Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
Imran Mojib, Special CorrespondentEducation Business Group, a network of private school operators, has sought immediate support from the government to overcome the operational challenges faced by private schools in the UAE and to direct the opening of schools for the new term in September.
At a virtual press briefing hosted by Education Business Group, which represents over 100 private school operators in Dubai, members underlined the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations, but also reiterated their commitment to providing quality education to all children in a safe and healthy environment.
They said it was important to welcome students back to schools in September for their all-round well-being and development.
The group members have communicated formally to the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and different regulatory authorities across the United Arab Emirates, sharing their feedback on the current situation and offering suggestions on the support required to ensure sustainable operations.
The members said declining revenues could affect the ability of private school operators to meet their responsibilities including staff payments, which if impacted adversely, can lead to learning loss.
The private education sector has revenues over Dhs8.5 billion in Dubai and has also played a key role in positioning the city as a global hub of the knowledge economy, attracting talent, and adding to the emirate’s reputation as a business and lifestyle destination.
The Private K-12 education sector in Dubai employs 20,000 teachers who provide quality education to over 2,90,000 students.
The consistent excellence of the private K-12 (FS1 - Y13) education sector has made Dubai, and the UAE, one of the most attractive destinations for global talent, and has been the foundations of a robust and diversified economy.
The members reiterated that private schools are ready to welcome students and staff back to the school learning environment in September, with robust safety precautions to be followed.
They said that while private schools have been delivering a truly world-class remote learning programme, e-learning has its limitations in facilitating the holistic development of children.
For the well-rounded development of students, it is important to build social skills, which calls for peer-to-peer interaction.
The members also cited the flexibility provided to educational providers in other global markets, such as blended learning, that have enabled private schools to ensure the smooth returns to schools for students.
Allan Williamson, CEO of Taaleem, said, "It is imperative that schools open not only from an academic perspective but also from a social perceptive. The education sector has proved its ability to make rapid decisions; we saw that when we transformed in a week to an eLearning environment; we are ready again to transform for the new norm.
"No matter how fantastic our efforts were in remote learning, our students are missing their science labs, sports fields, arts studios… and if the UAE has to meet the goals of its national agenda, we need to open the schools to ensure that students do not miss out on their all-round development.”
Ajay Mankani, Cofounder of Fortes Holding and Fortes Education, said, "We believe that by opening schools in September, the country can set a benchmark that other emerging markets can emulate to deliver high quality private education.”
Sir Christopher Stone, Global Chief Education Officer of Gems Education, added, "It is our primary responsibility that our children are safe and happy. Typically, schools report a non-attendance of 5% per annum; as schools open across the world, we see slightly higher levels of non-attendance, as parents choose to keep their children at home for various reasons. What we assure is a safe school environment, and ultimately, it is parents who will make the decision.”
"While what we have achieved through remote learning is amazing, it is important for children to return to schools as different children learn in different ways; some have special education needs, some learn by doing things through practical work, some prefer teamwork, and we must take these into consideration,” he added.
The decision identified all details related to school days, including the start of the academic year for public and private schools, vacations and public holidays.
The SPEA said if parents are reluctant to send kids to the schools in the first phase of reopening, they can choose the distance learning option.
In a statement, the Ministry also said that distance learning will remain available as an option until the end of the school year.
The Ministry of Education termed what is being circulated on social media and across media outlets about its intention to end the academic year and continue the distance e-learning system till the end of the school year as ''inaccurate.'
Police sources said a bus carrying ITBP personnel back after completion of their Amarnath Yatra duties met with an accident in the Chandanwari area of Pahalgam tehsil.
Instantly, the patrols and the National Ambulance were dispatched to the reported location from which the child was transferred to Al Qasimi Hospital, where he was declared dead in the hospital at 7pm on the same day.
"Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts," the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing. Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.