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Online resource offers education systems in the Middle East a chance to build back better

DUBAI: Educators in the Middle East and North Africa region are benefiting from a newly launched tool that aims to help them after three years of tuition fee freezes and stagnating education spending due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK-based training provider Skills Network has launched the curriculum-focused financial planning tool to offer financial planning support to international schools across the region, which have been particularly affected by the freeze on costs.

The last fee increase allowed in some Gulf Arab countries was allowed in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority announced in March that international schools would not be allowed to raise tuition fees for 2022, adding even more pressure on schools in the UAE’s commercial capital.

Last year, hundreds of private schools across Saudi Arabia also cut tuition fees in half in the first semester of the new school year to help mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.

Financial planning is essential if schools are to meet the growing demand for education in the Middle East. (AFP)

According to Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, regional schools, especially those with smaller accounting teams, will benefit greatly from the new tools made available to them. .

“It can help them think about how to save money or streamline costs, fundraising opportunities, and overall how to manage school finances more effectively. sustainable,” she told Arab News.

The CLFP tool will help MENA schools cope with a difficult economic environment.

The cloud-based global school resource gives users 24/7 access from anywhere in the world, eliminating the use of traditional electronic spreadsheets for financial planning.

Developed in partnership with leading school groups in the UK, the tool offers educators a collection of resources, templates and methodologies designed to “support financial planning and manage staff through effective and strategic systems” , offering schools “expert support in difficult financial times. ”

The cloud-based global school resource gives users 24/7 access from anywhere in the world, eliminating the use of traditional electronic spreadsheets for financial planning. (AFP/file photo)

“There is a huge demand for financial planning tools in the MENA region, with the quality of education being determined by stable finances, so CLFP is a natural choice,” said Christopher Brown, school leader and sixth at the Skills Network.

“The international tuition freeze implemented by the KHDA in March 2022 has put budgetary resources at the forefront for education officials in the Middle East, with our CLFP tool offering the potential for significant financial improvement for educators in this region.

The tool offers a range of benefits to educational institutions, including financial benchmarking, detailed workforce planning, which enables institutions to deploy staff efficiently, and curriculum modeling and subjects.

Schools will also be able to develop an integrated curriculum planning strategy based on measuring the current curriculum, staffing structure, and finances to create a data-driven three- to five-year plan.

Such an approach aims to allow educators to develop the best program for their students with the funding available to them.

The pandemic has seen schools around the world enter a period of financial instability. In the Gulf, between January 2020 and January 2022, more than 40 UAE international schools opened, but at least 40 others closed. “Similarly, enrollment cycles have become less predictable after the pandemic, which has made financial planning difficult for schools,” Brown told Arab News.

According to Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates, a heavy reliance on private for-profit education means that market threats related to rising costs could lead to school closures. (Provided)

“Although there is an optimistic recovery in some MENA countries, there is still a long way to go to ensure financial stability and economic growth.

“There are now new pressures to include mandatory teaching hours in Arabic and well-being and sustainability, as well as continued investment in virtual reality and technology. Financial and labor resource planning -work will continue to be a top priority for schools in the MENA region in the years to come.”

Established in Yorkshire in 2009, the Skills Network is one of the UK’s leading e-learning providers, having grown into a leading provider of technology-enabled learning solutions.

Serving the corporate, public and education sectors, it claims to create high-quality learning experiences across a wide range of subject areas, with over 1.6 million learners regularly using its online learning portal. learning, EQUAL.

The Skills Network says its online distance learning courses, staff training programs and apprenticeship programs have helped companies such as G4S, Thomson Reuters and the Trades Union Congress meet their training and development goals. development.

Such tools are vital in today’s world. According to a United Nations policy brief released in August 2020, the pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to education systems around the world, affecting nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries.

Schools will also be able to develop an integrated curriculum planning strategy based on measuring the current curriculum, staffing structure, and finances. (AFP)

In the MENA region alone, the health crisis has been responsible for the closure of educational establishments for nearly 100 million students aged 5 to 17.

As a result, governments in the region, such as those of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have increasingly promoted a hybrid model of online and classroom education, with the Kingdom opening its national portal of Ain education to more than 6 million users and providing 30,000 devices to students in need at the time.

Regarding the Middle East, the Skills Network says its team of experts is working to develop a more effective education system for the region.

Although still in the early stages of rolling out their tool to schools in the MENA region, the team has already onboarded more than 100 schools internationally in recent months.

“Over time, we’ve discovered a demand from schools looking to identify specific subject and lesson costs in their curriculum,” Brown said.

“We worked with our existing partners to develop the tool and provide additional analytical insights to make targeted, quality-driven changes to teaching with students – delivering better outcomes for learners.”

Foreign student Amro, a pupil of the French International Lyceum in Riyadh, studied at home on March 23, 2020 as schools in Saudi Arabia closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP/file photo)

The financial planning tool can be used in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In the UK, it has saved an average of £163,000 ($193,228) per secondary school per year.

“So it’s a proven and robust asset to any international school around the world,” Brown said. “Ultimately, students will benefit from an optimized faculty complement and budget that can support the delivery of high-quality education.”

According to Ridge of the Ras Al-Khaimah think tank, the situation is only getting worse for schools, as many countries in the MENA region are experiencing high inflation due to soaring food and fuel prices.

“For schools it will be difficult, especially in the private sector where parents will also have less money to spend,” she said.

“I believe the situation requires government support to help schools manage through this difficult time. The situation could get worse if left to market forces, but government intervention could help.

Students arrive at school as in-person classes resumed amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Kuwait in September 2021. (AFP)

She believes that low-income countries will benefit most from the new tools, although everyone can benefit from them, and that aid could not come at a better time.

“Such a reliance on private for-profit education means that market threats of rising costs could lead to school closures, especially in the lower end of the market, which would hurt students. the poorest,” Ridge said.

Brown of the Skills Network says international schools in the MENA region are experiencing massive demand for enrollment from local students and families. According to him, the profile of learners in international schools has evolved over the years and has become more localized than ever.

Looking to the future, Brown said, “As the learner profile continues to change, new challenges and pressures arise on program delivery and financial resources.

“It’s critically important that schools in the MENA region are equipped with the technology to meet these ever-changing needs.”

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