Saudi Arabia has succeeded in e-learning and distance education
Education Experts at International Organizations
2021-06-16
Fengchun
Dr. Fengchun Miao
Chief, Unit for Technology and Artificial Intelligence in Education
UNESCO

There are many well-resourced education systems in the world, but we have witnessed that much of the resources were further accumulated to serve the already-reached groups of learners after COVID-19 forced schools closed, leaving the most vulnerable groups without basic access to distance learning.

It is the leadership and institutional capacities in planning and implementing distance learning programmes that ensure an inclusive, equitable, and gender equitable access to learning opportunities. The planning, implementation, and effects of the distance learning programme of Saudi Arabia demonstrated this leadership and governance capacities guided by the fundamental principles of inclusion and equity. Madrasati, the distance learning platform of Saudi Arabia, was upgraded based on the need of simultaneous access of all students and teachers, and alternative distance learning channels and resources including iEn educational channels and iEn Youtube channels were provided to the most vulnerable groups.

As a result, inclusive and equitable access to learning opportunities was achieved. 98% of students had accessed to the platform during school closures, and the remaining 2% ensured the learning continuity through access to iEn educational channels and iEn Youtube. Both boys and girls were entitled the equitable access to the same curriculum through the Madrasati platform and iEn channels. Both male and female teachers have the same rights and responsibilities. Students with disabilities were supported with the access to cable TV channels catered to their specific special needs. Low-income students were provided with digital devices and Internet connectivity.

Saudi Arabia is among one of a few countries that have developed and implemented standards to ensure the quality of online courses, online teaching, and MOOCs. These standards contributed to the governance of private partners and prevented the education systems from over-commercialization and privatization of the provision of education, which is unfortunately happening in many other countries.

These standards, supported by the guidance and training provided to teachers, ensure the continuous engagement of students and the quality of learning outcomes. Overall 94-98% of assigned online assignments were responded by students both males and females. Students who could not access online learning were offered with service of visiting schools once a week to submit assignments and receive tutorial from teachers.

Saudi Arabia is among one of a few countries that have conducted a large-scale evaluation on the impact of distance learning. According to the evaluation, no significant loss of learning hours were recorded since online classes were delivered for all grades and all subjects. Normal schooling hours were continued virtually during school closures with dashboards that track and record students’ online learning performance.

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Dr. Jennifer Mathes
Chief Executive officer
Online Learning Consortium

The impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector cannot be understated. The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) feels fortunate to have been asked to support and work alongside the National eLearning Center (NELC) on many efforts this past year. We have concurrently worked towards the nation’s Vision 2030 framework and supported the Ministry of Education’s strategic response to today’s current reality for online learning and planning for the future. Most recently, the Ministry has carefully studied the impact and state of online learning in higher education and the primary and secondary sectors of K-12 education in the time of COVID, reviewed digital courseware and technology solutions aiding online learning including its Madrasati learning management system, and created or revised standards for nearly every aspect of online learning (such as program, institution, classroom, TV distance learning, and digital courseware standards). Reviewing current practices and grounding educators’ work in the spirit of continuous improvement is absolutely critical for high quality online, blended, and digital learning and is positioning the country well for a future that ensures world-class learning experiences regardless of the modality accessed.

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Dr. Mark Brown
Director, National Institute for Digital Learning, Ireland

“While the global pandemic created many challenges for K-12 education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia there is clear evidence in this comprehensive report of how the experience has positively contributed to leadership development and greater capacity in terms of harnessing the significant potential of online learning in achieving the Vision 2030, and beyond. More still needs to be done but there is much to celebrate from the progress that has been made under very challenging circumstances.”

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Dr. Paul Lefrere
International Expert

During the pandemic, many countries have found themselves poorly-prepared for the many unexpected challenges that their citizens, families, communities and employers have faced and continue to face. Those challenges include how to ensure that K-12 education continues to be safe, is relevant to important new needs and prepares learners to use new knowledge in ways that create wealth and add value sustainably. In the KSA, much of the needed change is already planned for, as part of “Vision 2030”. An example is the Ministry of Education’s Coordination of collaboration globally, aligned with its support for a country-wide strategic plan for overcoming challenges, eg led by the NELC.