Complex Made Simple

Covid-19 is here to stay: What happens to our children’s education now?

With schools and universities closed and students stuck at home, will studies resume?

More than 300 million students worldwide face weeks at home The Middle East was among the earliest regions to shutter schools For educational institutions, remote learning has become their lifeline

With 254,654 reported cases of Covid-19 infection and 10,440 deaths, most countries have shut down their schools and universities as educational facilities naturally pose great opportunities for transmitting the virus, especially among the uninhibited young of primary Grades.

So now, with the Coronavirus showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, what will happen to our children’s education?

School’s out for… ever?Image: UNESCO Screen capture: Arab News
As experts struggle to come to a conclusive understanding of the virus and when we will actually see it phase out, school’s out… indefinitely.

The UK is among the latest (and the tardiest) to join in the shutting down of their schools, universities, and other educational institutions, keeping them closed for the “foreseeable future.” 

The GCC, for one, had already done so for a few weeks now, though Saudi Arabia is among the latest as it wasn’t as affected by the pandemic as other Gulf countries at first. 

The UAE had initially decided to shutter schools and universities for 4 weeks starting from March 8th, though this is currently up in the air as the Covid-19 situation develops.

Image tweeted by the Ministry of Education on March 3rd

Kuwait shut its schools back during the last week of February, at the time for only 2 weeks. Yesterday, however, the Kuwaiti government declared that Grade 12 students will resume studies by August 4, while Grade 1-11 will resume studies by October 4. 

Bahrain similarly closed schools starting from the last week of February, for a period of 2 weeks. 

Read: Balcony Theater: Art, Music, and Revolution during the Coronavirus Pandemic

So what happens to the curriculum?

For the past few weeks, many students that have been confined to home-quarantine have resorted to distance learning initiatives. 

In the UAE, “the Ministry of Education announced last Sunday that 42,000 teachers have completed an online training programme to certify them for remote learning,” Gulf News reported. Many educational institutions in the country have since resorted to remote learning efforts, in order to keep students up to date with syllabi.

As for Saudi Arabia, many of its universities already had an advanced integrated online education infrastructure in place, Arab News explains. Now authorities are taking measures to expand that system. 

“The health situation facing the world pushed the Kingdom to use the learning alternatives and accelerate the e-learning process through its known and accredited platforms,” Dr. Noura Al-Marri, vice chairperson of the Shoura Council’s Educational Committee, told Arab News

“Integrated and remote education was one of the proposed plans before the spread of the coronavirus. The emergency events helped with its implementation despite the fact that some peripheral regions do not have the necessary components of fast and effective communication.” 

In Lebanon, schools and universities were already prepared with remote learning solutions, as nation-wide protests in recent months had forced closures, so students were already partaking in these practices. Among the software used, Executive magazine explains, are Google Classroom, video conferencing service Zoom, PRONOTE, KNED, ELearning and Microsoft Teams.

As for schools in Kuwait, which now face a significant 5-month period of non-activity, remote learning will likely be reduced, though we imagine many schools and universities will carry on with light excercises and refresher online courses to keep students in the spirit of studying. 

Could we see more countries follow Kuwait’s suit, or is this an extreme case? 

It is highly possible we will. The UK, for one, has said their decision to close schools and universites will last for indefinitely, meaning that unless a breakthrough with the outbreak emerges, British students are going to be enjoying an extended summer break.

Read: One million travel and tourism jobs a day being lost due to coronavirus pandemic, says WTTC