A study conducted in the US by global consultancy firm McKinsey within the school community during the fall months in 2020 revealed an acute sense of learning loss among students after they started their classes close to three months behind schedule. And while the study results were endemic to the US, the effects of the pandemic on students and resulting learning loss have been keenly felt across the globe.
The UAE education sector has always monitored global trends and tried to assimilate best practices as quickly as possible post-observation. The pandemic and the sense of learning loss felt by students and conveyed by their parents to staff was quickly analysed therefore, resulting in a host of individual premier UAE schools putting steps in place to mitigate the effects.
Student-teacher connect critical
At the Amity School Dubai, Principal, Sangita Chima says that despite the overnight disruption and abrupt move to a digital classroom environment, the learning process continued almost without a hitch, and believes that maintaining the connection between teacher and student is the first vital step in addressing learning loss. “Much like a ‘don’t give up’ mission, we believe in using all available means of communication in order to stay connected with the families in our school community,” says Chima. “We have altered our strategies and modified our learning programmes to ensure that learning loss is reduced to a considerable extent. Identifying students that need an extra hand by tracking achievement data, attendance and behaviour is key. These data driven indicators give teachers a heads up. Intensive tutoring within smaller targeted groups helps improve a student’s foundation skills. Accelerated learning in groups with ample time, instead of remedial teaching is another great way to support students that may have fallen back.”
Moving into smaller targeted groups also means improving the scope of free communication that acts as a learning enabler, something Michelle Choytooa, Inclusion Champion, Victory Heights Primary School in Dubai, stresses upon.
Communicate with your child
“Children have demonstrated great resilience through the pandemic, and switching to a new mode of learning for a large proportion of the 2019/20 academic year. While in some areas, children have not made the same level of progress as we would have expected, for the most part, attainment remains outstanding,” says Choytooa. “One area that we do feel the children have fallen behind, is in their ability to communicate their learning. A key focus for our school is the development of children’s oracy skills – and moving out of the classroom environment removed some of the structures that enabled them to do this as freely. So talk to your child — ask them about their learning — delve indepth into their answers, don’t accept closed responses – question them and challenge them.”
The powers of a challenging yet relevant curriculum to engage young minds cannot be understimated either, feels Wayne Howsen, Principal, The Aquila School, part of the International Schools Partnership. “We are proud to be a genuinely inclusive school and as such, regardless of their starting points – teachers are skilled and empowered to teach the children what they need to know right now. Through a well-pitched, active, engaging and relevant curriculum, we ensure every child makes as much progress as possible.”
Dr Paul Richards, Superintendent, American School of Dubai, is a confirmed optimist who believes a lot was learned from the pandemic on coping with and mitigating learning loss within the community, while allowing students to become true well-rounded global citizens. Rounding off the discussion, he states, “There has been much attention on learning loss, and much debate. When using traditional measures, such as standardised tests, some loss in achievement or slowed growth rates may be identified. Direct intervention by teachers, using targeted literacy strategies, will help remedy any losses that are identified through a data analysis. However, much has also been gained during the pandemic, in the development of social and emotional skills. Let’s not lose sight of this silver lining.”
The following link provides guidance on dealing with stress, skills to combat, understanding and dealing with panicky thoughts, behaviours etc.
It is an online free 6 session stress control classes delivered by a Scottish clinical psychologist Dr Jim White. I hope it may be of use and relevance to some members of Teachers In UAE to share with your students:
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, set out the agenda for the future of education as a renewed call was made for school staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Sheikh Abdullah chaired a virtual meeting of the Education and Human Resources Council.
During the meeting, Minister of State for Public Education Jameela Al Muhairi reviewed plans to develop vaccination protocols for the country’s schools.
Ms Al Muhairi stressed the importance of widespread inoculation in ensuring a safe and healthy school community.
Earlier this month, Sheikh Abdullah urged teachers and other school employees to take the Covid-19 vaccine to support a return to normality.
“We look forward to the return of our sons and daughters to their schools, to develop their capacities and skills in a safe and healthy academic environment where they can be overachievers, preparing a promising generation capable of leading the country in the future,” Sheikh Abdullah said at the time.
Those efforts were boosted this week when the UAE approved the use of the coronavirus vaccine for teenagers aged 16 and above.
The decision was made by the Ministry of Health and Prevention on Sunday.
The move was welcomed by school leaders who said it provided hope after a year of disruption for the education sector.
Allowing older pupils to be vaccinated was viewed by school heads as key to securing a permanent return to in-person lessons.
Public and private schools in Abu Dhabi will adopt distance learning for at least the next two weeks amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Schools in Dubai and Sharjah continue to provide blended models of in-person and remote learning.
More than two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across the country to date.
Sheikh Abdullah is one of a host of senior figures in the country to be vaccinated.
Sheikh Abdullah supports digital drive
Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the role of digital media in the education sector in preparing learners for careers increasingly influenced by advances in technology.
He said digital media was crucial in “strengthening the education system to build a new generation of skilled and qualified professionals”.
He made the statement while the council reviewed a proposal by the New Media Academy on the launch of an advanced academic training programme, which aims to integrate digital skills into the UAE’s education system.
Rashid Al Awadhi, chief executive of the academy, said the scheme would enable teachers to integrate digital media principles and skills into the school curriculum from an early stage.
Our Experience with Teachers In UAE during a pandemic…
We started looking for primary teaching positions in January 2020. We came across Ruth who works with Teachers In UAE and got in touch with her. Ruth started helping us straight away. She was always on hand to answer any question we had no matter how small or trivial, we always received a reply within minutes of contacting Ruth. Ruth organised interviews for us in a highly sought after school in Abu Dhabi and with her help we had secured positions for the coming school year by the end of the month.
Shortly after, Covid hit leading to a lot of uncertainty about whether travelling over to the UAE would be possible or whether our jobs would still be available there. Ruth was in direct communication with the school every week and provided us with regular updates in relation to our travel later in the summer. She always did her best to reassure us and put our minds at ease through a worrying and uncertain time.
Thankfully we were able to come out to Abu Dhabi in August. We love our school, we have made fantastic new friends and we are really enjoying the lifestyle, sunshine and change of scenery. We are extremely grateful to Ruth for helping us along the way and we would highly recommend anyone thinking about coming to the UAE to teach to get in touch with Ruth, she won’t let you down.
Our experience teaching in The UAE so far….
We have been teaching full time online since August due to low numbers of children choosing to come to school. The school is accommodating both blended and distance learners. We have found the online teaching to be very well structured. We use Microsoft Teams for our live lessons and Seesaw for follow up activities as well as a variety of other websites and resources. Teaching in Abu Dhabi is very different to teaching at home. Our school is very large with up to 15 teachers in a grade which makes planning much easier as you are always supported and always working in a team. We receive professional development on a regular basis making it easy to adapt to and learn about a new curriculum.
Abu Dhabi has handled the Covid pandemic well so far. There are restrictions in place however, we are able to live quite a normal life. We are able to go to malls, restaurants, the beach and most importantly brunches. They are very strict on only four people sitting at a table, masks must be worn at all times and teachers get covid tests every two weeks. We feel very safe here. There’s lots to do here. We have been to different beaches, pools, kayaking in the mangroves etc. We joined the local GAA club, although training wasn’t allowed, they organised group fitness classes which was great for meeting new people. Overall we are having a great time in Abu Dhabi and are so glad we made the move.
As one year draws to a close it’s only natural to start thinking about the possibilities the next 12 months will bring.
And while a return to normal travel still seems to be some time away, there are still public holidays in the UAE that will give people the chance to take some time away from work to relax and reflect.
Some of the dates are always subject to moon sightings, but as much as possible, the UAE Cabinet has confirmed the dates for the country’s national holidays in 2021 and 2022.
Below you can find all the official dates for the next two years. Where the exact dates are available they are noted, otherwise the Islamic calendar dates are listed.
Holidays announced for 2021
January 1: New Year
29 Ramadan to 3 Shawwal: Eid Al Fitr (Expected to be May 12)
9 Zul Hijjah: Arafah Day (Expected to be July 18)
10,11,12 Zul Hijjah: Eid Al Adha (Expected to be July 19)
August 12 : Islamic New Year
October 21: Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) birthday
December 1: Commemoration Day
December 2-3: National Day
Holidays for 2022
January 1: New Year
29 Ramadan to 3 Shawwal: Eid Al Fitr (Expected to be May 1)
9 Zul Hijjah: Arafah Day (Expected to be July 8)
10,11,12 Zul Hijjah: Eid Al Adha (Expected to be July 9)
July 30: Islamic New Year
October 8: Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) birthday
December 1: Commemoration Day
December 2-3: UAE National Day
The UAE Cabinet has confirmed the official holiday dates
Teachers, it really helps to process information and screen CVs when I can see at a glance; Essential requirements for teaching posts in The UAE. These include requirements from schools as well as Educational Councils which all have to be satisfied before the desirable criteria factors in….