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Private schools in Dubai are putting the spirit of giving into practice by sharing what they know and learning from each other. So far, educators from 58 schools across Dubai have taken part in the Abundance Group, a project designed to spread good practice across Dubai’s schools through structured programmes.

Schools in the Abundance Group have formed 40 self-selected teams and work together to devise a programme based on needs, mutual learning and improvement. They participate in regular visits, workshops and discussions, depending on each team’s specific requirements. Some current projects focus on character-building, school leadership, self-evaluation and assessment training, among others.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said, “Research shows that what works best to improve teaching and learning across a whole education sector is collaboration between schools and teachers. This is the Year of Giving, and members of the Abundance Group are making sure that their achievements this year expand into a long-lasting culture of giving, in which the quality of education and the wellbeing of our community is continually improved through collaboration.”

Many Abundance Group projects are already underway. A group of not-for-profit British curriculum schools in Dubai, made up of Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS), Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), Dubai College and Jebel Ali School, have hosted workshops for more than 200 teachers from 23 schools, looking at areas such as self-evaluation, as well as teaching and learning, with more workshops planned during the year.

Mark Steed, director of JESS, said: “The Abundance Group helps everyone involved. It’s been hugely beneficial for the British not-for-profit schools to share best practice with each other as part of the planning process for the Abundance workshop sessions. The workshops have provided a useful forum to facilitate discussions and the sharing of ideas between schools teaching different curricula. We all have much to learn from each other.”

Neena Ravindra, Head of Middle School at Arab Unity School and a participant in the workshops, said, “I believe this project is a very smart approach to connect our minds, and to share and use the abundant knowledge, skills and talents of schools in Dubai. The most significant lesson my school has learned is of the need to have a clear and united vision of what we are working towards, and to do that collaboratively across all levels. After all, teachers are also learners.”

Another Abundance Group project offered new learning opportunities not just for teachers, but also for students. Students from two Dubai schools attended classes at GEMS Modern Academy, with the aim of sharing their experiences with others at their own schools.

Nargish Khambatta, Principal and CEO of GEMS Modern Academy said: “The Abundance Group has created opportunities for the whole education community to collaborate on many fronts. We’ve found this to be a very humbling experience, which has given us renewed respect and greater understanding of each other.”

In an additional Abundance Group project, a team from Emirates English Speaking School, Jumeirah College and Jumeirah Primary School (JPS) focused on best assessment practices. Rachel Higgins, principal and CEO of JPS, said: “We worked together with Emirates English Speaking School to set targets for improvement, and we’re now in the process of finding out what we have to learn from each other. I hope this is just the beginning of a longer-term improvement initiative for schools in Dubai.”

The Abundance Group is part of a series of sector-wide collaboration initiatives designed to improve the quality of education in Dubai, which includes the well-established teachers’ event What Works, and Lighthouse, a practical project involving Dubai’s private school principals.

– KHDA Media