First look: British Columbia Canadian School, Dubai

First look: British Columbia Canadian School, Dubai
Published: 2 November 2017 - 5 a.m.
By: Parinaaz Navdar

British Columbia Canadian School opened its doors in Dubai Investment Park in September 2017 - one of 10 new schools to open this year in the emirate. 

BCCS is the second school in Dubai to offer a Canadian curriculum, it is the first to offer the British Columbia Ministry of Education curriculum, which is ranked as the highest performing English language curriculum in the OECD's PISA assessments. Schools in Canada do not follow a set curriculum across the country - each province designs its own curriculum, and British Columbia and Alberta are known to have the two most progressive curriculums in the country.

Students at the Dubai school, led by principal Shawn Merke, will follow the same courses as all students in British Columbia. 

The differentiating factor, according to Merke, is that the BC curriculum does not teach to a test, instead focusing on skill development among students. 

"It's looking at what skills, lifeskills to children need to be successful and how to learn and not learn to memorise. The big point for us is that the children are actually gaining skills and not worried about taking a test. The focus is put on collaboration so that students have an ability to work with all types of people, whether they like them or not," Merke tells Education Journal ME during a tour of the school.

The British Columbia curriculum also places emphasis on provisions for students with learning challenges, Merke notes. 

"Part of our mandate as a British Columbia school is that it's an inclusive school. So we don't push any students away we cater to different needs and challenges. We have hired staff for that particular job. I do have students coming in with everything from Down Syndrome or Autism to other disabilities... so it's indicative of what a classroom would look like in Canada. We have shadow teachers in there with students, as well as assistants... some of them offer academic support, some offer physical. We're also working with third party companies that are coming in to do special individualised rehabilitation, extra work on academics; we develop individual programmes based on the students' needs," he explains. 
The school has opened classes from KG1 to Grade 6 in the first year, with two-form entry in KG1 and two, and one-form entry for the remaining year groups. 

Fees range from AED 35,000 in KG1 to AED54,000 in Grades 4 to 6.

All classes are currently housed in the kindergarten block during the first year. Phase one of the school features an administration block with a library, science lab, happiness garden, music room, and play areas. The school auditorium, which will also double as a gymnasium with retractable seats and stage is expected to open by the end of the first term. 

Phase two, which will feature a separate block for primary and secondary school classes will open in September 2018, and will house a sports complex with a swimming pool, and an additional gymnasium. At full capacity, the school will accommodate just short of 1500 students. 

All teachers recruited by the school are British Columbia certified, which is part of the BC Ministry of Education's accreditation process. Teachers recruited from other Canadian provinces must also go through the accreditation process to meet British Columbia's teaching standards. 

The restriction has also considerably reduced the pool of teachers the school can recruit from, compared to other schools who can hire teachers from a multitude of different countries, Merke acknowledges. 

Arabic and Islamic Studies teachers, however, do not have to go through the same accreditation process, since the subjects are not part of the British Columbia curriculum, however, Merke notes: " The teachers we had were senior Arabic teachers and were instructed on the principles of the curriculum and how it needs to be taught. So the ministry gave us a variance on that. Our Arabic teachers here are hired based on their performance at other schools, and based on KHDA requirements. 

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