Options on table as schools set to open in Bahrain

‘Blended Learning’ will see students coming into classes once or twice a week, with the rest of the week consisting of online classes

  
A Bahraini student from government school attends online schooling from home, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manama, Bahrain, March 25, 2020.

A Bahraini student from government school attends online schooling from home, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manama, Bahrain, March 25, 2020.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Three key options, including limiting classrooms to nine students at a time, have been tabled as preparations are being made for the new academic year in September.

They also include a blend of distance learning and traditional classes, revealed Education Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for General and Technical Education Lateefa Isa Al Bounoota.

She explained yesterday that public and private schools can opt any of the contingency plans depending on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the coming months, with the final approval depending on the Government’s Executive Committee.

Classrooms across the country have been suspended since March, with the 2019-2020 academic year continuing with online courses.

Bahrain has been witnessing an average of around 450 new cases of the novel coronavirus a day, a drop from an average of around 600 a day last month.

“We have more than these three options as there are options for all levels of education that are specific to them,” said Ms Al Bounoota.

“The first of which is if the health situation continues as is then we will continue with distance learning while improving the digital tools and the content for it.

“Another option is if things have improved then we can implement a combination of online courses and a return to classrooms, while taking all necessary precautions, which is called Blended Learning.

“We also have the option of returning to classrooms, maybe only the primary level students or the secondary level students, depending on guidance from the Executive Committee.

“If that is the case then there will be nine students in a classroom, with social distancing and all the necessary precautionary steps taken to ensure their safety.”

Blended

She explained that ‘Blended Learning’ will see students coming into classes once or twice a week, with the rest of the week consisting of online classes.

She also said a study has been conducted to utilise spaces in schools to ensure the nine students per classroom option works successfully, with plans in place to cancel assemblies while extracurricular activities and physical education will be done online to avoid gatherings.

Ms Al Bounoota added that if the pandemic eases by September then the gradual full return to classrooms could be a possibility, but will be done after conducting a trial period.

She was speaking during an online Press briefing, which was organised by the National Communications Centre in co-operation with the Education Ministry.

She also highlighted some of the precautionary steps to be taken by schools if they reopen for physical classes, which include strict sanitisation efforts and changes to transportation methods.

“Before the students actually come back, each school must form a committee to manage the health and safety of the students and everyone at the school,” said Ms Al Bounoota.

“The school must have all necessary equipment and health guidelines and must undergo regular sanitisation.

“A committee must also receive students at the school’s gates to make sure they are wearing masks and understand the health guidelines.

“During school hours there will not be an assembly to avoid gatherings and there won’t be activities or events, as all of these will be done online.

“Even physical education will be done online and there will be more oversight on the students in the halls, as well as signs and instructions to manage the movement of students, with the canteens temporarily closed until it is deemed safe enough.”

Mechanisms have also been put in place for pickup and drop-off of students to avoid crowding.

As for school transportation, there will be a limit to the number of students per bus, added Ms Al Bounoota.

She also said emergency plans have been discussed to tackle any positive case arising within school grounds.

Ms Al Bounoota also showcased figures regarding the distance learning experience undertaken by the ministry, revealing that the education portal has seen a total of 3,000,000 visits of which 70,000 were teachers, 147,000 students and 70,000 parents where they held 218,274 classes, activities and assignments.

Challenges

She also said that despite the circumstances and challenges facing students this semester the vast majority of students completed their courses online, with 99.88pc completion from primary education, 100pc from secondary education and high school, and 96.4pc from vocational and technical education.

The ministry also held a total of 83,219 lessons and discussions online as well as 149,578 educational supplements which were prepared by 212 teachers.

She added that 47,271 students took part in 1,162 classes.

The GDN previously reported that the academic year 2020-2021 will start as scheduled in September for public schools.

Meanwhile, students in private schools and kindergartens will begin their new academic year on September 16, with faculty members returning on September 1.

The Education Ministry yesterday said it will be launching a series of virtual summer courses for students.

The ministry is also prepared to provide emotional support to students who may have contracted Covid-19 or know someone who has, with the help of experts.

ghazi@gdn.com.bh

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