I have a confession to make: I love the KHDA! Too often schools scapegoat our regulatory body for holding us accountable to our stakeholders. I get why we do that… it’s easy. It’s easy to blame the KHDA for “making us” make changes. Change is difficult, change is scary, but change is also the only constant in our world.
Dubai is a forward thinking place. It is ambitious and expanding. Change is a constant here. The population of the entire UAE was 300000 in 1971 and in 2012, we eclipsed 2 million in Dubai alone. That means big change, and the KHDA both represents and pursues this same pace of change in education. After all, we are not going to prepare students for the world of 2028 by engaging in educational practices from 1928. Yet, that is what all schools do to some extent. In fact, many practices from 1998 or 2008 are currently outdated, this is why the KHDA emplores each school to take on practices of innovation. Some people scoff at the fact that there is no formula for innovation. Many schools and educators I have met simply want to be told “what to do” in terms of innovation. But if there was a formula, it wouldn’t qualify as being innovative, would it? By striving for innovation, schools can truly prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow highlighted in the video above.
The other thing the KHDA does is hold us all accountable. They set standards for education and inspect schools to ensure that we are providing the best quality education we can for young people. This is a remarkable thing – regulation in a free market economy.
When I arrived in Dubai over 70% of American Schools were not accredited. So, the KHDA decided to do something about it. What they did was work with an official American accreditation agency and draft THIS POLICY (I highly recommend that you read it) to ensure that all American schools in Dubai provide a standardized level of service. In spite of recent events in the US, I’m glad to know that someone still thinks being “American” should still stand for something!
UAS is, was, and always will be an accredited American and IB school. We have a great program and we are continuing to develop structures that keep us up to date with the best American and International practices. In the 18 months that I have been here, we have instituted the MAP assessments to triangulate data, ensuring the grades UAS gives are commensurate with other American and IB schools. Under the impressive leadership of Ms. Gibson, our teams have restructured the curricula in Grades 9 and 10, aligning them to American Standards. We continue to pursue best practices as an American and IB school.
The KHDA policy above is going to mean we have to restructure things a little for our incoming Grade 9’s to be compliant. The changes are fairly minor. For instance, all students will take PE in Grade 9 and 10. In other words, we will no longer insist that our Muslim community must choose between PE and Languages. Were we to continue that practice, any student who chose Languages would not be eligible for their American High School Diploma. We have built a structure where all students will be able to take both PE and Languages in addition to meeting the requirements of Islamic Studies. This is a good thing. It is essential to communicate that for our existing Grade 9 to 12 students, no changes apply, and the KHDA has informed us it will recognize our current structures for those grades.
On Sunday at 6:00 PM in the library, we invite parents of students in Grade 8 to come ask questions about high school. This will be the first of a series of transitional meetings with parents. At the same time Mr. Coppes and Ms. Cummins will run an introduction to the IB for Grade 10 parents in room 2200. Outside of a potential additional offering (Sport and Nutrition), there are no changes planned for the IB programme.
The objectives of both meetings are as follows:
- Communicate – We have some adjustments to make in our structure and our practice. We understand that you want to know about them.
- Listen – We asked for your input on the Grade 8 RSVP & Grade 10 RSVP and we will build answers to your questions into our presentations. We also want to engage in face-to-face dialogue and showcase our work.
- Build Relationships – My role as Principal is to oversee the learning of your children in every aspect of their for the next 4 years. That is challenging work and I am truly honoured and privileged to do it. I want to learn more about the parents of these young people that drive me to work hard for them each and every day. My team shares this goal.
- Build Trust – We understand that your children are the most important things in your lives. Their education is important to you, and, to us. We have the same goals, and you need to know that we know what we are doing. Between myself, Mr. Coppes and Ms. Cummins we have over 40 years experience in education, 30 years of IB experience, 25 years in American schools and (thanks to Ms. Cummins) 11 years at UAS. We will be the people that steer the high school at UAS in the coming years, so it’s imperative that we work with stakeholders to help us improve the quality of service provided.
We very much look forward to seeing you on Sunday evening!
High School Principal