COVID-19: Laptops, tablets to be offered to deprived students, says Saudi education minister

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Minister of Education, Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sheikh, said the Takaful Foundation will offer laptops or tablets to disadvantaged students, who do not have access to a computer.

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Dr. Al Sheikh added Saudi Arabia has dedicated 20 satellite TV channels to broadcast lessons to students, in case the internet is not covered in certain areas.

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Regarding the fees for private schools, he said, “The fees have been reduced in more than 2,000 private schools and we are waiting for the rest,” he told Al Arabiya TV.

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He said entering the Madrasati (My School) platform is mandatory for students and teachers, and evaluating students and setting exams will take place through the platform.

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Dr. Al Sheikh confirmed family participation in the follow-up of children is necessary for academic achievement.

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Saudi Arabia will continue distance learning measures for students during the first seven weeks of the new academic year and will review a return to schools later on, according to a statement from the kingdom’s Ministry of Education.

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The kingdom suspended all schools, universities and educational institutions since March 9 as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and instituted distance learning as an alternative.

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Asked about the seven weeks set for distance education at the beginning of the school year, he said, “Determining the evaluation after seven weeks was done at the request of the Ministry of Health, and all state agencies are integrated to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision on distance education aims at maintaining safety of the employees of the education sector from infection, and the seven weeks are enough to give us light at the end of the tunnel. We must adapt and coexist with the new situation and appreciate the future risks that the community and students may be exposed to. The decision to return to normal studies cannot be linked to something unknown.”

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Strategic choice

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In April, the kingdom’s Minister of Education said distance learning could eventually be a strategic choice for Saudi Arabia and not just an alternative following the coronavirus crisis.

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Education has been managing “virtual schools” and distance learning during the suspension period.

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Dr. Al Sheikh pointed out that “a department for e-learning and the development of distance education has been established .. and in case the student is unable to submit homework electronically, they can handed over it to the school in attendance and we are working to benefit from e-learning and distance education after the pandemic.”

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He said that study plans were developed in coordination with the ministries of Health and Communications, and that Ministry of Education cannot make a decision that harms public health.”

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Saudi intermediate and high school hours have been revised to start at 9am instead of 7am, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said.

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“The change was inspired by convenience of students, their parents and teachers,” the spokesperson added.

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Saudi Arabia reported a drop in COVID-19 cases with 1,069 new infections detected in 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the kingdom to 312,924, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday.

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