Coronavirus: UAE schools to be inspected over e-learning quality

Education authorities prepare for nationwide checks this month

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 22 – 2020 :- Zack Stewart , Grade 12 teacher at the Dubai American Academy taking online class from his home in the Springs in Dubai. Today is the first day of distance learning as all the schools are closed as a preventive measure against coronavirus. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Sarwat Nasir
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Schools across the country will be inspected to determine how well they are delivering e-learning classes.

Inspectors will be able to jump into virtual classes to observe teachers and pupils, while principals will be interviewed by officials.

The Ministry of Education and Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah's education regulators will assess public and private schools this month.

Each school will be subject to virtual inspections lasting about five hours.

I am certain the regulators will be aware of the pressure teachers and leaders, pupils and parents are under at this point of time

News of the checks came in a post on the website of Dubai private school regulator the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

"The Distance Learning Evaluation has been developed to create shared expectations of distance learning for schools, parents and students and to provide schools with feedback in order to help them improve key aspects of their provision," KHDA said.

"It will include online meetings with the principal and senior leadership team, as well as remote observation of lessons. Schools will be given prior notice of an evaluation."

Inspectors will focus on how pupils learn remotely and their general well-being, how teachers monitor pupils' progress and how schools are now led and managed, KHDA said.

Alan Williamson, chief executive of Taaleem, the country's second largest private school operator with 13 schools, said the inspections were a good opportunity to reflect on the major changes seen in the past two months.

"I am certain the regulators will be aware of the pressure teachers and leaders, pupils and parents are under at this point of time," he told The National.

"And while we fully understand and support the need for the Distance Learning Evaluation to ensure high standards, I am confident from our experience in the pilot that this will be approached empathetically by all involved, given the challenges that some families are currently facing.”

Neil Matthews, principal of Gems Wellington Academy Al Khail, said his school has already reviewed and refined distance learning as the programme has continued.

“This has been in response to feedback from pupils, parents and teachers and our internal quality assurance and monitoring processes," he said.

Annual inspections are seen as crucial to raising standards but also allow private schools to raise fees.

The amount each school can increase fees by each year depends on the rating they are given, with those rated very good or excellent allowed the largest rises.

In February, Dubai's regulator froze fees for the academic 2021-2022 to provide families with some financial relief.