Abu Dhabi private schools set to return to in-person lessons for next academic year

The decision follows consultations with parents, teachers, principals and school operators

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Pupils seated for the Mathematic, grade 11  exam hall at Gems Cambridge International School in Baniyas. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has approved the return of students to in-person classes for the next academic year.

The decision follows consultations with parents, teachers, principals and school operators across Abu Dhabi in May and June this year.

More than 80 per cent of teachers and school staff, including maintenance and security teams, have been vaccinated.

Abu Dhabi is aiming to return pupils to the classroom while keeping everyone safe.

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While we believe that remote learning is not a perfect substitute for physical learning, we must ensure that everyone is comfortable to return to in-school instruction as much as possible

The decision to return to in-person learning was made by health authorities, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) and related government authorities.

"The pandemic has tested the resolve of teachers, parents, and school staff, our unsung heroes, who came together and have gone to incredible lengths to ensure that our children receive the best education possible during these challenging times," said Sara Musallam, chairwoman of Adek.

"While we believe that remote learning is not a perfect substitute for physical learning, we must ensure that everyone is comfortable to return to in-school instruction as much as possible."

The move was also informed by an independent survey of more than 117,000 parents representing more than 230,000 students across private, public and charter schools.

The Parents Survey on Schools Reopening included UAE citizens and residents.

It found 88 per cent of parents thought it would be better for students to return to classes in person.

Parents also said higher vaccination figures would make them more confident about the decision to return to in-person learning.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently available for children aged over 12, and a study into the efficacy of the Sinopharm among children as young as 3 was launched recently.

The survey also showed that parents were comfortable reducing physical distancing requirements, which would enable students to attend school on more days per week.

The committee stressed the importance of co-ordination between schools in the emirate and Adek to ensure schools were ready to receive students of all levels at the start of the academic year. The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee will continue working with the schools community and health authorities and will update the protocols for reopening schools very soon.

School operational protocols related to Covid-19 will be published by 15 August.

The committee also approved providing full-time remote learning as an option to parents who request it, if offered by their child’s school.

Adek highlighted that the physical return to schools would be continuously monitored and evaluated to ensure ongoing safety, saying and that it relies on the co-operation of the entire school community in following precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff.

Earlier this week, the UAE's new public school operator said pupils will complete the academic year on June 30 as planned.

Emirates Schools Establishment, the operator of government schools and kindergartens across the UAE, said last month that pupils in Years 4 to 12 at the UAE's state schools would sit online exams in June. Pupils in Years 1 to 3 will not sit exams and will be given marks based on assessment.

The ESE approved a plan for the remaining school days of the current academic year and will continue with distance learning after the examination period on June 17, state news agency Wam reported.

The schools operator said third-term exams marked the end of the curriculum but not the end of the current academic year.

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