DJEDDAH: Distance learning was a necessity imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and over the past 18 months there has been a lot of debate, globally, on the merits or not of teaching remotely and how its extended use has served students during these trying times.
In Saudi Arabia, however, parents appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of distance education, according to figures cited by Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. Speaking at the Saudi Family Forum last month, hosted by the Family Affairs Council, he said 83% of parents believe distance education has had a positive impact on their mental and psychological health. children. He added that he is here to stay, in one form or another, even after the pandemic is over, as he has become a mainstay of the education system.
Saudi authorities have responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or “My School,” platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from grades one to 12, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best online educational experience possible. To achieve this, it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and much more. In the first week after launching in September 2020, the free platform saw 41 million visits.
Redha Omda, a father of three in Jeddah, told Arab News that teachers are using new techniques to improve the online learning environment, and applauded the increased use of technology.
“I love the way technology plays such a big role in the education sector,” he said. “The teachers contact me via WhatsApp and they are more accessible than before.
“The Madrasati platform is linked to the parents’ Tawakkalna app which is amazing and lets me know everything about my kids. I am also in awe of the way my kids are using technology in ways I never imagined. “
Bara’a Alfergani, a mother of two living in Jeddah, said distance education saves students a lot of time.
“It’s better to study at home than to attend eight hours of class each day and then come home with homework,” she said. “It’s much easier to attend online and do your homework in one place. “
Alfergani added that it also makes it easier for her to supervise her children and become more involved in their education.
The Education Ministry has indicated that the future of learning in Saudi Arabia will involve some form of blended learning, as the concept of distance education has evolved in the wake of the global health crisis.
Joud Al-Harbi, a 23-year-old student from Jeddah, said online education is a much better option than attending classes.
“It allows me to do a lot of things at the same time,” she said. “I interact with my instructors and most of my college mates easily understand the topics. “
A friend of hers has a sick child, she added, and prefers to take online classes because it gives her more time to care for the youngster.
Schools and other educational establishments in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, at the very start of the pandemic. They started to reopen in September this year, although distance learning remains in place for the younger ones.
However, not all parents agree that distance learning has been a good thing. Housewife Mashael Al-Sahli said it had a negative psychological effect on her two children as it deprived them of a social life.
“Building social skills starts at school and it’s an important factor in the growth process,” she said. “It was something we hadn’t felt until the schools closed. “
Not only were her children deprived of the school environment, activities and their friends, she said, even though the e-learning system that was developed is good, she nevertheless found the process to be successful. difficult learning.
“Children can’t even see teachers’ gestures or body language,” she added.
Nahedh Almwalad, a primary school teacher in Jeddah, said children have a lot of energy and limited attention spans, which can be a challenge with online education, but added that it can help teach them patience.