Saudi education provider passes pandemic challenges

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Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Saudi authorities moved swiftly to ensure continuity of education in the Kingdom by promoting online learning platforms. (Shutterstock)
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Dr. Mohammad Al-Arfaj. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Saudi education provider passes pandemic challenges

  • “We have invested significantly in our online platform MLG (Ma’arif Learning Gateway) which has proven a trusted platform by our teachers and students"

JEDDAH: Despite the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, students in Saudi Arabia’s public and private schools have been virtually receiving their education through online learning platforms made available by the Ministry of Education.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Arfaj, CEO of Ma’arif for Education and Training — one of the largest private school owners and operators in Saudi Arabia — said that the Education Ministry had carefully studied the current situation.
“At Ma’arif, we were proactive (in) early planning and preparation for e-learning, which paved (the) way to offer an advanced model of education delivery,” he told Arab News.
“This is based on two main principles to ensure the comprehensiveness and quality of e-learning — the adherence to a schedule that is very similar to the usual schedule adopted during normal face-to-face study, and to ensure that our students receive live classes that exceed 75 percent of the weekly schedule.”
 He added that they had provided over 71,000 live lectures to students via remote learning since the start of this academic year on Aug. 29, and succeeded in establishing new parameters in education delivery in the Kingdom. The Ma’arif CEO pointed out that e-learning had been embraced as a reliable model by governments and educational authorities.
“There was apprehension in the past but with the pandemic, we all addressed the challenge by leveraging the opportunity that e-learning presented. We are witnessing a remarkable transformation in the educational ecosystem,” he said.
Commenting on whether or not the available digital solutions would be enough for a good learning experience, Al-Arfaj said that building on their online learning experience, they had continued to strive for excellence in education provision.

There were apprehension in the past but with the pandemic, we all addressed the challenge by leveraging the opportunity that e-learning presented.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Arfaj CEO, Ma’arif for Education and Training

“We have invested significantly in our online platform MLG (Ma’arif Learning Gateway) which has proven a trusted platform by our teachers and students. Several remote educational services and applications have been added and the library has been uploaded with all the resources needed for asynchronous access. Our platform is designed to continue to deliver the curriculum as seamlessly as possible,” he added.
 He asserted that while nothing could beat the school experience “we must not be discouraged by the situation and must do all we can to ensure quality learning for our students.”
Al-Arfaj blamed some schools for not arranging or preparing for such a difficult situation beforehand.
“There should always be a backup where you leverage your resources based on the situation, and this is what some schools did not take into consideration. The challenges are everywhere and frequent, but we must be prepared to deal with them without impacting the quality of education,” he said.
The CEO said Ma’arif was building on its successful online and interactive learning experience from last year, as they “carefully designed a plan that blends online and offline lessons, taking into consideration the screen-time students are exposed to during online learning.”
He added that their e-learning schedule included synchronous and asynchronous learning, and that most of their lessons were delivered in a synchronous manner where teachers from inside the classrooms, and students at home, interacted in real-time.
“We organized a detailed online orientation session, including routines for online learning and schedules. We have also shared our e-learning policies and
guidelines with our parents and students before the start of the academic year.
“Once we go back to the schools’ premises, we intend to continuously employ the e-learning process to enhance and enrich our academic programs,” he added.
“We are first and foremost education providers, committed to ensuring the holistic development of our children. The values that our teachers share — providing the best quality education to students — are unwavering and that is our key strength,” he said.
Ma’arif is also assisting families with fee deferrals during the pandemic by offering waivers to those in direst need.

 


On the go with Saudi Arabia’s first professionally trained cycling club

Doves Ride is Saudi Arabia’s first professional cycling team, licensed both locally and internationally. (Supplied)
Updated 30 November 2020

On the go with Saudi Arabia’s first professionally trained cycling club

  • Saudi Arabia’s female population is enjoying the new wave of opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle

RIYADH: As sports and other activities continue to gain popularity in Saudi Arabia, residents are seeking out exciting ways to get moving.
The Kingdom’s female population are enjoying the new wave of opportunities that have been made available to them in recent years to live a healthy lifestyle.
Hiking, outdoor yoga and football are all popular choices, but one less familiar pastime on the increase is cycling.
Events such as the annual Saudi Tour and the General Sports Authority’s highly successful all-women’s cycling race in Jeddah in 2018 have fostered a growing interest in the sport.
Studies have shown that cycling improves overall health, more specifically improving mental health, strengthening the immune system, promoting weight loss, reducing heart disease and cancer and more.
Riding a bike can be one of the easiest forms of returning to fitness when you are bouncing back from an injury or illness.

Doves Ride organizes rides for all levels, from the gentle trails suitable for beginners to the more challenging routes for hardened cyclists. The group offers lessons that can help any beginner ride a bike safely. (Supplied)

A group of bike enthusiasts from Riyadh intend to spread the word and make people more aware of the healthy advantages of cycling and the joy that can be had on the back of a bicycle.
Doves Ride is Saudi Arabia’s first professional cycling team, licensed both locally and internationally. Shahd Alturki, Doves Ride’s founder and a professional cycling trainer, spoke to Arab News about why she set up the team.

HIGHLIGHTS

• A group of bike enthusiasts from Riyadh intend to spread the word and make people more aware of the healthy advantages of cycling and the joy that can be had on the back of a bicycle.

• Doves Ride is Saudi Arabia’s first professional cycling team, licensed both locally and internationally.

• Riding a bike can be one of the easiest forms of returning to fitness when you are bouncing back from an injury or illness.

“I founded Doves Ride to create an environment for women and families where they could get into sports,” Alturki said.
Based in Riyadh, Doves Ride’s goal is to create an environment where Saudis can discover what biking is like and meet others with similar interests.
“The idea was to create a team that would motivate Saudi society to start biking, and to raise awareness in general about sport and movement. We also wanted to help teach Saudis to cycle by creating a program to teach people in all categories,” she said.
Doves Ride organizes rides for all levels, from the gentle trails suitable for beginners to the more challenging routes for hardened cyclists.
“We welcome participants at any level, whether they are looking for a long-term membership or just to try it out,” said Alturki.
She also spoke about the benefits of the sport and hopes to encourage people to try it out for themselves.
“Biking is more than just a fun sport; it raises your fitness levels and can also boost your mental health,” she said.
For the more hesitant, Alturki reassures them that she is well-equipped to train them and get them on the path to biking like a pro.
“We have bike-riding lessons for zero-experience learners, licensed by the British Cycling Federation. Children, men and women are all welcome to take them. These lessons can help any beginner ride a bike safely, and teaches them all the necessary skills and basics,” she said.
Doves Ride can be contacted via their Twitter or Instagram accounts, @dovesride.