Fawzia Abdulaziz al-Khater: the ministry has put in place measures in preparation for the new school year.
• Education ministry ensures safe and healthy school environment
The new academic year begins in Qatar today with the blended learning system in place, and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) has ensured a safe and healthy school environment for all concerned.
Under the blended learning system, 50% of students will be in the classroom and 50% will attend lessons remotely, and this will be done on a rotational basis.
While some private schools have been imparting lessons since Tuesday, others will do so from today, along with government schools.
The fast and effective rollout of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines has helped the country resume academic sessions with on-campus learning at 50%.
While 93.7% of the eligible population having received at least one dose of vaccine, it was recently reported that seven out of 10 children in Qatar aged 12-17 have already received at least one vaccine dose, with no major side effects reported.
The MoEHE, in collaboration of Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), has finalised arrangements to receive students under strict Covid-19 precautionary and preventative measures.
It has been ensured that all the Covid-19 protocols will be in place, and the authorities issued the necessary guidelines a few days ago for the smooth functioning of schools.
The MoEHE has also announced the bubble arrangement in schools, which can act as an effective preventative measure to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 within schools.
In a press statement yesterday, the MoEHE’s assistant undersecretary for Educational Affairs, Fawzia Abdulaziz al-Khater, underlined that the ministry would continue to apply the blended learning system in government schools for the 2021/2022 academic year, in addition to the adoption of the rotating attendance system across all academic levels in schools, following co-ordination and consultation with the MoPH in light of the analysis of the current situation and the Covid-19 rate of infection in the country, and upon reviewing the procedures followed by other countries in this regard.
She confirmed that the Educational Affairs Sector at the MoEHE has planned and implemented a package of targeted measures in preparation for the new academic year, ensuring an effective kick-off across all grade levels in a healthy and safe school environment.
Al-Khater added that blended learning involves face-to-face learning and online learning using Microsoft Teams, in line with the rotation plan set by the school.
However, the official said, in low-density schools in remote areas and low-density specialised schools, as well as speciality schools for students with disabilities, all students will be attending, with 100% face-to-face learning.
She said the ministry has put in place several measures in preparation for the new school year, including the need for school administrations to adhere to precautionary measures to ensure the safety of students and staff in schools, and the need for having nursing staff on the school premises on a daily basis.
The measures include educating new students and parents about the school policy in dealing with and preventing the spread of Covid-19.
In addition, all visitors and employees must show the Ehteraz application and have their temperature checked before entering the school premises.
Further, any Covid-19 infections must be reported immediately to the MoPH and MoEHE, and in case of an increased number of Covid-19 cases reported, the respective school or kindergarten will have to switch to 100% online learning, with the approval of the Ministry of Public Health and following the notification of the School Affairs Department.
Schools are also required to commit to the circulars issued by the relevant authorities, she added.
According to Circular No 16/2020, students must attend class on five days in every two consecutive weeks, while teachers must teach 30 lessons per week across all grades.
School hours will be from 7.15am-12.30pm, with six 45-minute lessons per day, and a 25-minute recess.
Al-Khater added: “Children in kindergartens will attend at a rate of 50% for the 2021/2022 academic year.”
“The Ministry of Education has issued guidelines for face-to-face and online learning in kindergartens with a maximum 15 students per classroom, with the need to utilise the school theatre and sports halls as classrooms to maintain social distancing,” she added. “Kindergartens need to communicate with parents, informing them of their children’s rotation schedules.”
“In addition, morning assemblies, group activities such as excursions, camps and celebrations are to be cancelled and organised virtually where applicable,” she said.
The official noted that the MoEHE would issue a detailed package of circulars and instructions for schools to organise the blended learning and rotation attendance systems, including student attendance rates in the school building, student rotation schedules, staff working hours, the number of lessons per week and school hours, Qatar News Agency (QNA) added.
On academic requirements for the new academic year, al-Khater confirmed that the competent departments in the Educational Affairs Sector prepared modified semester plans for subjects for all levels and provided interactive educational units in order to support distance learning for the students, in addition to producing awareness videos in sign language for deaf students and providing electronic learning resources for all subjects and grades, according to QNA.
She noted the measures adopted for students with disabilities, stressing in this context co-ordination regarding the registration and transfer of students with disabilities in schools and the preparation of the necessary instructions for school administrations and their educational staff to ensure the provision of special education services in the required form, in addition to listing the needs of schools and students for the necessary tools, equipment and educational and technological resources.
Al-Khater congratulated school principals, administrative and teaching staff, students and parents on the occasion of the start of the new academic year, calling on students to benefit from the opportunities and the unlimited support provided by the wise leadership for the education system.
Meanwhile, Indian schools – which cater to the largest expatriate community in the country – are set to open their doors to students with strict Covid-19 measures in place.
While classes resumed at MES Indian School last week for the ongoing academic year with the 50% blended learning system, Ideal Indian School opened with online classes.
Lessons in other schools will resume today following instructions from the MoEHE.
Regarding the activation of learning resource centres in schools during the application of the blended learning system, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE)’s assistant undersecretary for Educational Affairs Fawzia Abdulaziz al-Khater noted that guidelines have been provided in order to facilitate the work of learning resource officials in activating learning resource centres for students during distance study, in addition to preparing a work agenda that includes the most prominent programmes and activities of the learning resource centres for the year 2021-2022, according to Qatar News Agency.
She highlighted preparations and directives to limit and compensate for learning loss among students, stressing that the Educational Affairs Sector is keen to limit the learning loss in learning that resulted from the application of blended learning or distance learning, in terms of knowledge and practical, applied and intellectual skills in all age stages.
The competent departments provided schools with the proposed tools and strategies to identify learning loss, such as direct monitoring and diagnostic evaluation, using evaluation methods and tools that reveal learning loss among students.
Al-Khater noted that the issues of learning loss were also taken into account in the semester plans, and schools were directed to prepare and implement plans to bridge the gap based on students’ results in diagnostic tests, and to provide reinforcement lessons to students in some educational subjects, in addition to creating special learning teams on the MS Teams platform for some categories taking into account individual differences.
The Sector has prepared a plan to supervise the compensation of educational losses for students in all schools.
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