‘Ministry will not risk health of students’
KUWAIT CITY, July 11: With the looming cautious optimism towards the “full resumption” of schools in the upcoming academic year, the Assistant Undersecretary of Public Education Affairs at the Ministry of Education Osama Al- Sultan opened the door for a number of options, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of clarity in the epidemiological situation. He stressed that the ministry “will not risk the health of students in the event the situation is not completely stable”.
In an interview with the daily, Al- Sultan explained that the ministry has highlighted in its plans several options for the resumption of schools on the basis of the health situation in the country. The three available scenarios in this regard are traditional education, blended education and distance learning. Regarding the first scenario, he said, “It includes a complete resumption of schools with the traditional method of education. The current health situation must recede almost completely, and it will be based on the decision of the Ministry of Health. This means extra preparation is needed … We have readied 306 schools in this regard, and are working on the readiness of the rest of the schools”.
When asked if the remaining time is sufficient to complete the required preparations for this scenario, Al-Sultan expressed his belief that a period of two months may be sufficient if all sectors of the ministry secure the requirements of the school year. He revealed that the total resumption of the schools is what he desires. Regarding the second scenario, which is blended education, Al-Sultan said, “It was set in order to deal with the possibility of the continuity of the health situation but to a lesser degree, as the return to schools will be partial and blended between traditional education and distance learning.
The school week will be divided – one day for the student at school and another for those at home as per the stages. A complete schedule will be drawn up with the number of classes and teachers’ shares”. Regarding the third and final scenario, which is distance learning, Al-Sultan clarified that it includes a return to the online education system, and will only be applied in the event the epidemiological situation worsens so that no student is allowed in the schools. He highlighted the fact that distance learning is a new experience from which the ministry has gained experience, adding, “The complete return to traditional education does not mean putting an end to the online experience, but it can be used in other circumstances that are not related to the pandemic, such as bad weather. Therefore, the presence of the online education system is important, and we can allocate students to study remotely one day a week”.
Al-Sultan praised the efforts exerted by everyone in the education field in ensuring the success of the distance learning experience. He said, “Our teachers have done well and have not failed or neglected their duties despite the difficult health conditions that the country is going through”. In a related matter, Al-Sultan indicated that the high success rate in the twelfth grade exams was achieved because the exams were fair to everyone and did not go beyond the revision questions and question banks as promised by the ministry. Regarding the 18 students who scored 100 percent in the exams, he clarified that students had previously obtained 100 percent before the pandemic, adding that the ministerial decision to increase the percentage of continuous assessment work for the year from 30 to 40 percent, which made a difference in the percentage, must be taken into account.
Regarding the vaccination of teachers and students of all educational stages before the start of the new school year, Al-Sultan said, “The teachers and other employees of the ministry are more than 100,000 in number, and a large percentage of them – more than 60 percent – have been vaccinated. As for the vaccination of students whose number exceeds about 300,000, we hope the Ministry of Health will take into account the urgency of vaccinating students under 16 years of age”. In addition, Al-Sultan denied the circulating report about a “deficit” in preparing teachers. He said, “We have not faced any obstacle in providing educational bodies in schools. We are fully prepared and continue to meet new teachers. There are no external contracts this year due to which local interviews are conducted daily. The reports about suspension of interviews are not true. There is also no objection to hiring retirees in a specialty that is actually required”. Al-Sultan also categorically denied reports about showing leniency with cheating during exams. He stressed that the ministry had taken its administrative measures by applying a heavy-handed cheating regulation on students, highlighting the existence of an assumption among some students that cheating is an acquired right. By Abdul Rahman Al-Shammari Al-Seyassah, Arab Times Staff