Are homeschooling and virtual classrooms the future of schooling?

An empty classroom Representational Image

There was a time when parents who preferred their kids to be homeschooled would either feel that homeschooling was a tough task or were criticized by other parents. They would look at it as a bad idea, something that didn't give kids the exposure and discipline that a traditional school setup did. This, despite homeschooled children tending to perform better than private or public school students.

Now, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which is upending our lifestyles and the way things work, millions of kids in many developed countries of the world are being forced to be homeschooled (well kind of), whether their parents like the idea or not. Fortunately, the students still have their teacher taking classes for them.

Future of schooling

Most schools in the developed world have already moved their classes online and teachers interact with children and take classes from their home using videoconferencing services such as Zoom. While it many not seem like the ideal setting for a school right now, it does give us a brief of idea of how the future of schooling would look like in a post-pandemic future or beyond.

Virtual classrooms are expected to get better as schools will now also be evaluated on the basis of their "distance learning", at least that's what is happening in the UAE.

According to a report in the Gulf News, all public and private schools in the UAE will need to undergo a "Distance Learning Evaluation" (DLE), starting this month.

The DLE is a new joint initiative among various educational authorities including the UAE's Ministry of Education, Dubai's Knowledge and Humanitarian Development Authority, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and the Knowledge and Sharjah Private Education Authority.

The information on the new initiative was posted by Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) on its "Safety at Schools" webpage. The portal is dedicated to FAQs and announcements related to education in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Observing remote lessons, interviewing student leaders

The DLE will help evaluate the quality of distance learning provided by all schools which moved their classes online earlier in March as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic. The assessment will be done by observing remote lessons and interviewing school leaders.

The assessment will begin before May 15 following a pilot program at some private and public schools and discussions with teachers and principals of the schools.

The DLE will evaluate schools on three main areas – students' distance learning and wellbeing, remote teaching and observing students learning, leadership and management of students learning.

The evaluation will be conducted remotely and each evaluation will take approximately five hours.

"DLE will include online meetings with the principal and senior leadership team, as well as remote observation of lessons and schools will be given prior notice of an evaluation," as per the KHDA webpage.

The evaluation results will be shared with schools and also be published at a later stage.

US schools don't seem to be reopening anytime soon

The UAE's distancing learning evaluation initiative looks like a great idea to ensure the quality of remote learning and as much as we wish our kids can get back to their traditional school settings and life becomes normal once again, the indefinite lockdown extensions and the unstoppable infection rates suggest that it is going to be this way for at least some time in the near future.

The distance learning period in the UAE has reportedly been extended until the summer break for now. However, the situation isn't the same in countries such as the UK and US which are the worst affected by the pandemic. According to a CNN report, 44 out of the 50 states in the US have recommended school closures continue for the rest of the academic year.

Related topics : Coronavirus
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