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This academic year, Emirates Transport - the largest provider of school transport services in the UAE - will transport nearly 241,000 school and university students on 7,217 busses Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Over 1 million students are set to head back to classrooms across the UAE on Monday for the start of the new school term. There is much excitement for the new term, especially as the UAE has dialled back the COVID-19 precautionary measures after nearly two years of widespread restrictions.

For many of the schools, including those following the UAE’s Ministry of Education curriculum, the first day of classes will be the start of the 2022-2023 academic year. For Asian curriculum schools, on the other hand, the new trimester will be a continuation of the ongoing academic year.

Students will be accompanied by 65,000 educators and school staff, as well as students who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Return of school activities

The return of all students to school campuses, and the cancellation of mandatory social distancing, will now allow educational institutions further opportunities for collaborative learning, and enable them to organise large-scale events, field trips and community activities. Educators say this will greatly enhance the learning experience for children, many of whom have been waiting to return to the pre-pandemic normal.

Robert Rinaldo

“At GEMS American Academy our theme is, ‘The Time is Now!' This year is a chance to redefine who we are as a school we can build off of last school year where we saw a return to sports, activities, student exhibits and performances. We anticipate a full offering of all programmes, recommitting to our American style philosophy of a holistic education,” Robert Rinaldo, head of school at GEMS American Academy – Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

“Children can expect instruction that focuses not only on numeracy and literacy skills, but purposeful inquiry-based learning that develops creativity, addresses real-world problems, and allows students to make an impact in their communities.”

Abigail Fishbourne

Abigail Fishbourne, director of learning at the ISP Middle East, said: “It is wonderful to be welcoming the students, families, staff and our wider communities back to an exciting year. This year we are pleased to be reintroducing curriculum enrichment and community activities that had been paused due to the pandemic, plus adding additional opportunities for children such as our International Learning Opportunities and enhanced regional challenges.”

ISP operates four schools in the UAE, including The Aquila School in Dubai, and the Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi.

“The International Schools Partnership’s (ISP) International Learning Opportunities will give our students real chances to interact and engage with ISP students from around the world. This year we are happy to be reintroducing our ISP Buddy Exchange Program, which will give our students the opportunity to experience school life in one of our ISP schools in another country,” she added.

Existing precautions

In terms of the existing COVID-19 precautions, students and educators must still don face masks in indoor areas. In addition, children aged 12 years and older have to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, with 96-hour validity, to enter school premises for the first time this term.

School visitors are only required to present a Green Pass on Alhosn app, and the National Crisis, Emergencies and Disaster Management Authority has urged the school community to refrain from going to school if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.

These regulations are implemented at public schools in the UAE, and at private schools in Abu Dhabi emirate, as confirmed by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge.

In Dubai, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has not announced changes to back to school rules, which would mean there is no requirement for a PCR test to enter the school.

Extensive preparations

While families have been busy acquiring school supplies for children, traffic authorities across the UAE have ramped up traffic patrols in order to ensure a safe return to school. This term, buses can operate at full capacity, and bus operators have been engaged in training drivers and attendants ahead of the new term.

There has also been widespread professional development for educators at a number of institutions, with many having returned for a week or more already.

First week

In total, a total of 274,895 students will resume classes at 504 public schools across the UAE, which are managed by the Emirates School Establishment. The remainder of the students will be attending private schools in the country.

Some institutions will have an orientation week for new students.