exams will be held in school. The students who have been studying online from home will appear for their examinations online as well.” She added: “These are interesting times and teachers, too, are adapting their questions to ensure a fair examination system for both sets of students, providing the necessary emotional support as well.”

Minimising contact

Kelvin Hornsby, CEO-principal, GEMS Cambridge International School — Abu Dhabi, GEMS Cluster Lead and Cambridge Brand Leader, GEMS Education, said the January board examinations at the British school are continuing with “regulatory authority approval where needed” while all other internal mock examinations have been moved online. “This is to meet regulatory authority guidelines, ensuring the safety of all students and teachers by minimising face-to-face contact, and to ensure that the UAE’s vaccination campaign is rolled out comprehensively to give an even a greater level of protection as we take all possible steps to return to normal.”

Mix of online, offline exams

Kelvin Hornsby

Meanwhile Ambassador School will be holding final exams (term 3 in the Indian curriculum) online for grades five to seven, for both distance learners and face-to-face students, who will take the exams on devices in the classroom. The arrangement will provide “uniformity” between the two groups, said school principal Sheela Menon. Grades one to four at the ICSE school have “continuous assessments” rather than traditional end-of-term exams.

However, grades eight, nine and 11 will sit for paper exams at school. Menon said “the health situation” takes priority and it is possible these grade exams may be moved online too. Meanwhile, grades ten and 12 are expected to sit for external board exams later this year, with further guidance expected from the ICSE council.

‘Reviewing the situation’

This term, after the winter break, some schools had seen a huge spike in students returning to the classroom because of “isolation fatigue” at home, a desire to resume school life and growing confidence in the precautionary measures at school.

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However, “many parents had raised concerns recently in view of the present situation”, prompting Gulf Indian High School to move some exams online, said principal Mohammad Ali Kottakkulam.

“The school leadership team closely reviewed the situation and decided to respond positively. Accordingly, we changed the examinations scheduled for January for grades nine to 12, which was originally planned to be school-based, to fully online mode of exams. Gulf Indian High School always regards safety of our students and staff as our first priority. We sincerely hope that the situation will improve and students will return confidently by the first or second week of February,” Kottakkulam added.