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7.6 million students pursue studies without losing a single day: Minister
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 03 - 2020

RIYADH — Minister of Education Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh said Saudi authorities are serving 7.6 million students through distance education without interrupting their education even for a single day following the adoption of precautionary measures to stem the spread of coronavirus.
"Within ten hours after the announcement of the suspension of studies, the Ministry of Education switched over from an educational system dependent on the attendance of students to another one based fully on distance education. Even though this transformation was not easy, the ministry was able to serve six million students in general education, in addition to 1.6 million students in university education through technical platforms and programs," he said.
Al-Sheikh made the remarks during an inspection tour of the virtual school production center in Riyadh that serves six million school students in distance education Kingdom-wide during the current period of suspension of studies. Minister of Commerce and Acting Minister of Media Majed Al Qasabi, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha were also in attendance.
At the outset, the ministers watched a documentary that gave a brief summary of the components and services of the virtual school that covers six million students of all the government schools across the Kingdom.
The documentary detailed salient features of the distance education through iEN channel, the link of iEN channel on YouTube, iEN enrichment portal, Musqbal portal and the Unified Education System, as well as the educational processes that take place through the efforts of male and female teachers and supervisors in preparing the educational content for the daily classes according to the study plan, and transferring them directly through 20 channels of iEN education.
They also listened to the statistics of distance education in public and university levels of education since the government's decision to suspend studies at all educational institutions across the Kingdom as part of measures to stem the spread of corona.
On March 8, minister of education issued directives to activate virtual schools and distance education during the suspension period, ensuring that the educational process continues in an effective way without compromising with the quality.
Al-Sheikh and other ministers toured the virtual classrooms where they listened to the briefings from several male and female teachers about the lessons, and the method of delivering educational content directly to all students of general education in the Kingdom through broadcast studios designed according to the highest level of technical services and supportive technologies.
Al-Sheikh said: "Our goal was to achieve the best interests of the boy and girl students, and their educational journey did not stop for a single day. All the combined efforts have become fruitful with the presence of this virtual school, which gives diverse options for students in any time and at any place and that is either through iEN channel or the channel link on the YouTube, the iEN portal, the Mustaqbal portal, or the Unified Education System.
All male and female students in universities have also been on a distance academic journey along with their teachers who interact with them, he said adding that the ministry, in this phase, achieved unprecedented progress in distance education.
Al-Sheikh thanked the male and female teachers, faculty members in universities and parents for their efforts to serve the students. He also thanked Al-Qasabi and Al-Swaha for their support to the efforts of his ministry in accomplishing remarkable achievements in distance education.
On his part, Al-Qasabi praised the great efforts made by those responsible for the virtual school with the support and guidance of minister of education, as well as the efforts of teachers and their dedication. He stressed the role of every mother and father in supporting their sons and daughters to continue their studies remotely. "The corona crisis created a united team capable of accomplishing an educational achievement that we are proud of," the minister added.
Al-Swaha said that the digital infrastructure in the Kingdom is solid, and the rate of Internet access has exceeded 94 percent. "We have achieved these numbers with the support of a network of optical fibers, which today reached 3.5 million homes. We have increased the capacity by additional allocation of spectrum by 30 percent, and prioritizing the security, health and education sectors."
"We saw how the non-profit sector and the private sector work hand in hand with government agencies in light of the vision of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. We have launched an initiative titled "We are all giving" by providing 100,000 slides of free data for boy and girl students, in addition to 30,000 tablets so that male and female students can benefit from all digital educational services," he added.

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