Coronavirus: Dubai school pupils share remote learning tips

Youngsters were quick to point to the benefits of online schooling

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. MARCH 2020. 
Brooke Hol, 8.
First day of distance learning at the Hol family’s household.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Dubai pupils with years of experience in remote learning programmes have shared their tips on making the transition.

Speaking to The National, youngsters described the positive attributes of the schemes and encouraged their peers to make them work.

Tanish Mathew, 16, a young swimmer, said he was often unable to attend school owing to international competitions.

Meanwhile Varun Nayanar, 17, said he once spent six months off-campus as he trained for and competed in cricket matches.

“The most amount of time I had spent away from school was three months,” said Tanish, who is in year 11 at Indian High School in Dubai and who has won 18 gold medals in competitions across Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

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I suggest pupils should utilise the time saved for productive activities, fitness and develop new hobbies.

“The distance learning is quite convenient and flexible. It saves travel time and it is mobile.

“I suggest pupils should utilise the time saved for productive activities, fitness and develop new hobbies.”

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, schools across the UAE and the world have shut as part of efforts to contain its spread.

Last week, authorities in the Emirates said classrooms in the country would stay closed until at least the beginning of September.

As a result, online distance-learning programmes have now become the norm for thousands of pupils of all ages.

But far from being a set back to learning, those with experience of the schemes highlighted their potential.

Tanish Mathew. Courtesy: Tanish Mathew

Varun, a pupil at Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, said he had been involved in a part-time schooling project called Rahhal, set up by Dubai's private school regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, in 2018.

The scheme, which had more than 1,200 pupils enrolled as of early 2019, aims to allow pupils time away from school to help them develop particular passions.

“I am able to stay in touch with my teachers and learn comfortably while staying away from school,” said Varun.

“I would advise other pupils to try and accept it [distance learning] in a positive manner and learn as much as they can.

“I would also tell them to stay healthy and fit while staying at home and studying.

“I also feel routine is very important. I was able to bring focus to my studies because of my regular exercise and fitness regime.”

Alaa Mahmoud, a Dubai mother, said she had taken the decision to home school her two boys five years ago.

She said she had wanted to pursue a more personalised curriculum but acknowledged that having children at home full-time could be “overwhelming” at times, at least for the first few months.

However, she said remote learning had actually helped Abdullah, 15, and Omar, 12, develop their independence and creativity.

She agreed there were drawbacks, but that the difficulties became easier as the children grew up.

“Parents, gradually, will find a comfortable approach,” she said.

“Children have a much higher potential than we think. Home schooling makes pupils responsible, they adapt fast and become surprisingly reliable.

Varun Nayanar said his off-campus time helped him develop a healthy routine. Courtesy: Varun Nayanar

“Keeping the kids busy is key. I use my time in the evenings to plan the next day’s lessons, activities, games and food.

“As they grow up, it becomes much easier and we [parents] have more of a supervisory role.”

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