The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) has been working closely with private schools and technology partners in the past two weeks in an effort to prepare Abu Dhabi schools for the kick-off of distance learning, starting Sunday, March 22. This follows the UAE Ministry of Education’s decision to temporarily suspend schools as a preventative measure in light of COVID-19. In order to ensure that distance learning is a success for 204 private schools and 13 charter schools across Abu Dhabi, ADEK spearheaded multiple initiatives to address challenges facing the continuity of learning. From in-depth research and thorough testing of different e-learning platforms, to securing the necessary accessibility for minimal disruption and delivering comprehensive training for educators, all efforts were backed by a network of technology and education partners.
H.E. Sara Musallam, Chairperson at ADEK, said: “When NCEMA took a decision to suspend schools temporarily to protect our students from the spread of the novel coronavirus, we had to set in place all the necessary measures needed to activate distance learning. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures and what happened in the following days was an impressive showcase of social cohesion, unity and purpose. I’m extremely proud of how our entire community, from educators to private sector partners came together to rise up to the challenge. Our mission at ADEK is to empower education, and we were determined not to allow anything to stand in the way of our children getting a quality education.”
With the aim of tackling the distance learning challenge head on, ADEK immediately took the reins to assess overall readiness of schools by hosting a contingency planning session on March 2, which saw the attendance of representatives and principals from more than 160 schools in the Emirate. Following the session, 200 continuity of learning action plans for schools were submitted and were then evaluated by ADEK to identify gaps and determine where support was needed most.
ADEK also successfully facilitated a school-pairing initiative, where lead schools that have robust distance learning systems in place were paired with partner schools that needed additional support. The initiative, which was announced on March 9, resulted in a total of 33 school pairings to allow for knowledge transfer and resource-sharing.
In a bid to upskill schools over this two-week period, ADEK, in partnership with Microsoft, hosted training sessions on March 11, 12 and 16 for educators from over 132 schools on best practices for virtual classrooms. ADEK has also set up an online knowledge-sharing platform featuring 1,014 education files, allowing teachers and educators to access learning resources and materials needed to provide a seamless online learning experience for students.
Since the temporary closure was announced, ADEK set up lines of communication with nurseries, schools, scholarship program students and parents via six direct hotlines and two dedicated e-mail addresses. To date, ADEK successfully fielded over 2,000 calls, in addition to receiving and processing more than 1,116 e-mails from parents and educators.
“Strengthening our distance learning capabilities has been our top priority in the past two weeks. We have been working with educators and technology partners around the clock to ensure that schools are able to deliver learning efficiently and without disruption. With state-of-the-art technology and support from our valued partners, we are taking distance learning to the next level. We have worked hard to address parents’ concerns around the potential interruption to their children’s education, and in just two weeks, we developed turnkey solutions that will enable students to continue learning in a safe environment from home,” Musallam stated.
As part of ongoing partnerships with Alef Education, Microsoft Teams, Class Dojo and others, ADEK has now equipped all schools with the necessary platforms as needed, free of charge. Through their strategic partnership with Amazon and Alef Education, ADEK will provide schools and students with the needed tablets and devices to enable full access to remote learning. In collaboration with telecommunication provider du, ADEK also ensured connectivity in the areas where students live. To date, ADEK is set to provide over 15,150 tablets, 7,000 SIM cards and 3,000 MiFi devices to facilitate distance learning across institutions.
With distance learning set to kick-off at schools across the Emirate, ADEK has put in place procedures to ensure all students and parents are able to reach the appropriate teams within their institutions to facilitate connectivity, device delivery and provision and resource allocation.