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Online Learning in the Middle East: 5 Things to Keep in Mind as an Older Student

As IGCSE and A Level examinations draw close, students across the Middle East are gearing up to transition from the preparation stage to the revision stage. If you’re attending online classes, you should have a strong focus on using the right approach to secure top grades.

Whether you’ll be sitting your exams this year or the next, make sure you start optimising your online learning experience from the get-go. In this blog, we’ll offer a closer look at five things you should keep in mind as an older student who’s attending online school in the Middle East.

1. Is Your Curriculum Well-Balanced?

As a student, you may have never thought about whether your curriculum is well-balanced or not, and this is because of no fault of your own. Most students trust their institutions and teachers enough to never question their curriculum. Unfortunately, curricular differences can make or break student performance.

Presently, many online schools are using the national curriculum, which is known for being too prescriptive and subject to political turbulence. If you’re taught the national curriculum, chances are that your teachers will skip numerous important topics and subtopics that can help you develop a strong foundation.

Think about it this way. If your foundation is shaky, the concepts you build atop will not be as sound and comprehensively developed. We always encourage students to dig deeper and take a closer look at the curriculum that is being used in their institution.

At Cambridge Home School, we steer clear of the national curriculum. Instead, we’ve developed an independent, well-rounded, and interdisciplinary curriculum that takes the best aspects of the national curriculum and adds new, integral components that must be taught to help students learn and perform better. By adding these elements, we ensure that students cover more ground (educational breadth) and learn more comprehensively across these new topics and subtopics (educational depth). This, in turn, helps our students secure excellent grades.

In June 2021, 86% of our students secured A*s and As in their target subjects. 83% of our A Level students secured two As and a B (or higher), as required by top universities. Moreover, all students (100%) who applied received offers from some of the leading universities across the globe. This track record is largely attributed to our curricular changes, which is why we hope that Middle Eastern students can be more cognisant of this aspect of their academic journey.

2. Are Your Teachers Qualified and Attentive?

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Older students who are preparing for their IGCSE or A Level examinations in the Middle East often worry about the teaching support they’re provided. Compared to your counterparts in the UK, you may feel uncertain about whether your teachers are just as qualified and experienced.

Students generally perform better when their teachers are capable of delivering well-structured, comprehensive, and effective lessons. In our experience, we’ve observed that qualified and experienced British teachers understand the British education system better. As a result, they deliver excellent lessons.

As a student, make sure your teachers are providing the quality of education you need to receive excellent grades. At Cambridge Home School, we have a team of MA/PhD qualified subject specialist teachers on board, many of whom are British. They use an individualised approach to ensure that each student’s academic weaknesses and strengths are taken into account.

Let’s say a student is preparing for their A Level Math examination. If they have an excellent grasp of every topic but struggle with vectors, their teacher should be able to identify this weakness and carefully address it in a timely manner. Many teachers simply identify such errors when grading papers and leave it at that. This places the onus of improvement on the student’s shoulders when this responsibility should actually be shared between both the student and the teacher.

At Cambridge Home School, our qualified and attentive teachers pay close attention to each student’s unique learning experience. By providing one-on-one attention accordingly, they help students develop a mastery of the specific subjects they’re studying.

As a student, make sure you don’t overlook this detail. Your online teachers should take a strong, genuine interest in helping you improve on a regular, weekly, and monthly basis. If this interest, expertise, experience, or assiduousness are missing, consider switching schools.

3. Do You Get a Word in Edgewise in Your Classes?

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Class participation is extremely important for older students who are preparing for their IGCSE or A Level examinations in the Middle East. According to research, active participation in class plays a big role in improving overall objective and subjective student performance. Not only do students subjectively feel that they’re doing better in class, but objective criteria like their grades are also significantly improved.

Another study confirms the positive correlation between grade improvement and class participation. An astounding 72% of the students who were surveyed agreed that an increase in class participation led to an improvement in academic performance.

If your online classes start and end without you being able to get a word in edgewise, consider this a big red flag. Most conventional schools are known for having a high student-teacher ratio. In some cases, as many as 25 (or even 30) students are taught by one teacher. This reduces the amount of one-on-one attention each student receives.

Oftentimes, teachers deliver monotonous, continuous lectures without prompting healthy dialogue between students. If you are unable to engage with your teachers and peers, there will be little to no introduction of new ideas in the classroom.

The switch to online schooling was embraced by many parents as it was supposed to solve the problem of an excessively high student-teacher ratio. Unfortunately, a lot of online schools still have a high student-teacher ratio in place.

As an older student, make sure you understand the importance of class interactivity and take measures accordingly. If your institution does not have a strong focus on encouraging a healthy, dynamic debate in class, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stay focused in class, build strong connections, and learn something new.

At Cambridge Home School, we keep the student-teacher ratio extremely low. As few as 8–10 students are taught in small groups, which helps keep engagement and interactivity levels high. By opening up the floor for class discussions after delivering lessons, our teachers ensure that students grow academically.

Students are also allowed to ask questions at any point. By addressing common concerns, our teachers ensure that other students gain more clarity as well. If you want to secure top grades, reassess the structure, pace, and dynamic of your classes. If you detect any shortcomings, switch schools to get back on track.

4. Are You Retaining Your Lessons?

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Online schooling stands out for its high levels of knowledge absorption and retention. These two aspects are critical for older students. The IGCSE and A Level examinations carry immense weight. Your performance will determine the university you attend and the professional roles you adopt in the future. If there’s an academic junction that shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s this.

Try to figure out whether you’re a) understanding your lessons, b) absorbing them, and c) retaining them. While understanding and absorbing knowledge is eventually made possible in most online schools, the last component is overlooked: retention.

Let’s say you’re preparing for your IGCSE Chemistry examination and having trouble constructing and interpreting chemical equations. As your teacher doubles down on this section and provides numerous examples, you finally begin to get the hang of it. By the end of the lesson, you can confidently work on chemical equations, including ionic equations. If you are unable to retain these concepts in the following days, weeks, and months, your performance will be affected.

Unfortunately, many students fail to retain critical components of the curriculum. As a student, make sure you revise each lesson towards the end of the day. Moreover, ensure that your online school provides the resources you need to brush up on your skills.

At Cambridge Home School, we provide a vast online library of educational resources, including videos, presentations, past papers, study guides, exercises, and so much more. These resources have been carefully created, compiled, and electronically preserved to help students get 24/7 academic support.

As you revise for the day or complete your homework, you may require additional help. Since your teachers will not be able to assist you until your next class, you should have access to quality resources that help answer your questions and clear your concepts. This is the primary purpose of our online repository. Make the most of these resources to increase your knowledge retention capabilities.

We also encourage students to become excellent note-takers. As you pen something down, type away on your keyboard, verbally record and listen to your notes, and use similar sensory learning styles, you’ll retain your lessons better. Visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic knowledge retention strategies are extremely effective and go a long way in boosting academic performance.

Utilise these strategies to secure better grades and retain course materials in the long run. For instance, if you’re preparing for your A Level Business Studies examination, you shouldn’t forget important concepts a few weeks or months after you sit your examination. If you retain these learnings in the long run, they’ll serve as a helping hand in university and even throughout your professional career.

There are only upsides here. After sitting your exams, keep your notes and educational resources handy. Visiting them once a week is a great way to refresh important learnings in your mind.

5. Is Your School-Life Balance Intact?

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Last but definitely not the least, striking a healthy school-life balance is imperative. While online schooling offers ample flexibility, it can still make students feel overwhelmed. This is where it’s time to put your “researcher” hat on. Look for an online school that has an equally strong focus on academic performance and student mental health.

At Cambridge Home School, we want our students to perform exceptionally well on their exams and enjoy a healthy school-life balance. While academic growth is extremely important, personal and social development are just as imperative. Our students enjoy their favourite activities, hobbies, sports, games, excursions, and explorations after school.

In fact, many of our students go on mid-school year family trips to have vibrant experiences and learn about new cultures, people, traditions, customs, and languages. We encourage students to set up their study station in their hotel and get rid of all distractions as they attend their classes. You will, however, be discouraged from going on mid-school year family trips as your exams draw near. While we want you to have enriching experiences, we also want you to double down on revision when your exams are a few months away.

By helping students maintain a healthy school-life balance, we ensure that the learning process never stops. Our students become well-rounded individuals as they continue to develop new skills after school. This approach also reduces the risk of student burnout, which is particularly common among older students.

IGCSE and A Level examinations carry an immense amount of pressure. Unfortunately, many institutions push students beyond their limits, causing them to overwork themselves. This triggers academic stress and anxiety in many students. Instead of performing better, they underperform.

At Cambridge Home School, we provide one-on-one success coaching and pastoral support to each student. This helps us understand whether students are struggling and provide the support they need to overcome these obstacles. As you start preparing for your IGCSE or A Level examinations in the Middle East, make an informed decision about your schooling.

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We provide a quality British online education across four homeschooling programs: Primary Prep/Key Stage 2 (ages 8 to 10), Lower School/Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 13), Upper School/IGCSEs (ages 14 to 16), and Sixth Form/AS & A-Levels (ages 17 to 19). Take a closer look at the following resources for more insight:

Our best online school is also open to students living in the UK, Europe (including Western Russia), Africa, and Central Asia.