gulf education

Ready to fly

Schools are not only about grades, learning how to become career-ready is also critical

By Helga Jensen-Forde I Special to GN Focus
16:30 February 5, 2018
Schools in the UAE

While all students and their parents wish for an A-grade education, schools are no longer just about scores. As schools acknowledge the importance of life-skills that can make students career ready, there are many school initiatives in play that will leave a students’ CV and their future stand apart from the crowd.

“Grades, in isolation, do not tell the whole story,” says Rachel Johnson, Secondary Guidance and Support Counsellor, Uptown School. “Beyond the academics, we have students with outstanding community service, charming character and stellar achievements in extra-curricular activities ranging from sports to the arts.”

University admissions tracking can prove that the overall success of a student in university lies in looking at the student in a holistic way, versus in isolation of grades. “We can see from both the university and the careers world, that we must look at more than grades of our students to paint a complete picture, and the world doesn’t just need another academically smart person, they need a person who can communicate with their colleagues and be flexible in challenges,” Johnson adds.

With schools recognising what employers are looking for, initiatives to get children ready for the big wide world often begins at an early age. In a unique initiative students of Habitat School Al Tallah, a school from the Habitat group, recently tried new farming technologies of aquaponics and vertical gardening.

“Instead of looking at farm produce as a mere commodity bought from supermarket shelves, our students recognise the importance of agricultural crops, appreciate the labour that goes into their cultivation and perceive how vital their role is for the sustenance of human life,” says Shamsu Zaman, MD of Habitat Schools.

The right approach Kierstan Connors, Associate Director, GEMS College and Career Counselling Worldwide, says,“As long as career-readiness content is age appropriate and integrated into core content classes, it can be developed and promoted effectively at any grade or age.

“For our GEMS schools worldwide, no matter what the school c u rric u lum (Indian, UK, US, IB), we start preparing students with the right life skills to become career ready in terms of thinking, problem-solving, analysing and communicating from entrance into our pre-Kindergarten classes. Since effective communication in any language, even computer coding, comes in five forms — reading, writing, speaking, listening, and problem-solving/ analysis — we want students to excel in all areas of communication in multiple languages. For all students at any grade level, we also promote appropriate use of technology.”

Language skills

With the world becoming smaller, and business being done through many countries, being conversant in different languages is a skill that all schools are looking for their students to attain. Head of Secondary School, Luke Osborne, the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai, says, “Our students think in interdisciplinary ways and this makes them “future proof” because they become ready to adapt to changes in the way we live and work. Our school values languages as a powerful mechanism for preparing students and opening doors in a global context. We expect that all of our students attain a degree of bilingualism by the time they leave.”

To be bilingual, having effective communication skills and being up-todate with technology are part and parcel of leaving school nowadays. But, for schools in the UAE, this is all in a days’ work. “It is a step in the next direction to prepare our students for life beyond the school walls, after all, this is the purpose of school as a societal norm,” says Johnson. “Just as we teach students math to use to balance their finances in adulthood and we teach them to know English to be able to read, write and communicate in life, we also teach them how to pursue the next stage of life.”