Each school is unique, so too is very child’s educational experience reflecting as it does their individual personalities. One thing Dubai College strives to achieve for every child is a positive experience of learning and personal development – the ‘DC experience’.” – Peter Hill, Former Headmaster, Dubai College
The atmosphere at Dubai College is inviting. The juxtaposed elements of productivity and the serenity of the sprawling campus set the backdrop to an environment that lets you know that even with the business of education unfolding at the highest level, the participants are contented with their roles.
This is essential to the ‘DC experience’ that Mr Peter Hill, who has been at the helm of Dubai College for the past five years, refers to in the introductory quote. He notes that Dubai College has always focused on providing opportunities for students to develop their talents and to discover new ones. in order for children to thrive, they need to be challenged and inspired – in the classroom, on the sports field, on the stage.
The formal and informal curriculum serves this purpose as students are equally engaged at the academic level and personal level through the extensive extracurricular offerings at the school.
Dubai College made headlines earlier this year, when a number of their sixth form students earned places in top tier universities in the UK and the US. Former Headmaster, Mr Peter Hill and Mr Martin Woolley, Head of Lower School expound at length on some of the outstanding programmes at Dubai College that have led to the school maintaining a solid reputation as a trusted institution that continues to enjoy great results and longevity in the education sector.
The success of Dubai College is also reflected in the lower school, which boasts a number of initiatives that help to enrich the students’ learning.
“Today, we teachers are very much facilitators who are supporting, guiding and encouraging the children’s natural curiosity and motivation,” begins Mr Woolley.
“At the start of this year we began with the initiative called ‘Lower School Colours’ (LSC) which is based on the 8 Dubai College values. These being academic, philanthropic, the physical aspects, performance, the creative side, personal endeavours, cultural and social awareness.”
The LSC are included in the students’ planners. Students are encouraged to earn their colours as they go through the academic year. The planner includes a colour wheel to which students affix stickers for the colours earned, in order to track their achievements.
Mr Woolley explains that the idea is to allow students to take the lead in showing what they are capable of. It also forces them to step outside of their comfort zones by trying to earn colours in areas that they may experience challenges. Additionally, this fosters within students a stronger intrinsic desire to succeed.
Other programmes that contribute significantly to the high success rate at the school include a liaison programme, enrichment programme, mentorship system, one-to-one tutoring and tracking programme.
The liaison programme involves sixth form students who work closely with form tutors and students from the lower school to ensure that both socially and academically all is well. They assist in organising social events and are instrumental in providing guidance to students who may experience challenges with personal organisation or learning. The mentorship system involves year 11 students providing advice and assistance to individual students from the lower school.
“We also have the enrichment programme for students. We used to have a 1-hour a week PSHE slot to discuss social issues relevant to teenagers. We now take one day off from the curriculum, once per term, to address issues in more depth such as cyber safety, e-bullying, teamwork, first aid, entrepreneurship, happiness and related issues. This is done to equip students with the life skills that they will need,” states Mr Hill.
It is important to look both outwards and internally. “We’ve looked extensively at schools in the UK to see what they are doing. We also conduct regular surveys with our students to get their feedback in the ‘Student Voice’ (school magazine),” adds Mr Woolley, “in addition to this, we have a one-to-one tracking sessions, where the form teacher meets with each of their students to discuss a number of things that the student is presently involved in. This includes looking at academic performance as it relates to target grades, results and socially with regards to their involvement in extracurricular activities.”
The aforementioned programmes indicate a personalised approach to teaching and learning. The tutors are effective in their roles as facilitators, which results in students being more confident in using their initiative to take charge of their own learning.
“The range of the extra-curricular programmes that we offer at Dubai College contributes significantly to our success. It plays a pivotal role in the progress the students make, in their confidence and the development of their learning skills. In many ways, the extra-curricular provision is as important as the formal curriculum in the development of these skills,” articulates Mr Hill.
This success is evidenced in the accomplishments of the various clubs and societies at the school. Of note, the debating society travels regularly to compete in international championships, among these the Council of British International Schools World Debating Championships and the elite Cambridge Union Debates in the UK (where the team reached the grand finals).
Other notable successes include the F1 in schools competition. This involves students creating small model cars. They collaborate on designing, producing as well as, aerodynamically testing their cars. Students have to raise sponsorship in a bid to travel to where the championship is being held.
“Hundreds of thousands of students around the world take part in this competition. For the past five or six years, Dubai College has usually represented the UAE in this championship. This year, the team won the award for best international collaboration,” Mr Hill notes with a smile.
DC students are engaged in activities such as world challenge where students travel to challenging places such as Ethiopia, India and Mongolia or Vietnam on expeditions where they participate in charity projects.
There is the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which is hugely supported by students in the gold, silver and bronze categories. The Dubai Desert Classic, one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, has featured exclusively DC 14-17 year old students as scorers for the past 25 years.
The drama programme is also touted for its success.
“The quality of our drama programme is exceptional. Drama is crucially important because it fosters the development of all these soft skills such as confidence; self-awareness, teamwork, reflection and self- management just to name a few. Drama is a key part of our curriculum,” declares Mr Hill.
“We also have a yearly exchange with Bedales, the leading drama school in the UK,” he continues.
This is not surprising since the school has a 900 seat, state of the art auditorium in which students have the liberty to be at their creative best.
The music department is also accomplished. They achieve significant success in a number of competitions locally and regionally including the ‘Young Musician of the Gulf’. They also organise a number of concerts (jazz, classical, contemporary, etc.) and musical performances throughout the school year.
Sports play a central role in the extracurricular life of Dubai College and provides each pupil with the opportunity to develop to the very best of their physical ability. Sport activities include their successful rugby teams of which the senior team have won the Under 18 Emirates Dubai Sevens Championship for the past four years as well as consistently being the school league champions. The Under 13 team reached the last 16 of the prestigious Rosslyn Park 7s tournament in the UK in March – so quality rugby is coming through the school.
The school enjoys significant success in netball, cricket, swimming, football and athletics. Other sport activities include tennis, basketball, rounders and water-polo.
“We have at least 80% of our students that stay behind to participate in at least two activities every week…if you think about that, its phenomenal,” remarks Mr Hill.
To summarise the impact of extracurricular programmes on the academic success and social development of the students, Mr Hill outlines the following points:
- Students come into Dubai College who may be very academic or they may be very creative. what we hope to achieve when they leave us after 7 years, is that they have an interest, and have developed skills in a broader range of areas and this is where extracurricular activities are key.
- Secondly, we believe strongly in the philanthropic approach. Our students are aware of how privileged they are. Our charity committee is very active in fundraising which generates very significant sums of money for the charities the students select.
- Thirdly, the skills of collaboration, teamwork, leadership and more are magnified through involvement in extracurricular activities.
“Our students buy into the DC experience. They buy into the ethos of the school. The reason we are successful is because our students want to do these things. They understand that when they leave here, they will be well-rounded students who are likely to get into the best universities and enter into the most challenging of careers. They realise that today, both academics and social development are of equal significance,” concludes Mr Woolley.