GEOFFREY ALPHONSO

Abu Dhabi 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Geoffrey Alphonso, CEO of Alef Education, on the effects of COVID-19 on operations, the challenges of fast-tracking digital transformation, and the 2021 Vision.

How has the Coronavirus directly affected Alef Education at an operational level?

From an operational level, I would like to answer the question in two parts. First, how prepared are we to service our customers and two how prepared are our internal operations to handle a displaced workforce of 300+ people that have had to what seems like a switch to a home office scenario. From a customer vantage point, the Alef Education platform is well prepared for events such as these. With the ability for students and teachers to log in and access lessons and gather real-time feedback, we have seen a surge in usage and also interest from various countries to support their distant learning initiatives. All of our lessons across six core subjects are pre-built and aligned with the curriculum of the Ministry of Education and also US Common Core standards. As a result, students can continue learning independently or with tools such as Google Classroom and Microsoft teams, which are all enabled through our platform by a single sign-on. These tools allow teachers to deliver remote classroom teaching and powered by the curriculum aligned lessons and content that is available. The impact of school closure has had a minimal effect on learners who are using our platform. Furthermore, we have also partnered with the Ministry of Education, ADEK and KHDA to offer our flagship Alef platform along with two other supplementary products called Abjdiyat and Curio (K-9 Arabic, Math, and Science digital resources) for free to anyone in the UAE or across the world. Alef Education is doing its part to help contribute to schools, students, and teachers displaced due to the global education crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. You can find out more by visiting our website at www.alefeducation.com and following us at #LearningDoesNotStop. In terms of remote working plans for our staff, we anticipated this need well in advance, and most of our teams already work in an agile manner. We have tested and provided our staff with the necessary tools to continue their work remotely with a limited impact on the day to day business operations. With the support of the UAE government and partners providing collaboration tools, we have managed to cope well with remote working given current day events.

What is your perspective on the broader impact that the virus will have on the education sector in Abu Dhabi?

There is going to be a significant increase in investment/expenditure in the global Ed-Tech landscape where digital-first classrooms and tools required by schools, students, and teachers will be made a priority. I see the emergency of distant learning being the new normal, and I do believe that online and virtual education will also drive the education sector past the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In addition, I foresee a surge by education institutions fast-tracking their digital transformation agendas as a result of current day events that have displaced more than 1.3 billion learners globally. As for Abu Dhabi and the UAE, I strongly feel that a digital-first strategy is already a core pillar of the 2021 vision. Moreover, I feel the impact will be more of a re-emphasis on on-line and distant learning and a re-thinking of strategies to support virtual classrooms both in the K-12 and Higher Ed domains.