Pandemic gives a boost to digitization of Saudi education system
Digital education has been the centre of discussion for a long time, but when the pandemic and the lockdowns came, they gave a push to the digital transformation efforts in the education sector.
Educational institutions and countries across the globe invested in digital platforms to deliver content. They moved content to the cloud to accommodate the need of the students to consume it at their own pace.
Recently, the Saudi Ministry of Education announced the measures under which the students and teachers will return to schools and universities next year.
The arrangements announced by the Saudi Ministry of Education came after two academic years in the Kingdom were mainly done remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to research by Citrix, Saudi educational institutions have made significant strides in remote learning – however, education sector staff expect investments in upskilling and communication tools.
The research showed that on average, 77% of teaching is done remotely in educational institutions around the Kingdom.
It revealed that the majority of education staff (81%)prefer a hybrid learning model – physical and remote – to improve the students’ learning experience in the next academic year.
More than 50% of the correspondents believe that a hybrid model will significantly improve learning.
Furthermore, 67% of those surveyed identify flexible/remote learning as important for their school or university.
Technical issues faced during online learning include connection to video conference platforms (51%), lack of connected devices to the education portal (33%), and security issues (31%).
Over half (54%) believe that communication between teachers and students through collaboration tools must be improved during remote learning. This was followed by access to all applications/materials needed for work (48%), and availability via one platform to access all the courses and manage materials (48%).
Saudi plans to have 3 semesters next academic year
The Saudi Minister of Education, Dr Hamad Al-Sheikh, stated during revealed that the next academic year will start on August 29, 2021, and will witness three semesters, each of which consists of 13 weeks, and a week-long vacation between each semester and another.
He said, “New subjects will be added next year, and developed plans will be implemented, and there are 12 vacations during one school year, and among the curricula are critical thinking and self-defence, in addition to the English language and digital skills, and the development of Islamic and social studies curricula.”
This goes in line with Citrix survey findings, as 90% said they believe the campus or school (physical) experience will be more important to their school or university moving forward post COVID-19. In fact, 38% consider that the topic of smart campus will be most important for their school or university.
Primary school students to build robots
Over the last years, specialized academies that focus on robotics have been on the rise in Saudi Arabia. Most of these academies focus on primary school students, developing the spirit of competition among them by using what they make of robots in seasonal competitions.
These competitions are based on the accuracy of their design and speed of performance, and most importantly developing their abilities to repair them during the tour.
Each student is assigned to build his own robot by assembling a complete piece during one lesson, installing it and then disassembling it at the end of the lesson, after learning how to program it on the computer in preparatory stages.
Dr Saud Al-Muhaidib, the founder of the first Robot Academy in the Middle East countries in 2017, said that the e-learning option will motivate children to double the use of many educational applications and programs.
He added that before the pandemic many children did not know about electronic applications except for games, explaining that serious attempts by the parents to push their children to the useful application were limited.
He asserted that many investors in this field were not keen on e-learning programs for children. After the pandemic, there was a global qualitative leap. Governments and companies invested billions of dollars in this field to make it more interesting, which helped in this shift. Therefore. I expect the percentage of benefit from e-educational services to increase even after the end of the crisis.”
The choice of educational aids in e-learning constitutes a major challenge in the traditional and electronic design, especially with the urgent need to employ interactive learning, which increases students’ attention by engaging them directly as contributors rather than as recipients.
This will encourage students and their families to enrol in specialized centres and academies, to learn technology activities and electronic educational games.
Al-Muhaidib explained that the pandemic created a gap in the flow of concepts from the giver to the recipient, despite the teacher’s keenness to develop his educational means.
This was a reason for specialists and families to find new means suitable for the event to bridge the gap. Centres and academies specialized in electronic activities were one of the important interfaces that played an active role in filling a large part of this gap, whether in the psychological or scientific aspect.
This was visible in the student’s demand for interactive educational applications designed on the most interesting robots today in the world of knowledge that made the child a contributor to the educational event industry.
These digital electronic programs in these centres and academies seek to employ robotics to develop the child’s skills and knowledge in mathematics, science, language and arts, and to teach children programming and technical skills in sciences.
Al-Muhaidib concluded that the targeted learning patterns are from the development of logic and reasoning among the young trainee, which represents the basis of modern knowledge today in all sciences.
“We have also added a set of applications built by the trainee, to support the understanding of different scientific topics, such as mathematics, science and others by developing the capabilities of children, to design, build and then program robots that achieve learning goals. We no longer think in education research today to make the trainee a participant, but an innovative actor. This modern mechanism needs motivation from the trainer first so that he can, through various exercises, discover the strengths of the young trainee and push him towards activating reasoning and logic skills.”