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Is Online Education in Kuwait the Best Option During the Omicron Surge?

Online education in Kuwait is off the table, according to government authorities. “The pandemic must not be used as an excuse to stop education,” MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf said during the recently held National Assembly session. 

The state of education in Kuwait during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the issues discussed among the MPs in the National Assembly session. Despite the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases brought about by the omicron variant, officials think that education must continue. The closing of schools or the shift to online education in Kuwait does not seem to be a favorable option anymore. 

MP Dr. Hamad Al-Matar shares the same perspective as MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf. He said that “we don’t want to go back to online education.” 

This does not mean, however, that the conduct of classes on campus will continue without the necessary public health precautions. MP Dr. Hamad Al-Matar, urged the Ministry of Health to remain on top of the situation in schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated that if the situation does not improve, 650,000 students will be affected. Both their health and future will be on the line.

Schools in Kuwait were Reopened Last Year

In the second half of last year, Dr. Ali Al Mudhaf, the Minister of Education, said that public schools would reopen on October 3. Private schools were scheduled to resume in-person education at a later date, which was set for September 27. However, foreign private schools were allowed to conduct online classes before then, so that they could already begin the academic year. 

And so, after 18 long months of schools being closed and students turning to online education in Kuwait, schools did reopen. 

Teachers and administrative staff in the kindergarten, elementary, and middle school levels resumed work on September 19, while those in high school went back to work on September 26.

Both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health worked together to create regulations that will ensure that the conduct of in-person classes is safe. All schools had to reduce the number of students attending each class. They also had to make use of a hybrid model for teaching and learning.

Classes in public schools were divided into two groups that had at most 20 students each. They were assigned their own schedule, with both groups having to attend classes on campus alternately. As such, students went to school every other day.

Private schools were allowed to implement their own regulations based on what they deemed suitable for their own situation.

Apart from the schedule, the setup of the classrooms was also designed so that students could keep a 1 meter distance from each other. Face masks should also be worn at all times, both by students and teachers. 

Unvaccinated students who are 12 years of age or older, teachers, and administrative staff need to undergo an RT-PCR test every Sunday of the school week. They should present a negative test result prior to going to school. 

The rule on COVID-19 testing also applies to unvaccinated parents and visitors. They must undergo testing no more than 72 hours before their visit.

Divided Opinions on Returning to Online Education in Kuwait

The COVID-19 situation in schools and compliance with the health protocols implemented are being continuously monitored by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health. 

Despite this, students, parents, and teachers are still worried about their safety because of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases. Leaving their homes so that they can go to school increases their possible exposure to the virus. They may suffer from the health consequences that infection with COVID-19 can bring. 

This situation has brought up discussions on whether in-person classes should be continued or if they should revert to online education in Kuwait once more. In line with this, the Kuwait Times conducted a survey to get a feel of what the general public thinks about. 

Safety Should Come First

Some respondents said that going back to online education in Kuwait is the safest option there is. It’s difficult to know who is infected with the coronavirus among the people they will interact with. The health precautions implemented by the school will never be enough to protect them from infection. So, having in-person classes will surely give them COVID. 

A respondent also said that it’s a choice between learning and the safety of the family members they come home to. For the students, the health of their family members comes first. As much as they want to learn in school instead of online, the risk is too much for them. They will choose to protect their family members over having classes in school.

One also said that it’s challenging to ensure strict compliance with health protocols, especially when the school day is over. Students end up crowding as they meet with friends and go home. 

Teachers also believe that stricter regulations should be put in place. They think that the current ones are not enough to prevent any unfavorable incidents. 

This call to stop in-person education does not mean that learning will be disregarded. Rather, they just want to promote online education in Kuwait for the moment, just until the COVID-19 cases remain high. 

Face-to-Face Learning Trumps Online Education in Kuwait 

However, some believe that going back to online education in Kuwait won’t do students any good. 

Last year, Ipsos conducted a survey about “Views on Education During the Pandemic.” Sixty-seven percent of the respondents believe that having children learn at home results in negative consequences for the whole household. One parent said that “education has been damaged by going online for so long and we have to put an end to it.”

Classes on campus are preferred by some more than online education in Kuwait

Similarly, a parent who responded to the survey conducted by the Kuwait Times, said that children do not even study at home. They are too preoccupied with playing video games. 

From a student’s perspective, online education in Kuwait is doing them harm psychologically. Six hours of online education is too depressing. The student would rather attend classes in school so that he could have fun together with his classmates. 

Are Protocols Being Followed by Schools?

Current protocols state that if a student tests positive for COVID-19, schools should reschedule the final test of the affected student. Final exams cannot be given online. Students have to go to school and take it on campus. 

However, some posts on social media claimed that this regulation wasn’t implemented at a local school. They said that the school would fail students on their final exams if they were unable to take them on the initial scheduled date because of infection with COVID-19. 

The principal of the school involved in this issue denied that such an instance occurred. The school complies with the regulations executed by the Ministry of Education.

Pros and Cons of Online Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many things are done, with education being one of them. The decision to close schools across the country has pushed institutions to turn to online education in Kuwait. It challenged the administrators, teachers, and students to adapt quickly to the numerous changes that are constantly happening.

Online education in Kuwait and in different countries has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Pros of Online Learning

Online learning provides teachers and students with the advantages of efficiency, accessibility, and affordability. 

There are different tools, such as videos, podcasts, and online articles, that teachers can make use of to teach their students. Going beyond textbooks allows teachers to enrich the learning experience of students. At the same time, students can use different resources that may enhance their interest and understanding of the material. The availability of different media can be beneficial for students since these materials can suit their learning style. 

Online learning will also enable students to attend classes wherever they are. They don’t need to travel to get to school, which may make it more convenient for some. This also helps cut down on costs for education. 

Cons of Online Learning

However, online learning also has its disadvantages. With the different technologies used, students may get easily distracted in class. It would be easy for students to scroll through social media, but harder for teachers to monitor their behavior. 

Internet connectivity and gadgets, which can be pricey investments, are also needed for online learning. Proper training for both teachers and students is needed so that they can maximize the use of the technology and resources available to them. 

Apart from that, the speed and reliability of the internet connection within cities becomes crucial. Learning heavily relies on its use, and having a bad internet connection can hinder one from doing so effectively.

Lastly, with many hours spent at home by themselves, students can feel isolated. They lack interaction with their peers and teachers since there are no class lunches, activities, or time with friends after school. These social interactions are important for the development of children and also serve as a healthy way to cope with the pressures they feel at school.

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