Private schools continue e-learning despite directive

By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: The Cabinet’s decision to suspend all public and private schools until the fall is not being fully applied in many private schools. Teachers continue teaching online and students are supposed to attend online classes and complete assigned work. Parents are left confused and uncertain. Will children in private schools graduate in June and start a new year in the fall? Will all the work being done now via e-learning be repeated? Will parents still be required to pay tuition for the spring semester and again in the fall?

The Cabinet directive made it clear that the academic year will be suspended and continue in August/October, so why e-learning is keeping on when students will relearn it all in August/October? There are many outstanding questions and no answers from the ministry of education or the private education department within the ministry.

“We know that the IGCSE exams were canceled by Cambridge, so why are the schools forcing teachers to continue teaching live online? They have not told us when we will start in August and are just waiting for the ministry to resolve the fee uncertainty faced by many schools,” explained a teacher working in a private British-curriculum school. None of the teachers and parents Kuwait Times spoke with wanted to be named for fear of repercussions from schools. School administrations approached by Kuwait Times did not respond to requests for interviews.

Some schools have cancelled the planned spring break – it’s unclear with or without ministry approval – and are having teachers expand online learning. “The psychological impact on most of the teachers is dreadful. When the ministry announcement was made, the school had plans to put on more live Zoom teaching lessons on its timetable and increase the workload,” the teacher noted.

The reason, teachers contend, that private schools are continuing with e-learning is that this will justify schools’ requirement for the final installment of tuition fees. But it’s unclear how effective or organized the e-learning is across all private schools, and also what e-learning will mean for students in the fall. Will they repeat everything they are doing now via e-learning? Or does continuation of e-learning mean they can complete the year in June and move on to the next grade? Parents want to know.

“Teachers are struggling mentally, and parents feel frustrated with the sheer madness of the amount of new material constantly sent to them of different subjects. They cannot cope with the pressure from school, but teachers are doing it out of fear of the management because the school has fired teachers unjustly before and is threatening teachers with non-renewal of contracts,” another teacher told Kuwait Times.

There are parents who want e-learning to continue and are willing to pay the fees as well. But there are outstanding questions for these parents as well. If children continue e-learning, will they finish the school year in June as normal or will they have to repeat the last part of the year in the fall as the ministry has said?

Some private schools are abiding by the education ministry and Cabinet decisions. But now those decisions have been muddied by additional announcements from the education ministry. Last Sunday, the education ministry announced on its official Instagram account that the second stage of the operational plan was launched to activate e-learning at the ministry, which includes the new Kuwait educational portal that will allow teachers to provide lessons directly through virtual classes with various interactive tools such as interactive books and interactive videos. The application will be available on tablets and smartphones.

But Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi said during an interview with Al-Rai TV on March 23 that private schools must not count on e-learning in the present time because the ministry of education is committed to the decision of the Council of Ministers, which was clear on suspending studies at public and private schools, universities and educational institutions, including e-learning, until Aug 4, and any school that continues e-learning is going against the Cabinet’s decision.

Regarding tuition fees in private schools, he said: “This matter is between the parents and the school, but I believe that private schools have completed about 60 percent of the academic year and they will complete the rest of the year in August, which is a fair and legal way to earn their fees.”