Distance learning is here to stay, Saudi education minister says

Distance learning is here to stay, Saudi education minister says
Saudi Minister of Education Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh speaks at the media briefing on The Education Continuity in Times of Crises at the International Media Center in Riyadh. (Ashar q Al-Awsat)
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Updated 23 November 2020

Distance learning is here to stay, Saudi education minister says

Distance learning is here to stay, Saudi education minister says
  • Al-Sheikh said blended education — the combination of online and physical learning — has become the new norm because of COVID-19

DUBAI: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed the education industry online, with countries scrambling to implement distance learning initiatives.

But as the world moves closer to ending the pandemic, will education go back to its traditional setup? Saudi Minister of Education Hamad Al-Sheikh doesn’t think so.

Speaking at a media briefing on the last day of the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Riyadh, Al-Sheikh said blended education — the combination of online and physical learning — has become the new norm because of COVID-19.

“It is going to be the beginning of a new era in education, where blended education is the norm,” the minister said, adding a single method approach was becoming the exception.

“The concept of distance learning as a ‘subproduct’ in the past has changed now because of COVID-19 — the crisis created an opportunity,” he said.

The minister added the changes had also brought to light other issues within the education sector, including the length in which students take to finish programs.

“The 12-year-ladder could be different,” he said, explaining the flexibility of distance learning.

HIGHLIGHT

In Saudi Arabia, schools were shut down as early as March, in a government move to prioritize the health of its citizens. Since then, the Kingdom has thought of ways to continue education at home, which led to an e-learning portal called Madrasati.

The prejudice against online education would disappear, Al-Sheikh added, as the world continues to adapt new learning strategies.

He said this “new normal” had also seen a shift in emphasis on learning outcomes, as opposed to giving too much attention to the method.

But Al-Sheikh recognized the challenges of managing distance learning programs, which he said needed “good governance in order to work.”

He explained different countries had different resources, which was a challenge, particularly at the onset of the pandemic.

In Saudi Arabia, schools were shut down as early as March, in a government move to prioritize the health of its citizens. Since then, the Kingdom has thought of ways to continue education at home, which led to an e-learning portal called Madrasati.

The free platform, which launched in August, facilitates students’ evaluation and communication between teachers and students as well as their parents. 

Al-Sheikh lauded the G20 education working group for its agile response to the pandemic.


Special needs pilgrims completed Hajj with ease

The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
Updated 1 min 3 sec ago

Special needs pilgrims completed Hajj with ease

The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
  • The transportation process between the holy sites was perfect

MAKKAH: Special needs pilgrims in the Kingdom performing Hajj have received continued support for years, and this year was no exception.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with Harakiya Adults Motor Disability Association, managed to help 17 adults from the association to perform Hajj during this season through a fully equipped campaign that took into account their health conditions, to assure an easy and comfortable experience.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is keen to enable the disabled to perform their pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam. The deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulfattah Mashat, has given the matter special care personally, conducting inspection visits to the disabled Hajj camp in Muzdalifah to reassure and listen to the suggestions of people there.
The 17 special needs Saudi pilgrims’ disabilities range from paraplegics to polio survivors, from different areas including Riyadh, Jouf, Dammam, Dawadmi, Madinah, Asir, Qassim, the Eastern Province, Hail, and Taif.
Majed Al-Soraya, director of the Campaign Beneficiaries Services Department, who suffers from a motor disability, told Arab News: “Selecting candidates was based on many conditions, including that the beneficiary had never performed Hajj before.
“Participation was limited to persons with motor disabilities who could rely on themselves, and were immunized with (a coronavirus disease vaccine) second dose,” he added.
Al-Soraya also mentioned the ministry’s readiness to offer pilgrims with motor disabilities a comfortable stay and fully equipped transpiration. “Technical inspection and maintenance procedures were carried out as a preparation stage. We made sure to prepare travel medical supplies, first aid, Ihrams, and pilgrims’ needs. We also made preparations to ensure a well-equipped secure residence in Mina.”
One of the participants, Abdullah Alraishan, a paraplegic whose condition was caused by a car accident in 2011, told Arab News: “To be honest, I was not expecting a chance to perform Hajj this year. It is an unexpected feeling. I’m really speechless; everything was well organized. Indeed, all sectors have made an exceptional effort.
“Being a person with disabilities, I found very comprehensive access, care, and attention by the campaign. The transportation process between the holy sites was perfect. Thanks to our government, security sectors, and to everyone who worked on such an initiative for people with disabilities.”
Khalid Al-Hajjri, 38, has had a movement disability since birth. He told Arab News that he decided to participate in this year’s Hajj because it was an irreplaceable opportunity, in light of the small numbers, organization and precautions in place.
“The experience of Hajj this year was wonderful, full of spirituality and indescribable feelings,” he said. “The movement between the holy sites was carried out with ease (with) the well-equipped cars, the sufficient number of organizers and the integrated coordination with all sectors.”
Naji Al-Fahiqi, 43, who also suffers from a movement disability caused by poliomyelitis said that he was not expecting to get the opportunity to participate in this year’s Hajj. “I was lucky enough and blessed to be among (the) pilgrims this year,” he said.


King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides
Updated 38 min 22 sec ago

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides
  • King Salman expressed his wishes that the missing would return safely
  • Torrential downpours have lashed India’s western coast in recent days, sparking landslides near Mumbai

RIYADH: King Salman sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to the president of India after 119 people died in monsoon-triggered landslides and building collapses.
More than 135,000 people have been evacuated and dozens are still missing.
In the cable to Ram Nath Kovind, the king said “We share the pain of this affliction with you and we send you, the families of the deceased and your people, our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”
He also expressed his wishes that the missing would return safely.
Torrential downpours have lashed India’s western coast in recent days, sparking landslides near the financial capital Mumbai and causing the worst floods in decades in the resort state of Goa.


Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia
Updated 48 min 20 sec ago

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed three Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Houthi militia continues its aggression by trying to target civilians and civilian objects, the coalition said.

The coalition is taking operational measures to protect civilians from Houthi hostilities, it added.


Ancient rock art in Hima listed as Saudi Arabia’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site

The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
Updated 24 July 2021

Ancient rock art in Hima listed as Saudi Arabia’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site

The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
  • Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and Hajj routes going to and from the southern parts of Arabia
  • People who passed through the area between pre- and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s cultural rock art in Hima, Najran, has been officially recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The decision was made during the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Fuzho, China.

The site, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world.

Located in southwestern Saudi Arabia, Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and Hajj routes going to and from the southern parts of Arabia, to the ancient world markets of the rest of Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Levant and Egypt.

People who passed through the area between pre- and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art depicting hunting, wildlife, plants, symbols, and tools used at the time, as well as thousands of inscriptions written in several ancient scripts, including Musnad, Thamudic, Nabataean and early Arabic.

The wells on the site date back more than 3,000 years and were considered a vital source of fresh water in the vast desert of Najran. They still serve fresh water to this day.

“We are thrilled to have this exceptional ancient site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area has outstanding universal value, providing us with many lessons about the evolution of human culture and life in ancient times,” said Dr. Jasir Alherbish, CEO of the Heritage Commission.

“We are working to preserve the area and conduct research to further understand the rock inscriptions, and are looking forward to welcoming more local and international visitors to come and see this historic cultural site for themselves.”

The preservation and protection of the Kingdom's cultural and natural heritage is a key part of the Kingdom's 2030 Vision.

Overseen by the Heritage Commission, a raft of new discoveries has cemented the country’s reputation as a go-to destination for archeologists, historians and scientists looking to understand human history across the region.

Last year, the Commission announced one of the Kingdom's most ground-breaking discoveries – ancient human and animal footprints, dating back more than 120,000 years, in Tabuk, marking the first evidence of human life on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Kingdom has also taken serious measures toward protecting national and international heritage. In 2019, the Ministry of Culture signed a Memorandum of Understating with UNESCO to contribute $25 million to the organization’s strategy for the preservation of heritage worldwide.


Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 497,965
  • A total of 8,155 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 14 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,256 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 280 were recorded in Riyadh, 244 in Makkah, 170 in the Eastern Province, 150 in Asir, 107 in Jazan, 59 in Madinah, 47 in Hail, 41 in Najran, 25 in the Northern Borders region, 23 in Tabuk, 21 in Al-Baha, and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 497,965 after 1,155 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,155 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 24 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.