Sculpting leaders

Mohammed Abu Hawash and Mariam Al Saadi decide to walk the echelons of academia to get a glimpse of what the UAE schools have to offer
The Community By Mohammed Abu Hawash and Mariam Al Saadi
Published on August 1, 2014
sculpting leaders

DUBAI School is your children’s second home. Their first look into the real world starts at school — their first step into the unknown. This is why their identities and demands need to correspond to those of their schools’. While figuring out their ‘comfort zones’, it is, therefore, essential to understand what their dreams and aspirations are, as doing things they are passionate about builds dedication, resilience and a love of learning. Keeping these things in perspective, The Community lists crucial features that a school must have for building a strong foundation for our future pillars of success.

Student-faculty ratio
According to Bradenton Prep Academy’s spokesperson, “Communication is the most important learning tool”. Smaller class sizes, for example, ensure students are able to communicate with one another, and with their teachers. Most schools limit their class sizes to an average of 20-25 pupils. In a smaller class, students have an opportunity to form closer relationships with both their peer groups and teachers.” Bradenton’s faculty-to-student ratio stands at 10.9:1, which is considered to be one of the very best. And with Greenfield Community School’s student-to-faculty ratio at 8.6:1, it’s clear that these statistics are a genuine cause of concern for a student’s well-being — a teacher can be friends with a class of 15 students, but less so with one of 30. Therefore, it’s best to look for schools with student-to-faculty ratio at 15:1 or even less.

Unity in diversity
Diversity is one of the most exciting interests among students and teachers. It’s true that diversity in the UAE is more easily found, but few people understand its benefits. According to Greenfield Community School’s spokesperson, “We are one of the most diverse schools in the UAE and diversity is the core of everything we do.” Greenfield Community embodies 85 different student nationalities along with 27 faculty nationalities and an overall of 50 spoken languages in their own community. “All diverse schools have a quality that the education system in itself cannot provide, a quality that encourages an open mind and promotes global awareness,” said a spokesperson from Dubai British School (DBS), adding, “We incorporate approximately 60 nationalities in our student body keeping in mind that diversity offers many opportunities to our children as they learn more about the world.”

Dynamic faculty
Teachers are not just our mentors, but also positive role models. The best way for schools to ensure that students are in the right hands is by recruiting a dynamic faculty — teachers who can educate, lead and motivate students. You may be surprised, but a school’s mission statement is more than mere words. Talk to several teachers and directors of a school before enrolling your child and look for charisma and love of learning.
According to the DBS spokesperson, “Teachers must challenge themselves and their teams and hold them accountable. This can be achieved by being excellent role models, leading by example, being inspirational and aspirational, and having high expectations from all. Central to this of course is always being true to the values of the school — pioneering, professional, nurturing and spirited.” Teachers must also master their subjects well, and this is why many schools host workshops and professional development sessions, hoping that these will polish their faculty’s capabilities. Greenfield Community School for example, hosts IB professional development workshops for its educators.

Curriculum
Different curricula offer different subjects. DBS, for instance, offers a wide variety of subjects — 26 in total for high school— including 21 A-Levels. “As per our last year’s GCSE results, 90 per cent of our students achieved an A*-C grade and more than a third of our students earned A* grades,” the DBS spokesperson said. The credit for these statistics goes not just to the teachers, but also to student counsellors — the unsung heroes who provide the much needed support to the school community. With stress syndromes on the rise — some of which have led to suicides — schools certainly mustn’t underestimate the value of counsellors who can help students de-stress and unwind.

Extracurricular activities
Physical education and extracurricular activities are crucial to the overall development of students. Most schools have active athletic programmes with an aim at promoting sportsmanship, competition and discipline. Many have competing teams that represent schools in tournaments or home games. Some schools offer extracurricular activities after school hours or during the weekends. Schools like Bradenton Prep Academy and DBS offer specific after school activities for those in the secondary, with courses range from sporting activities to linguistic, creative and academic trainings. These encourage students to explore what they love and help build their confidence to pursue their passions in the future. Of course, schools play a vital role in sculpting a child’s identity as a leader. At the same time, a parent too has a role to play. A mistake that parents often make is to neglect the child, assuming that all his or her needs will be taken care of by the school. It is important for parents to interact with both the child and school. A child is like soft clay — it’s up to the school and parents to mould him or her into a correct shape.

Reader’s voice
1. Are you happy with your child’s school?
2. Does your child feel happy to go to school?
3. Any suggestions for improvement as far as school education in the UAE is concerned?
Do send in your feedback by writing to us at thecommunity@skyhorizonmedia.com

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