By Sam Bridge
Dubai ruler says looking forward to a 'safe start' to the school year for a million pupils across the country
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Tuesday said that the safety of students and teachers is top priority as he reviewed preparations for the new school year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dubai ruler said he is looking forward to a "safe start" to the school year for a million pupils across the country.
"We look forward to a safe start and in accordance with the best safety standards for more than a million students within the education system in the emirates," Sheikh Mohammed said in comments published by state news agency WAM.
"The UAE is well aware of the importance of smart learning as it invested earlier in the digital infrastructure. Distance learning will be integral part of educational system... This is the future," he added.
"It is a joint responsibility between school and home to ensure a safe and secure educational environment," he noted.
Sheikh Mohammed’s remarks came as he reviewed preparations for the new school year 2020-2021 and the various precautionary measures that will be implemented by schools.
Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, and Jameela Al Muheiri, Minister of State for Public Education, explained the various safety protocols that will be implemented in schools across the country to ensure safety and well-being of students and teachers including maintaining social distance and wearing of masks.
Physical attendance of students in schools will be gradual, being 25 percent at the start of the year, then 50 percent, then 75 percent and finally 100 percent, under close monitoring.
Al Hammadi presented a plan for enabling educational institutions in the UAE to resume the 2020-2021 academic year while noting that students from all levels will have access to education, and the academic year will begin at pre-established dates.
"Many scenarios were drafted based on available information on the overall health situation around the country and its effect on the education system, as well as on the best educational solutions to be adopted," Al Hammadi said, adding that after extensive talks with relevant national authorities, the ministry decided to implement a hybrid model of learning.
He also pointed out that the ministry is keen to involve parents in the decision-making process and explore their opinions on the suitable education system they would like their children to pursue and were allowed to choose between standard education and remote learning for the first semester.
Al Muheiri presented the plan for resuming private school education, noting that several operational models have been developed and each school can choose the ideal model approved by the ministry, which includes full-time attendance, part-time attendance, day and week shifts, and hybrid education.
Many protocols and procedures are also in place for nurseries and childcare centres during the pandemic, in addition to preparations for education programmes via e-platforms for their workers, she added.