Covid-19’s global impact is multifaceted and clearly shows its effect almost in all sectors, particularly in the health, economic and education sectors. Since the announcement of the virus as a pandemic disease was in March 2020, there have been an additional of daily reports on its impact on the lives of millions of peoples across the world. Therefore, the primary concern of each nation has been minimized to spread of the virus and to reduce its effects on society in general and, in particular, the most helpless peoples. Compared to its small population, the Sultanate of Oman is one of the countries that were relatively being hit hard by COVID-19. After that 26,079 positive cases have been confirmed by Oman in 17 June 2020, 11,797 recovered cases and 116 deaths (Times of Oman, 2020). A global consensus among infectious disease specialists and public health officials seems to be focused on medical studies to restrict face-to-face classes as a way of shielding students from the pandemic disease.
The COVID-19 has overwhelmed the functioning and results of education systems, some of which have been highlighted in many respects. This is true globally and affects children, while depending on many factors, various degrees, including the country/region in which they live, as well as their ages, family histories, and degree of access during the pandemic to some “substitute” educational opportunities. When the disease reached its first peak in early spring, the virus consigned almost all of over 55 million U.S. school children under the age of 18 to stay in their homes, with 1.4 billion out of school or child care worldwide. These children lacked regular access to school, many students were provided basic support by schools, but they often missed out on social events, team sports, and leisure opportunities such as pools and playgrounds.
The Impact Of COVID-19 at the National General Education Level
According to UNESCO reports, the lockdown of schools and campuses has been impacted over 1.5 billion students in around 165 countries. As a result, schools, colleges and universities have been forced to turn to online learning. However, due to the exponential increase in social transmission of the virus, the Supreme Committee took further safety measures and decided to end the academic year for all students in public and private school on 7 May 2020, and authorized the Ministry of Education in a suitable assessment changes for students’ and transfer them to higher levels from grades 1 to 12. Therefore, for all public and private school the ministry issued the following rules:
Grades one to eleven in government and private schools (with exception of international schools applying the international qualification programmed in grades 10–12) will be promoted to higher grades based on the impact of the success of students before the lockdown. Yet, low performing students will be provided with complementary programmed at the beginning of the next school year. The Ministry of Education has also established alternative evaluations and numerical measures to ensure a fair and reliable prediction of the success of students on the basis of their performance in the first semester of the General Education Diploma and its equivalents. The general education diploma or its equivalents is determined in accordance with the approved statistical formula established by a team of experts from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and the University of Sultan Qaboos in the field of measurement and evaluation. The same formula applies to the students who are required to do a re-sit exam for the General Education Diploma or its equivalents. However, both Private and International schools offering other international qualification programmed for grades 10–12 (e.g., IGCSE, IB, O-level, A-level, etc.) will have to implement the assessment methods that has been recognized by their respective institutions.
The Ministry of Education is currently researching options to extend the next school year 2020/2021 and to reduce regular holidays in order to make up for the weeks lost in the second semester.
Schools Empty: What Would be the Consequences?
The present downturn is different, and it is much more serious in certain respects than anything we’ve seen in recent history. The pandemic caused the cancelation of the traditional learning that takes place in school settings almost overnight. It also introduces dramatic changes in the “inputs” used to generate education, usually all people, families, teachers, colleges, etc., characteristics or determinants that affect “outcomes” such as test scores and graduation rates. It Inputs at home has also been impacted by the pandemic, as families and societies managing health and job crises are less able to offer learning support at home. Since there are no obvious similarities to previous incidents or patterns, we do not have completely see what to determine the possible impacts on children of the COVID-19 crisis. However, there are particular aspects of this crisis that have occurred in other contexts and have been examined by educational scholars, and some guidance on issues such as the lack of learning time and the use of alternative forms of learning can be obtained from them.
COVID-19 was a real test for higher education institutions around the world in terms of their preparation, stability and capability to respond to similar global crises. After all, on the positive side, it acts as an efficient ‘actor of transformation’ to facilitate the accelerated implementation of e-learning in organizations that are classically resistant to change. It is important, therefore, to reflect on the lessons learned from the current experience so that higher education institutions will be better prepared for a possible extension of the emergency e-learning through the upcoming Fall semester. Examples of these learned lessons includes:
- The fair access of students to e-learning environments should not be taken for granted. It is important that the needs and technological profiles of students be carefully evaluated in advance.
- It is still early to assume that e-learning is the only viable alternative to replace face-to-face teaching. Live interactions among students and teachers would still need to be supplied in online environments.
- The performance evaluation of students in online environments remains a challenge for both instructors and students, particularly the analysis of practical skills, technical skills and teaching practice. Therefore, it is necessary to connect different kinds of alternative methods of evaluation and related online syllabus.