Searching for a Dubai school for your child? Here are the benefits of an American education for them
19 February 2020| Last updated on 20 February 2020
If you’re enrolling your child in a school in Dubai, the number of choices of schools and curricula can be overwhelming.
We reached out to the curriculum experts at Dunecrest American School to find out more about the benefits that an American college-prep education can offer your child. Lisa Gibson, Elementary Principal at Dunecrest, shared how the school applies its standards-based American curriculum to build critical thinking skills, engage students’ hearts as well as minds, and authentically bring learning to life.
Here are eight takeaways for parents in Dubai, and some tips on what to look out for when selecting a school for their children:
1. Beyond Curriculum
When considering an American school, look for the standards that the school follows. Every US state has its own varying standards, which schools can choose to follow. At Dunecrest we follow the robust AERO+ standards, which is in alignment with the research-based Common Core curriculum and has been adapted to an international context by the US State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools.
Our students here are gaining an international liberal arts education, delivered by teachers who are experts in their fields, and experts in delivering an aligned curriculum. Apart from standards, teachers’ knowledge of standards is equally, or even more important! It’s critical that teachers are aware of the alignment between the taught curriculum and the standards that have been selected at the school. Ask how they are assessing standards, and how the school has worked to unpack the standards and analyze what the students are expected to know and are able to do? Are the school's chosen resources support the teaching of the standards?
Look also for accredited schools as they undergo an ongoing evaluation process by an external, impartial body.
2. It’s All in the Delivery
“American education is so much more than a single curriculum. We teach children about life, it’s quite holistic” shared Lisa. At the core, what students are expected to know and understand is the same across various curricula for each age group. The difference lies in lesson planning, delivery and the assessment of student attainment.
At Dunecrest, our education program engages students in real-life problems that make it truly authentic and immersive. Our reading and writing programs are rigorous. We have an excellent literacy program from Columbia University in New York. We understand that our students are digital natives and that embedding lessons with the latest educational technology make for interactive and exciting learning experiences.
3. High Standards
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) that regulates schools have strict requirements for any school that is named an American school, particularly with Math and English programs. We encourage parents to examine a school’s KHDA report closely, zeroing in on attainment levels and comparing them across schools to get a good understanding of the education that is being delivered.
Parents should also familiarize themselves with the background and training of the teachers delivering the programs. It takes an exceptional person to deliver classes creatively and maintain high levels of engagement.
4. Learning is Three-Dimensional
A stand-out factor for an American curriculum school is it’s whole-child approach to learning, with strong social and emotional programs that are embedded into the learning. At Dunecrest, our Science program is embedded with design-thinking standards, which then brings real-life projects for students to apply their learning. Our students in Grade 7, for example, are working with a Virtual Reality (VR) production company and the CSR team of a major automotive brand to produce a VR game that shows how speed and the number of safety violations increase when driving with distractions like mobile telephones.
This program will help raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for our students to acquire marketable skills while working alongside innovative companies in the local and regional markets. Our cross-curricular approach means topics are reinforced across different subject areas with STEAM learning that brings alive concepts across Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
5. Teamwork and Collaboration
The American curriculum focuses on teamwork and collaboration. It is the ethos of a good American school. We want our students to be able to synthesize information and develop knowledge. Students learn about how to think about a problem and also how to solve it. We design our lessons to develop and grow critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social skills as well as subject-specific competencies. These are all key for setting kids up for success in college and future careers.
6. Nurturing Leadership Skills
This is actually not a curriculum aspect but a whole-school aspect. Good American schools think past the curriculum, and consider the wellbeing of students, their learning and engagement. Schools have to think of creative ways to have leadership opportunities for all students. At Dunecrest, we aim to develop conscientious people who will make a positive impact on their communities and the world beyond. With this ethos in mind, we embed leadership opportunities in “service to other initiatives.”
This year, you will find, our fifth through tenth graders taking a course on cooking and then organizing the prep, cooking and serving of food while making lunch for workers at a labor camp in Al Quoz. You’ll find our Middle School students in Fujairah spearheading school efforts to clean up the reef and our High School Students in Kenya, visiting the communities we support with safe, rechargeable solar lights in lieu of dangerous kerosene lamps as part of the One Million Solar Lights Project.
7. Students Love It
The root of all learning has to be engagement. Students at Dunecrest love learning! They love it because they are passionate about it and it’s adapted to the real world. We adopted a design thinking model throughout the school that is heavily embedded in our curriculum, allowing students the freedom to be creative, learn from failures and continuously improve.
8. Continuous Assessment
We are continually assessing our students’ understanding through the use of internal and external data to give really strong feedback instead of having high stakes testing. Assessments take place three times per year, and this gives us valuable insights. It also encourages students to grow and teaches them to know that learning is a process as well.