Distance Learning Evaluation: Process, Results!

With the arrival of Covid 19, students, teachers and schools in the UAE have had to adapt rapidly to a largely new form of education. The education authorities acted quickly to put in place an evaluation process for all schools - public and private - across the UAE, and results are now out.
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Whilst all schools have been expected to improve their capacity in IT and innovation over recent years as part of the Vision 2020 objectives for education in the UAE, the wholesale transfer of teaching and learning, at such short notice, to distance learning was certainly not a development that had been expected or widely practiced.

With no specific approach provided to schools in relation to distance learning, it was inevitable that the experience for schools, teachers, students and parents (the latter suddenly finding themselves in the role of teachers in many cases) would vary widely.

The decision by the Ministry of Education, ADEK, the KHDA and SPEA to introduce a Distance Learning Evaluation process for all UAE schools – both public and private – will not only enable parents, in particular, to see how their children’s school fared, but also ensure that there is a framework against which schools can measure their own capabilities and build future capacity at a time when – though schools are currently set to re-open in September – a return to distance learning in future, should the pandemic take a new grip, cannot be ruled out. It may be that distance learning will continue to form an element of the curriculum as the world moves towards more in the way of remote learning and on-line working.

The purpose of the evaluation, according to the Authorities, is "to evaluate and improve the learning experiences and wellbeing of students using distance learning in special circumstances". 

The scope of the evaluation included:

  • Student Experience – Ensuring continuation of students’ learning beyond the physical boundaries of school;
  • Learning – Continuing students’ progress and momentum in learning by identifying priorities;
  • Delivery models – Adapting the most effective practices in teaching and monitoring for distance learning, using a range of modalities (such as live sessions, pre-recorded assignments, and integrated activities);
  • Protection, care and wellbeing – Safeguarding students’ health, wellbeing and cyber safety during the distance learning and prioritising wellbeing, implicitly and explicitly.

Additionally, the structure of the evaluation was designed to identify what was working and what was not, and to provide schools with direction in terms of which areas of provision needed strengthening and which areas were working well.

The Distance Learning Evaluation process involved schools in spending a day working with evaluators remotely to enable their delivery of distance learning to be measured. Not only did evaluators review Distance Learning with school leaders and teachers responsible for curriculum and subject delivery, but student well-being and support by school counsellors and SEN staff was also a key area of review. Evaluators participated in live sessions for different grades/year groups across different subjects, with a minimum of 6 sessions and also reviewed students' work. Parents were also invited to provide feedback through completion of an on-line questionnaire.

The overall evaluation of each school was provided based on 3 Zones of evaluation broken down into 13 Themes. The Zones were A - Students’ Distance Learning experience, B -Teaching and Mentoring and C -Supervision and Management.

The evaluation themes for Students’ Distance Learning Experience included Attendance and Participation, Safeguarding, Learning Opportunities, Equity of Access, and Wellbeing. Teaching and Mentoring included Planning and Delivery, Sharing Intended Learning Outcomes, Distance Learning Programme, and Monitoring and Assessing Learning. Finally, Supervision and Management covered Agility, Contingency, Communication and Engagement, and Resources Management.

Each of the 13 themes  reviewed by the evaluators (which were further detailed by 39 descriptors explaining the key areas for consideration) were rated Developed, Partially Developed and Not Developed. Based on the breakdown of these ratings, each school received an overall rating.

To achieve an overall Developed rating, at least 9 of the Themes must be rated Developed and none rated Not Developed. A Partially Developed rating is based on at least 10 Themes being rated at least Developed/Partially Developed (however if all themes in one of the three Zones are rated Not Developed, then this will be the overall rating); a Not Developed rating was awarded where 4 more Themes were rated Not Developed.  Schools are required to prioritise those areas identified as Not Developed.

Whilst the results for schools are Dubai are expected to be published by the KHDA in the coming weeks, schools in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have already started to make their results known. 

In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Academies announced that all its schools - Al Bateen Academy, Al Ain Academy, The Pearl Academy, Al Muna Academy, Al Mamoura Academy, West Yas Academy and Al Yasmina Academy - had achieved a Developed rating.  

Both the Fry and Rose campuses of Repton School Abu Dhabi also achieved the Developed rating, as did Aspen Heights British School and British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD) - all three achieving the Developed rating across all 13 Themes.

Reach British School, also in Abu Dhabi, announced that it, too, had achieved the Developed rating.

Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) said it had “concluded ‘Distance Learning Review Visits’ to 112 private schools in Sharjah aiming at identifying areas of development and providing guidance and support they need”.

Delhi Private School Sharjah, Al Wahda Private School, and Leaders Private School were all evaluated as ‘Developed’, as was Victoria English School.

First results provided to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for Dubai came from the Kings Education Group, who informed us that all three schools - Kings School Dubai, Kings School Al Barsha and Kings School Nad Al Sheba - all received a Developed rating.

The Innoventures Group also confirmed that all of its schools - Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills, Dubai International Academy Al Barsha, Collegiate American School, Raffles International School and Raffles World Academy - also all achieved the Developed rating.

The Arbor School, one of the newer additions to the Dubai education landscape, also succeeded in achieving the Developed rating.

The same was also true of the schools operated in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai - Brighton College Al Ain, Brighton College Abu Dhabi, Brighton College Dubai and Dwight School Dubai - all of which received the Developed rating across all 13 criteria.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is still waiting for the full list to be made available to us, however should any school wish to provide transparency on their level of preparedness to deliver online education to their parents, please feel free to email editor [at] whichschooladvisor.com your rating, and associated details.

This article will continue to be updated as further results are made available to us.

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