Over the past five years, there has been a dedicated focus on taking education to even greater heights within the Middle East, particularly in the United Arab Emirates. In Dubai, schools have consistently raised the bar in education, by recruiting outstanding teachers, providing world-class facilities, and employing cutting edge technologies and strategies in the classroom. These steps challenge both staff and students into maintaining a high standard of excellence year after year. Among the outstanding schools in Dubai, is GEMS Jumeirah College (JC), a consistently exceptional school that is renown for producing excellent results.
Teach Middle East Magazine is delighted to share with our readers some of the good practice taking place at Jumeirah College.
Jumeirah College (JC) was founded in 1999, and since then, the college has maintained a keen focus on academic progress and achievement. This has resulted in the majority of the college’s students opting to continue studies at the university level.
While academic success is at the core of what they do, the college ensures that students are not defined by qualifications only. They are being prepared to engage in the world as dynamic and impactful global citizens.
According to Principal Simon O’Connor, when students leave JC, they are ‘accomplished in academic skills and become architects of lives that exceed expectations.’
The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) has consistently rated Jumeirah College as outstanding. When asked about some of the programmes that have led to their success, Mr O’Connor shared: “The most important element of the success of Jumeirah College is the standard of teaching that the students receive every day. We are lucky to have an exceptional staff, who continually work to improve their practice.”
In recent years, the college has done a significant amount of work to further improve, the standard of feedback that the students receive. This allows the students to always have an awareness of the next steps in their learning, and how they can achieve the ambitious targets that are set.
“We also closely monitor students’ progress to ensure the interventions which are put in place are personalised to the individual needs of the students,” continued Mr O’Connor, “All of this has created a very inclusive and personalised culture which ensures all students are able to achieve.”
A successful school usually engages effectively with the key stakeholders. This is also true of Jumeirah College. Three years ago, the entire school community was asked about what they hoped Jumeirah College would be. The result of this consultation became the college’s mission statement: –
‘A vibrant learning community nurturing happy, confident and accomplished students who, through a commitment to academic and personal excellence, progress beyond limits.’
This mandate has been fundamental in the development of the college. According to Mr O’Connor, they continually work closely with parents, not only keeping them informed, but also to actively engage them in their children’s learning.
“It used to be the case that schools tried to avoid involving parents in education. The impact of reversing this, bringing parents into the College to hear their views and explain how we are teaching their children, has been critical to the successes we have achieved,” he commented.
Jumeirah College delivers the National Curriculum for England from Years 7 to 13. They boast a roster of students from over 59 nationalities, which gives credence to them being a truly international school.
Today, schools are strongly encouraged to ensure that students are prepared to be global citizens who will be able to successfully undertake jobs that are not even yet created. Students will need to develop a life-long approach to their development if they are best placed to navigate such an uncertain future.
Mr O’Connor and the team of dedicated educators at JC are acutely aware of these challenges. Although much of the curriculum appears traditional at first glance, the enriched curriculum on offer helps students to recognise that learning is not confined to the classroom or even a school.
Jumeirah College provides a considerable range of additional activities, which help to develop the vital skills students need to function in an increasingly global society: – from leadership to reflection, teamwork to critical thinking. As a consequence, Jumeirah College’s students leave with not only qualifications demonstrating their academic achievement, but also the confidence and skills needed to ensure that they are able to lead successful lives.
Admittedly, the advances in technology will be the nucleus of many of the jobs that are not yet created. Adequate preparation and mastery of 21st century skills are crucial to accomplishing the desired outcomes for students.
Mr O’Connor shared a few of the ways in which JC promotes 21st Century Skills:
- 21st century skills are at the very core of the college’s rewards’ policy – helping students to triangulate their achievements to this important range of abilities.
- The ‘JC Skills Set’ encourages the celebration of skill development. For example, their Sixth Form ‘Thinking Ladder’ encourages independence and creativity.
- Their PSE programme develops emotional intelligence skills including resilience and empathy.
- Members of staff are encouraged to develop higher order thinking skills through the use of effective questioning. This practice has been supported by the internally run College PD and supporting resources.
- Teachers are encouraged to adapt the use of the JC Skill Set and Learning Ladder to suit their own subject areas.
- A high standard of independent learning and engagement is evidenced by a culture of target setting and mastery. Students understand through teacher and peer feedback how to improve, generating an aspirational culture of success.
- Collaborative technologies e.g. Edmodo and Google Classroom enhance group work in lessons, developing C21 learning skills.
- Student Leadership roles and enrichment encourage collaboration across key stages and beyond the College. These include opportunities at all levels of the school, but are led by their Student Executive.
- They also have student leaders for the Arts, Sports, Charity and environmental work. These students write and lead assemblies, as well as organising and promoting their areas of interest.
- Senior students also lead the student councils, helping to ensure the student voice is always included in the work of the College.
To further engage the use of technology across the various subject areas, JC employs the use of online learning platforms like Kerboodle, Google Classroom, Socrative, and Exam Pro, which gives them the ability to challenge, support and assess all students on their progress.
Science is usually one of the core subjects that usually does not receive the spotlight it rightly deserves. However, with the afore mentioned online platforms, students at JC have access to a vast array of questions, quizzes, animations, podcasts and online textbooks which provide them with constant access whether they are in the classroom or on the other side of the world.
“Practical Science is a key part of our philosophy and therefore, we aim to have the most up to date pieces of equipment for our students to use,” said Mr O’Connor.
One of their latest additions is their WIFI enabled data loggers, which are used across all age groups.
“Through these, we can track pH changes, assess lung capacity and plot temperature and motion gradients. The data created can then be instantly uploaded for further advanced analysis using additional online programmes such as Google Sheets or Excel,” he explained.
“Our use of social media allows both teachers and students to be part of a worldwide scientific community, which gives both parties access to all the latest and current topical issues that can then be incorporated into our lessons. It also provides a wonderful platform for sharing the students’ work with parents.”
In addition to academic success, Jumeirah College has enjoyed numerous successes over the years in sports, arts, and other extra-curricular activities. Among their notable success stories are, the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance 2016, which was awarded to Devina Kalwani and H. H. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Award for Excellence, which was awarded to Sasha Nanda in 2015 and Sanjanda Bahadur in 2016.
Mr O’Connor shared just a few of the programmes that have contributed to success at Jumeirah College. In his message to visitors, he stated that Jumeirah College is a ‘challenging, yet exhilarating place to learn, develop and explore.’
The successes of the college are a testament to his commitment to outstanding leadership, celebrating and rewarding excellence and acknowledging the people who help to make it a vibrant place to teach and learn.