More parents turn to private tutoring to make up for lessons lost in pandemic

Authorities are working with schools to find better alternatives to costly private tutoring sessions

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - April 4th, 2018: Joanna Lynch, Center Director of The Tutoring Centre with Mikayeel 11 for a Money & Me feature. Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at Sustainable City, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Parents in the UAE are paying for costly private tutoring to help their children catch up lost ground after school closures and online lessons.

Children in the foundation stage and primary classes needed the most assistance from parents during virtual learning.

“I struggled between helping my children learn remotely while also doing my job. This added to my worries,” said Aidah Salim, who is from Jordan.

The mother-of-three who works as a private clinic nurse said one of her children was in grade 4 while the second one was in grade 1 last year.

If we want to address private tutoring as a negative phenomenon, and want to put an end to it, the Learning Walks initiative is a key to achieve that
Ziad Shatat, Sharjah Private Education Authority

“Educators, parents and pupils were required to adapt quickly to virtual courses,” she said.

But this was not easy for families where both parents worked, she said.

“Most days I couldn’t stay home with my children during online classes and even with their father around, they just didn’t learn much,” she said.

Her son, who graduated from first grade, did not know how to write letters and her daughter fell behind in Maths, English and Arabic.

But during the summer break and other school holidays, Ms Salim hired a private tutor.

“There were many posts on Facebook offering private lessons in almost all topics,” she said.

Ms Salim said her sister and three friends have also sent their children to private classes after school.

Sahar Hamza, from Palestine, said her daughter in grade 2 did not perform well in school so she opted for one-on-one private tutoring in maths and science, which costs her Dh500 for eight lessons in a month.

Parents said that private classes can cost anything between Dh50 to Dh200 for an hour.

Ziad Shatat of Sharjah Private Education Authority, says they are aware of the problem of private tutoring and have collated data to deal with it. Photo: Ziad Shatat

She said many of her friends, who have children in early years and primary school, hired private teachers before school started.

“Nearly 10 of my friends did this and we started sharing our experiences and giving tips to one another about which teacher was better,” she said.

A private tutor giving maths, science and English classes said more parents had approached her recently.

“Children fell behind during distance learning as subjects were not explained properly and some parents answered questions on behalf of their children,” said the teacher, who did not want to be named.

She said many parents were concerned about their children's low grades last year and schoolteachers grappled with the sudden switch to online learning.

“The overall result is that on average, many pupils are way behind in several subjects,” she said.

Ziad Shatat, director of the Continuous Improvement Department at Sharjah Private Education Authority (SEPA), said authorities were aware of the problem and have collated data to deal with the problem.

“We needed data to analyse weaknesses and strengths of the online learning model for both pupils and educators,” he said.

He said SPEA launched the Learning Walks initiative, under which department heads of all subjects at private schools in the emirate were trained to roll out online lessons effectively.

“This meant that department heads attend and observe the learning experience of children during online classes,” he said.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , April 9 – 2020 :- One of the student of FS 2 during the online class at her home in Masakin Al Furjan area in Dubai. All the schools are closed in the UAE as a preventive measure against coronavirus. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram.

The scheme focused on analysing the performance of pupils and teachers, the impact of online learning on children, and key areas for improvement.

The data from schools was analysed by SPEA and it recommended several improvements, including offering tailor-made lessons for young children in the same class and focusing on pupils’ engagement.

The findings and recommendations were shared with schools before the academic year.

Mr Shatat said poor performance at school was because of several factors, such as offering the same lessons to pupils without taking into consideration their age and ability difference.

“If we want to address private tutoring as a negative phenomenon, and want to put an end to it, the Learning Walks initiative is a key to achieve that,” he said.

Simon Hetherington, director of Kip McGrath Education Centres in Abu Dhabi, said more pupils falling behind in studies are coming to them than before the pandemic.

“Primary pupils have missed vital years of growth from phonics, reading and writing to more advanced areas in English and maths,” he said.

“We have had some pupils who are more than four years behind their actual age. This is happening worldwide but particularly affecting pupils who do not speak English as their first language.”

Schools did their best, with online learning being the only option at the time, but face-to-face learning has major advantages.

“Motivational strategies are very difficult when a pupil is sat at home in front of a computer all day,” he said.

“The extra help we provide has seen huge success.”

Home tuition is still illegal and carries a Dh30,000 fine in Abu Dhabi.

“So finding a licensed and regulated centre like ours is important. We can help pupils catch up and excel once again over time,” he said.

Low attendance at a Sharjah school during the pandemic - in pictures

Updated: December 5th 2021, 12:07 PM