Parents in Abu Dhabi are being urged to voice their views over plans to reopen schools in September by the emirate's education regulator.
Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge is calling for parents to help shape the direction of learning in the Covid-19 age.
They are to be surveyed on pressing issues such as whether they want to send their children back to school full-time, for four hours daily, on alternate days or weeks, or continue distance learning.
Earlier this week, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private school regulator, announced schools and universities would be opening campuses for in-person classes in September.
On Monday, UAE education authorities announced they were laying the groundwork for a possible return to classrooms this September.
“Adek is fully aligned with the Ministry of Education on the potential reopening of schools in September and we look forward to welcoming back our community of pupils, teachers, staff and parents," said Sara Musallam, chairperson at Adek.
“At the same time, we are conscious of the ongoing impact the last few months have had on families, so we want to hear parental feedback and concerns about sending their children back to school as their opinion matters very much.
“We are launching this survey to aggregate insights, which will shape the different schools’ return to classroom operations as we continue navigating the new normal together.
“If after schools reopen, some parents still feel unsafe about sending their children back to school, they will always have the option of distance learning.”
The survey covers a range of topics, from the number of children per household and how they usually travel to and from school, to preferences on school reopening, duration and format of the school day, and whether parents intend to send their children to school. The research will also consider how families were affected by the pandemic and what level of financial support their school has offered in recent times.
What are the options being considered by education authorities in Abu Dhabi?
Education authorities are mulling options such as a full return of pupils at schools and half-days where children will attend school for four hours every day or, alternating days when children would attend school for two or three days a week.
Another plan under consideration is for a child to attend school for a week, and learn at home the next week.
The last option is the continuation of distance learning.
Schools would have to implement social distancing and health and safety measures and school fees will remain unchanged.
What are the questions parents have to answer?
Through the anonymous survey, parents in the emirate would have their say on safety guidelines, online learning provisions, distance learning for children with special needs.
"If schools reopen in September, would you be willing to send your child to school for face-to-face learning, or only continue distance learning?" is an example of a questions are asked during the survey.
Parents would be posed questions on whether their child uses public transport to travel to school, how many vulnerable people live in their households, and if they have access to help at home.
To understand the economic impact of the pandemic on families, parents will be asked to reveal information on employment, salary reductions, job losses.
They can also provide feedback on whether they received any financial relief from the school.
Parents would also be quizzed on their flexibility to work from home.
Each school will receive reopening guidelines for safe operations, teaching and learning and staff and pupil wellbeing.
Radwa Allabban, Egyptian-British managing director of an Abu Dhabi communications consultancy, is the mother of three boys aged four, six and 10.
“I would be happy to send my kids to school in September, provided the school can perhaps arrange for reduced class capacity to maintain a degree of social distancing," said Ms Allabban, a parent in Abu Dhabi.
"So, if the school would have half the children for two days and then the other half for the other two days of the week, that would be reasonable in the short term.
"My husband and I tried to support our children with distance learning, but that isn’t sustainable in the long term. Both of us work full-time and have demanding careers, so we feel that our children will miss out on valuable education and personal development if they spend another school year at home.”