Abu Dhabi schools find ways to overcome learning gaps caused by home study

Schools to help pupils who struggled after 11 months of distance learning

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Schools in Abu Dhabi are finding ways to offer extra support for pupils who have fallen behind in their studies after almost a year of online learning.

Head teachers in the emirate said that since classrooms have reopened, they wanted to address any difficulties pupils may be having now to avoid significant learning gaps in future.

Sharmila Sarfraz, head of the Hindi department at Gems United Indian School, said teachers volunteered to organise extra classes after school or at the weekend for struggling pupils.

“Pupils who needed extra support, children who had recently enrolled at the school, or those who needed to repeat a certain part of the syllabus, and high achievers were all able to access extra classes," Ms Sarfraz said.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 14, 2021. Pupils return to Abu Dhabi's private schools. GEMS United Indian School – Abu Dhabi.  A teachers hands are sanitized after getting temperature checked at the lobby before entering the classroom area.
Victor Besa/The National
Section: NA
Reporter:  Anam Rizvi
A teacher's hands are sanitised in the lobby after a temperature check before she enters a classroom at Gems United Indian School, Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

"When pupils studied online, we extended extra classes to weekends."

They gave pupils forms to fill out each day to document what they had learnt and show where they needed more help.

“During online learning, it was difficult to teach creative writing as I could not draw and show the pupils," Ms Sarfraz said.

Teachers were conscious to help pupils who appeared to be struggling but also encouraged children to approach them with feedback or if they were having any problems.

Iain Colledge, principal at Raha International School, said pupils at his school were continually assessed to ensure they were keeping up.

About 2,200 of the school's 2,500 pupils returned to campus last week. Of these, close to 950 had not been back in classrooms since last March.

"We have managed distance learning robustly and pupils kept up with it,” Mr Colledge said.

“We assessed pupils continuously. When a teacher felt like a child was struggling, they received individualised attention."

Teachers also made sure pupils who had been away from campus for 11 month were given extra attention on their return.

“If there are gaps and challenges we filled that with extra support during the distance learning," Mr Colledge said.

He said the most important part of having pupils back in classrooms was to let them socialise.

“During online classes, children had to sit muted for a period of time," Mr Colledge said.

"In class, children talk freely and it’s a natural environment. Pupils can ask questions without having to unmute."

Pupils pleased to return

Vedangi Kulkarni, 14, a Grade 9 pupil at Gems United Indian School, said she needed extra lessons in maths.

“Extra classes helped me because understanding concepts of mathematics and physics online was a challenge,” Vedangi said.

She had a revision class with a teacher on Saturday, a day before her maths exam.

“If there are fewer learning gaps, then we have an extra class after school," Vedangi said.

"If more of the syllabus needs to be covered, then the class is held during the weekend."

Abu Dhabi pupils receive a round of applause upon return to classrooms

Abu Dhabi pupils receive a round of applause upon return to classrooms

Ollie Parker, a Year 7 pupil at the British School Al Khubairat, on Wednesday set foot on campus for the first time since enrolling last year.

He said online study had been challenging, particularly when faced with technical issues.

“Last year was hard. We did it for a really long time,” said Ollie, 11. “I’ve had some subjects that I’ve been troubled with, like mathematics."

He is looking forward to meeting teachers and classmates in person.

“I’m excited to take face-to-face mathematics classes because the teacher can help me more by talking me through the problem in-person," Ollie said.

Twins Alex and Leon Neethling at Raha International School were excited to be back in the classroom. Courtesy: Raha International School
Twins Alex and Leon Neethling at Raha International School were excited to be back in the classroom. Courtesy: Raha International School

Twelve-year-old twins, Leon and Alex Neethling, returned to Raha International School for Grade 6 after 11 months of home study.

“I thought online learning was quite good. But sometimes I would like to ask my teacher questions and we would not have time,” Leon said.

“Seeing our teacher in person felt good. It felt nicer to be in school than learning at home.”

*additional reporting by Haneen Dajani