A whole new way of schooling

Faced with unprecedented circumstances, schools, students and parents are now having to assume and cope with a completely new way of schooling.

Students are self-isolating at home with their families and, whilst education must continue, it is also very important to ensure both social contact and interaction with friends and peers.

This is the firm view of Ms Penelope Best, Head of School at the Eupheus International School in the Algarve.

“Our students are in a fortunate position as they utilise the latest technology in direct response to these unprecedented times. We are now providing a comprehensive blended model of virtual learning for all of our students,” says Ms Best.

The virtual school day begins as scheduled at 9.15am. All of the students use their Eupheus iPads to connect to their virtual classroom and teacher through the Zoom app. Teachers monitor, interact with their whole class and teach their morning lessons online. Music, art and PE lessons are uploaded during the afternoon.

Teachers use interactive aids, such as teaching videos, YouTube clips or appropriate worksheets to support these lessons.

“We also use Class Dojo, which is the learning platform through which our teachers, students and parents are able to access all set work and communicate directly with each other,” says Ms Best.
“They are able to upload photographs, videos and schoolwork, as well as share thoughts, ideas and motivational posts.”

Ms Best is able to publish daily school news, congratulate students on their achievements, celebrate birthdays and keep her school community spirit alive and connected.

To date, this has been very well received by students. They are continuing their studies very successfully, having adapted to a truly 21st century way of teaching and learning.

It is difficult to compare how other international and national schools in Portugal are coping with the current crisis.
As a brand new school located in Loulé, equipped with the latest technology, and students who have individual iPads and internet at home, Eupheus International is able to continue providing education at a high level, with students receiving daily interaction with their teachers and friends.

“They appear to be coping very well, and have accepted and adjusted to the new situation better than anyone could have expected,” says Ms Best.

“Our teachers have been outstanding. We are a small team, which is both nurtured and supported. My teachers have been able to adapt very quickly to the new challenges. They are providing not only academic support, but, crucially, the emotional support that our students and families require at this demanding time.”

Teachers at other schools have told the Eupheus head that they feel completely overwhelmed. Some students in Portuguese national schools are being given so much work that they have been sent timetables to include Saturdays and Sundays. They are still expected to carry out tests that are posted online, when some do not have access to computers or the internet.

This is not the fault of educational establishments per se, explains Ms Best. Rather it is indicative of the differing levels of funding within the education systems.

“I see this situation as one of the biggest learning curves in educational history, and an opportunity to make unparalleled developments in modern education. This pandemic will change education and its core values forever.”

Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt