Limitations of remote learning a huge challenge - GulfToday

Limitations of remote learning a huge challenge


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning, according to the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and this is a matter that has not yet been addressed sincerely by the international community.

There are huge limitations when it comes to remote learning and the present situation has exposed the deep inequalities in access.

The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency. The repercussions will be felt in economies and societies for decades to come, as stated by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

At the height of nationwide and local lockdowns, nearly 1.5 billion schoolchildren were affected by school closures.

The UNICEF report – based on a globally representative analysis on the availability of home-based remote learning technology and tools for children from pre-primary to upper-secondary levels – also found that even when children had the necessary platforms, they may not be able to learn remotely due to competing factors at home.

The report is valuable because it used data from 100 countries, which included access to television, radio and internet, and the availability of curriculum delivered across these platforms during school closures.

It has exposed stark inequality within countries. Schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa were the worst affected, with half of all students not reached with remote learning.

Schoolchildren from the poorest households and those living in rural areas are also at high risk of missing out during closures.

Globally, 72 per cent of schoolchildren unable to access remote learning live in their countries’ poorest households. In upper-middle-income countries, schoolchildren from the poorest households account for up to 86 per cent of students unable to access remote learning.

Age groups also had an impact, with the youngest students most likely to miss out on remote learning during their most critical years of learning and development.

The UAE, on its part, has taken all the correct steps.

As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, stated:  “I learned from the Ministers of Education about the latest preparations for the start of the next academic year... We look forward to a safe start and in accordance with the best safety standards for more than a million students within the education system in the Emirates.”

As many as 37,000 educational cadres of the public and private schools that follow the Ministry of Education’s curricula will begin the specialised training week that starts coinciding with the 6th Arab Gulf Teachers Forum under the title of “Hybrid Learning” under the patronage of Hussein Bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister for Education.

The training and forum will be held virtually via the “Microsoft Teams” software and the “learning curve” electronic training platform.

The forum will focus on the effective teaching and learning process within the hybrid-learning environment, to support the capabilities of teachers in managing and implementing the teaching and learning process in an effective manner. It seeks to employ appropriate learning strategies and supportive technologies that enable teachers to achieve students’ learning goals and integrate them into the educational process.

As UN officials suggest, governments should prioritise the safe re-opening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions, along with urgent investment to bridge the digital divide.

Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.

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