Schools Must Continue Distance Education

The one third of parents that told that they want online learning to continue, and do not want to send their children back to school, will be happy with the Dubai and Abu Dhabi regulator's decision that schools must keep a distance learning option in place for parents this September. Schools may not be quite as happy.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

The 35.9 percent of parents that told that they wanted online learning to continue will be happy with the KHDA's announcement that they will be able to continue with online classes when new term starts. According to the Dubai education regulator, Dubai schools will need to provide 100 per cent distance learning for those who want it. 

The move follows a similar decision in Abu Dhabi to give school-going children the right to continue distance learning in the upcoming school term, a move said to be driven by parental concerns.

While the move will keep a sizeable minority parents happy, schools are unlikely to be as enthusiastic about the additional overhead, given that enrolment numbers are rumoured to have already been hit by Covid-19. Parents opting for the online solution are also unlikely to get it for the discount that they would ideally be looking for. The same survey found just 12% of respondents willing to pay 100% of current fees for distance education. The most popular response was a willingness to pay 50% of fees, chosen by 26% of respondents. This is considerably less than the average 15% deferred discount offered by many UAE schools for the final term of the 2019-20 academic year (for Western schools, and first term of the 2020-2021 academic year for Indian schools).

The KHDA does not mention if online learning should come at a lower price point. Give schools in the UAE would be offering both in school and online education, it is unlikely they would volunteer en masse to discount their fees.

Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said schools would provide an online platform as “as a temporary measure”.

In a recent circular sent to school principals, KHDA said:

“While face-to-face learning remains the preferred education model, we understand that different parents have different views, especially in the first phases of re-opening. As a temporary measure, schools can and should provide 100 per cent distance learning provision in the new academic year to parents who request it. This is intended to help ease parents and children into an eventual return to face-to-face learning.”

When schools reopen on August 30 each school will follow its own model for the school day. Options include a full return of students, a daily shift system, split days and a blended model of both on-campus classes and online learning.

What schools actually do will largely be determined by their capacity, and whether they can offer an in-school option while keeping social distancing in place. Newer schools with lower capacity, or premium schools with just more space, are most likely to be able to be able to return to more a more traditional, in-school, model for all current students.

There has not yet been a similar announcement regarding private schools in Sharjah, the Northern Emirates, or public schools in the UAE.

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