UAE’s in-school learning move a morale-booster - GulfToday

UAE’s in-school learning move a morale-booster

UAE School

Representational image. (WAM)

When children were attending school in the UAE in 2019, little did they know that their whole world would be turned upside down the following year. No more classroom interaction, either with teachers or their peers. No more games in the school grounds. No more healthy discussions on upcoming programmes and events.

Staying home meant staying safe, as face-to-face interaction was given the go-by and lockdowns became the order of the day. Because extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Instead, like chickens enclosed in a coop, the students would be confined to their rooms at home, glued to their computers for months.

Going virtual was the new reality. But there was an issue here. Lack of physical activity at school and an information overload online seemed to be taking a toll on the mental wellbeing of the students. The majority of the students were definitely missing school life – and were despondent about it.

Until now. Like a breath of fresh air, came the heartening news: The Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) has announced the return of classroom education in government schools, effective from the academic year 2021-2022. This is in line with the UAE’s orientation to return to normal life, following full co-ordination with the concerned UAE authorities.

Earlier, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee approved the physical return of students to schools for the 2021/2022 academic year.

About 70 per cent of students are expected to return to in-school learning.

The decision came following consultation and collaboration with parents, teachers, principals and school operators across Abu Dhabi, conducted in May and June this year.

It also follows the vaccination of more than 80 per cent of teachers and school staff, including all maintenance and security teams.

Sara Musallam, Chairwoman of Adek, said: “The pandemic has tested the resolve of teachers, parents, and school staff, our unsung heroes, who came together and have gone to incredible lengths to ensure that our children receive the best education possible during these challenging times.”

Remote learning may not be a perfect substitute for physical learning, so after months of enforced indoor activity, the students could be comfortable to return to in-school instruction as much as possible.

As part of the consultation, Adek conducted an independent survey to gauge the response to the reopening of schools for the next academic year.

More than 117,000 parents representing more than 230,000 students across public, private and charter schools, and including both UAE nationals and expats, participated in the Parents Survey on Schools Reopening.

Interestingly, 88 per cent of parents said it was more beneficial for their child’s education.

Parents also believe vaccination will further enhance their confidence about the safety of schools. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is available for children aged 12 and above. A Sinopharm immune bridge study for children was recently launched in the UAE to examine the immune response to the vaccine in children aged 3 to 17, with the emirate planning to make the vaccine available to children in the near future.

The study also shows that parents are comfortable reducing physical distancing requirements, which will enable students to attend school more days per week.

The committee emphasised the importance of coordination between schools in the emirate and Adek to ensure that schools were ready to receive students of all levels at the start of the academic year.

The committee also approved providing full-time remote learning as an option to parents who request it, if offered by their child’s school.

Whatever may be the advantages of online learning, the fact remains that there is no substitute for classroom interaction. That in itself is a great booster for the spirit, specially for children who can be extremely sensitive to any major change that affects their education, school life or life itself.

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