Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Let me Google that: UAE parents forced to turn to the internet to understand children's schoolwork

A worldwide study of more than 15,000 parents found many struggle with maths, science and geography

Yonah Jalbuna with her six year old daughter, Yonayrah, at their home in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
Yonah Jalbuna with her six year old daughter, Yonayrah, at their home in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National

UAE parents are turning to the internet in order to keep pace with the changing nature of their children's schoolwork.

They say they often have to check for information on search engines such as Google when trying to support their children on a diverse range of subjects.

Parents said they would welcome refresher courses from schools to allow them to understand the modern curriculum and support their children's studies.

Their experiences echo the findings of a survey by Lenovo, a multinational technology company, in which 60 per cent of parents admitted looking for information online and pretending they knew the answer all along.

Parents struggled most with subjects such as mathematics, science, geography and foreign languages.

The study polled more than 15,000 parents across the world and found that 75 percent said their children are more likely to look something up online themselves than ask them for help when it comes to a question about schoolwork.

Schools are focusing more on projects and assignments than homework these days and on many occasions we do not know the answers and are totally dependent on the internet

Rohit D’souza

Rohit D’souza, an Indian living in Dubai, said he uses the internet to help his son, 13, and daughter, 10, with schoolwork.

"Schools are focusing more on projects and assignments than homework these days and on many occasions we do not know the answers and are totally dependent on search engines like Google and the internet to help finish the homework," said Mr D'souza.

"We do end up using Google all the time," he said.

"There are no additional classes to update or brush-up our knowledge but such classes would be extremely welcome."

He said the internet is not always the most reliable source of information with false news and biased information on many platforms.

"We want our children to be up-to-date in their knowledge and if parents are equipped with some knowledge that would be extremely helpful. Many times, Google is not the answer.

"Google may throw up answers that are biased or untrue. If schools were to take some time to teach parents through workshops or classes that would be great."

Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist and commentator on digital learning, said many parents struggle to keep up with shifts in learning methods.

"Not only has much of the curriculum taught across the globe been revamped and updated in recent decades, but ways of learning have shifted as well with many parents regularly reporting feeling unequipped to help their children," she said.

Pupils at Wellington International School in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Many parents struggle to recall the principles of maths and science when it comes to homework. Pawan Singh / The National

“Parenting in a digitally saturated world can pose additional challenges for modern families, as educational technology might feel quite foreign to their own experiences of learning and socialising."

The Lenovo survey found while technology has many positives in aiding learning, 72 percent of parents said they have concerns it could create dependencies in young people and may affect social skills.

Last year, The National reported that some schools in the UAE are adopting virtual and augmented reality as well as games in classes to engage children.

Yonah Jalbuna, a 35-year-old geodetic engineer working in construction in Sharjah, uses technology and the internet to teach her six-year-old daughter while simultaneously working to keep her child far from gadgets.

"I do use Google a lot to research how to become more artistic or creative in teaching my child," said Ms Jalbuna.

“My daughter is still in elementary school so I do not need to do a lot of research online but I do use the help of Google," she said.

"I try to limit use technology and even when she watches television, I sit with her."

The mother said feedback on the curriculum from schools would be helpful as it would help her pick up methods of teaching.

Clementina Kongslund, a blogger at DubaiMums.com, has two children aged six and nine attending the British curriculum Gems First Point School.

"We have already taught them to use Google every time if they do not know something," said Ms Kongslund.

"We use the internet with the children and show them how to use Google search to help with their homework.

"It is very important to know the methods the teacher has used. My husband and I both come from a different background of education do we do not have much idea about British education."

She said the school organises meetings with the parents, explains the curricula and some of the methods. Last year they organised four mathematics workshops for the parents.

The mother said the workshops are useful as they help parents to familiarise themselves with the methods used at school and allow them to help children accordingly.

Updated: August 12, 2019 10:55 AM