A study conducted in the United States by global consultancy firm McKinsey among the school community during the months of fall 2020 found a sharp sense of loss of learning among students after starting their classes with nearly three months late. And while the study results were rampant in the United States, the effects of the pandemic on students and the resulting loss of learning were keenly felt around the world.
The UAE education sector has always watched global trends and tried to assimilate best practices as quickly as possible after observation. The pandemic and the sense of loss of learning felt by students and passed on by their parents to staff were therefore quickly analyzed, leading a multitude of individual UAE schools to put in place measures to mitigate the effects.
Critical student-teacher connection
At Amity School Dubai, principal, Sangita Chima says that despite the nighttime disruption and the abrupt shift to a digital classroom environment, the learning process has continued almost without a hitch and believes that maintaining the connection between the teacher and student is the vital first step in tackling learning loss. “Just like a ‘don’t give up’ mission, we believe in using all available means of communication to stay in touch with families in our school community,” says Chima. “We have changed our strategies and modified our learning programs to ensure that the learning loss is reduced to a considerable extent. Identifying students who need an extra helping hand by tracking achievement, attendance and behavior data is critical. These data-driven indicators give teachers a warning. Intensive tutoring in small, focused groups improves a student’s basic skills. Accelerated group learning with enough time, instead of remedial instruction, is another great way to support students who may have declined.
Getting into smaller target groups also means improving the reach of free communication that acts as a learning facilitator, something Michelle Choytooa, inclusion champion at Victory Heights Primary School in Dubai, points out.
Communicate with your child
“Children have shown great resilience in the face of the pandemic and have moved to a new way of learning for much of the 2019/20 school year. While in some areas the children have not made the same level of progress as we would have hoped for, for the most part the results remain exceptional, ”says Choytooa. “One area where we think kids have fallen behind is their ability to communicate their learning. A key goal of our school is the development of children’s oral skills – and leaving the classroom environment removed some of the structures that allowed them to do so so freely. So talk to your child – ask him what he has learned – dig deeper into his answers, don’t accept closed answers – question and challenge him.
The powers of a difficult but relevant program for engaging young minds also cannot be underestimated, believes Wayne Howsen, principal of the Aquila School, which is part of the International Schools Partnership. “We pride ourselves on being a truly inclusive school and as such, regardless of their starting points, teachers are qualified and empowered to teach children what they need to know now. Through a well-presented, active, engaging and relevant program, we ensure that every child makes as much progress as possible. “
Dr. Paul Richards, Superintendent, American School of Dubai, is a confirmed optimist who believes the pandemic has learned a lot about managing and mitigating learning losses in the community, while also enabling students to become true well-balanced citizens of the world. Concluding the discussion, he said: “There has been a lot of attention paid to the loss of learning and a lot of debate. When using traditional measures, such as standardized tests, some loss of yield or slowed growth rates can be identified. Direct intervention by teachers, using targeted literacy strategies, will help address the losses identified by the data analysis. However, much was also gained during the pandemic, in the development of social and emotional skills. Let us not lose sight of this glimmer of hope. “