Academic success is undoubtedly an important part of every child’s education. However, to succeed in a global, multicultural society such as the UAE, what other characteristics and qualities should a young person develop if they’re likely to become leaders of tomorrow?
GEMS Metropole School – Motor City, is one Dubai school that puts technology, innovative teaching methodologies, student-enrichment, the value of tolerance and a unique sense of community alongside academic standards at the centre of its philosophy. The school’s Principal, Dr John Hughes talks about how for both staff and students, wellbeing is a key value.
Although the school teaches the National Curriculum for England, GEMS Metropole is home to 108 nationalities that speak more than 50 languages, so it has unique challenges to overcome if it is to serve all of its pupils equally.
In order for us to be inclusive, we need to understand what the needs of the children are.
“It’s our job to make sure that we have that spread of abilities in each classroom and that we have a spread of languages in each classroom, and children with special educational needs – so that there’s an equity in terms of every student in every class in this school,” says Hughes.
One way that GEMS Metropole effectively engages such a wide variety of pupils is with innovative and dynamic approaches to teaching. “That’s why there are things like designing games, the use of technologies and the use of quiz apps within iPads for instance,” he says. The idea of encouraging students to create Podcasts and make movies is that it establishes a different way of thinking and allows them to learn for themselves.
At the school, pupils are also offered free enrichment activities after school hours. “We want the children to have those enrichment activities. We want them to be involved in drama; we want them to be involved in sport. The education here is not just about the academics – important though they are – it’s about providing the children with the opportunity to experience as wide a range of activities as they can.”
An inclusive environment
One pupil who has benefited from Hughes’ and his staff’s innovative approach to learning and targeted support is 15-year-old Japanese student Koutarou Shimozono. Koutarou has high-functioning autism and struggled in other schools, but at GEMS Metropole he is able to interact with different students, while also relying on the specialised support of the school’s Inclusion Centre.
“In order for us to be inclusive, we need to understand what the needs of the children are. We have a range of assessment tools we use at the enrolment stage and we very rarely decline an application for someone to come and join us,” says Hughes.
“The assessment information we use is to ensure that we place the student in the right class with the right teacher. That’s regardless of whether they’re a special educational needs child, in which case we have an inclusion department that works with them, but our philosophy is that they belong in a classroom with other children. There is no stereotype for a student here at Metropole.”