Reflecting on the Distance Learning Provision in Dubai Private Schools


The purpose of this article is to reflect on the online learning offered by Dubai private schools in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This article considers both positive and negative features of provision, in order to suggest recommendations for future outbreaks. A comprehensive review of literature synthesizes with the results of an online survey. The period of March until July 2020 is referred to as Phase 1 of online learning. Phase 2 covers September and December 2020. The findings show that educators were generally positive toward online learning but have mixed opinions regarding the permanence, opportunities, and approaches of individual schools. Teachers discussed the progression of online learning within their settings and made multiple recommendations for the future including focusing on social–emotional development and well-being, limiting screen time where possible, ensuring Ed-Tech is appropriate for individual needs, and committing to an ongoing evaluation of curriculum adaptation. It was also suggested that schools review their approach to building technological skills, as well as the age in which this area of development is encouraged.


Dubai, Online, Learning, Education, COVID-19

[1] Antonoglou, L. D., Charistos, N. D., & Sigalas, M. P. (2011). Design, development and implementation of a technology enhanced hybrid course on molecular symmetry: Students’ outcomes and attitudes. Chemistry Education Research Practice, 12(4), 454–468.

[2] Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775–786.

[3] Biech, E. (2016). 101 ways to make learning active beyond the classroom (1st ed.). Wiley.

[4] Bigum, C., & Kenway, J. (2005). New information technologies and the ambiguous future of schooling – Some possible scenarios. In A. Hargreaves (Ed.), Extending educational change: International handbook of educational change (2005th ed.) Springer.

[5] Cohen, M. (2018). Research methods in education. In L. Cohen, L. Manion, & K. Morrison (Eds.), Research methods in education (8th ed., vol. 1). Routledge.

[6] Daniels, K., Bower, K., Burnett, C., Escott, H., Hatton, A., Ehiyazaryan-White, E., & Monkhouse, J. (2019). Early years teachers and digital literacies: Navigating a kaleidoscope of discourses. Education and Information Technologies, 25(4), 2415–2426.

[7] DfE. (2012). Development matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The British Association for Early Childhood Education.

[8] Faltýnková, L. (2020). Blended versus traditional learning: Comparing students’ outcomes and preferences. In S. Cheung, R. Li, K. Phusavat, N. Paoprasert, & L. Kwok (Eds.), Blended learning. Education in a smart learning environment. ICBL 2020. Lecture notes in computer science, 12218, 276–286.

[9] Gray, K., & Tobin, J. (2010). Introducing an online community into a clinical education setting: A pilot study of student and staff engagement and outcomes using blended learning. BMC Medical Education, 10(6), 1-9.

[10] Hashmi, B. S. (2020, October 9). Coronavirus threatening expat exodus from the UAE. BBC News.

[11] Hastie, M., Hung, I.‐C., Chen, N.‐S., & Kinshuk. (2010). A blended synchronous learning model for educational international collaboration. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(1), 9–24.

[12] Hofmann, J. (2018). Blended learning. Association for Talent Development.

[13] Izumi-Taylor, S. (2008). Play and technology in group-oriented Japanese early childhood educational settings. He Kupu. The Word, 1(4), 1–7. Retrieved from 0in%20Group-Oriented%20Japanese%20Early.pdf

[14] Jack, C., & Higgins, S. (2019). Embedding educational technologies in early years education. Research in Learning Technology, 27(0), 1.

[15] KHDA. (2020a). Distance learning evaluation tool. Retrieved from

[16] KHDA. (2020b). Distance learning profiles of Dubai private schools: Evaluation results 2020. Retrieved from

[17] KHDA. (2020c). Protocols for the reopening of private schools in Dubai. Retrieved from

[18] Maceda, C. (2018, October 29). UAE school fees ‘second highest in the world’: HSBC study. Gulf News.

[19] Masudi, F. (2020, June 21). UAE premium schools most at risk of losing students, experts warn. Gulf News. ents-experts-warn-1.72153597

[20] Mertala, P. (2017). Wonder children and victimizing parents – Preservice early childhood teachers’ beliefs about children and technology at home. Early Child Development and Care, 189(3), 392–404.

[21] Ministry of Education. (2020a). Ministry of Education concludes the evaluation of the distance learning program in public and private schools. MoE.

[22] Ministry of Education. (2020b). 2020–2021 academic year to begin on August 30. MoE. Retrieved from

[23] OECD. (2019). TALIS 2018 country note - United Arab Emirates. Retrieved from

[24] Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.

[25] Ridge, N. Y., & Erfurth, M. (2020). The impact of Covid–19 on education in the UAE (Strategic Report No. 1). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

[26] Selwyn, N. (2016) ‘Minding our language: why education and technology is full of bullshit… and what might be done about it’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 437–443. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1012523

[27] Sharples, M., Adams, A., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., & Whitelock, D. (2014). Innovating pedagogy 2014: Open university innovation report 3. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

[28] Sicar, N. (2020, July 26). Back to campus: Schools in Dubai offer e-learning to worried parents. Khaleej Times.

[29] Tampere University of Applied Sciences. (2020). New research group established: Critical Applied Research of Digitalization in Education (CARDE). Critical Applied Research of Digitalization in Education (CARDE). Retrieved from search-of-digitalization-in-education-carde/

[30] Teräs, M., Suoranta, J., Teräs, H., & Curcher, M. (2020). Post-Covid-19 education and education technology ‘solutionism’: A seller’s market. Post Digital Science and Education, 2(3), 863–878.

[31] Tseng, H., Walsh, E. J. (2016). Blended versus traditional course delivery: Comparing students’ motivation, learning outcomes, and preferences. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, Volume 17(1), 2016, (pp. 43–52).

[32] Zaman, S. S. R. (2020, October 9). COVID-19: UAE students and educators discuss how it feels to be back, a month into the new term. Gulf News. ow-it-feels-to-be-back-a-month-into-the-new-term-1.74432871

[33] Zuo, M., Yan, Y., Wang, K., & Luo, H. (2020). What drives rural students’ behavioral engagement in synchronous online classrooms? Examining the effects of discourse interaction and seating location. In S. Cheung, R. Li, K. Phusavat, N. Paoprasert, & L. Kwok (Eds.), Blended learning. Education in a smart learning environment. ICBL 2020. Lecture notes in computer science, 12218. Springer, Cham.