UAE Schools Focusing on the Jobs of the Future

According to the World Economic Forum in 2022, “75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labour between humans, machines, and algorithms, while 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time”.

It is no longer about achieving the grades to get a ‘job for life’; education has to be focused on lifelong learning. Students need to learn new skills that will best prepare them for jobs which may not exist yet in our ever-changing world. And they need to have the skillset to continue learning from graduation through to retirement; they need to be capable of constant adaptation and learning.

Close collaboration between schools and industry has been the focus of leaders in of a number of governments across the world. Countries that are regularly seen to be at the forefront of education have developed competency-based curriculums in an effort to ensure the development of the ‘whole child’. This creates a culture centred on growth rather than measurement. spoke to a number of schools in Dubai teaching across three different curricula – the English National Curriculum, the International Baccalaureate and the US curriculum – to see how schools are meeting the challenge of ensuring that their students will be able to adapt for the future world of work.

The English National Curriculum-based Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai recently commissioned a survey that revealed that Dubai parents are acvtively looking for future-ready skills to be taught in schools, and believe this need has been heightened by the pandemic.

A total of 70% of parents, who took part in the survey, stated that the number one thing they worry about when it comes to their children’s education is how well the school is preparing them for the future.

The survey also revealed that the future-ready skills that parents believe should be included in the curriculum were adaptability which came out on top with 52.40% votes, followed by problem-solving (46.8%) and teamwork (46.4%).  A key standard of the curriculum that 52.4% of parents also wanted to see was the preparation of their children to be able to manage their finances and 51.2% of parents stated that they want to see artificial intelligence on the curriculum. Clare Turnbull, Principal at the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai commented:

“We really do understand the importance of teaching our pupils the skills to be future-ready at the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, which is why we teach a curriculum that maintains a balance between ‘what is learnt’ and ‘how it is learnt’ to shape and prepare future-ready young people. This is backed up by our bespoke leadership programme that focuses on character development, leadership and teaching the skills young people need to become well rounded and secure young people who are ready to make a difference in the world.”

It seems that similar views are shared by Dubai principals, irrespective of curriculum. John Bell, Founding Principal at IB curriculum Bloom World Academy, which will open in August this year, told us,

“It is a hard enough challenge for any school to not just educate children in the here and now – what is relevant, what is useful, what is helpful, let alone what is fun – it is even harder to future-proof learners so they are job-ready, contributing adults in the years to come”.

Bloom World Academy is not trying to predict the future by guessing the skills and academic know-how for jobs that have not yet been thought of, but it is doing things differently and concentrating on educating and developing young people, whilst ensuring they grow in to creative thinkers and doers, emotionally robust, socially adept, empathetic young people with a strong moral compass.

This commitment will be achieved by customising the learning journey of each child through three main approaches:

  • Individual Learning Achievement Passports. These will be the student’s individual plan. It is set out transparently with parents and the child (as appropriate), showing where the child is at with their learning, allowing targets to be set for development and support in areas where needed, as well as proving additional challenges. In terms of preparing students to be fit for the future – with employability and entrepreneurial skills – this process is entirely designed for the student to become analytical, self-advocating, articulate and aware of strengths, and of areas which they may find more challenging or potentially less enjoyable; all fundamental in making the right career or lifestyle choice. 
  • Opportunities to learn at ‘stage not age’. This is a recognition that ‘age is no barrier’ – a very important concept in preparation for the adult world. In other words, if you are keen enough or good enough, you will be given the opportunity. Each student will be working at their individual stage of learning and appropriate targets.
  • ‘A spiral curriculum of character education’. While Bloom World Academy will address academic learning progress and opportunities based on aptitude, attitude and ability (stage not age), BWA will also ensure that students develop social and emotional skills through the character education ‘Independent Living Skills’ programme, which is based on chronological age. So kindergarten students will be developing through a pocket money and allowance skills class, whilst at the other end of the school, 18-year-old DP students will focus on independent budgeting skills which will help prepare them for university and life after school.

At Kent College Dubai (KCD), which offers the UK curriculum to A Level, together with the IB Diploma option at Sixth Form, we spoke to Ben Parkes, Deputy Head of Senior School. He told us,

“We ensure students are equipped with the skills to navigate the ever changing landscape in a ‘two-pronged’ approach. The first is skill based. Within lessons, teachers develop intellectual curiosity, communication and independent learning skills along with the student’s subject knowledge. Teaching a student how to learn provides them with a skill set which facilitates lifelong learning. These skills are incorporated into our school assessment processes meaning pupils are assessed on more than their subject knowledge.

The second prong is the wider application of these skills, and this comes in the form of extracurricular school initiatives delivered throughout the school, and supplementary qualification routes.

One example of this is the KENTerprise business venture. Most recently Kent College had over 100 students across all senior year groups taking part in the project, in which they are challenged with planning, trading and evaluating a business over a three-month period. Students must complete a business plan, then evaluate their success at the end of the project. Students complete the project having developed many transferable skills, as well as developing an understanding of tolerance and democracy alongside a passion for business, and the confidence that they can achieve.

Throughout the course of the project students learn to tackle obstacles, relying on their resilience and initiative. The impact of this can be seen both inside the classroom (where students can apply their learning to a variety of subjects) and outside of the classroom, where students gain the self-confidence to take on projects and tackle problems. The impact of KENTerprise filters down throughout the school with students from all year groups visiting the KENTerprise annual festival and being inspired by the school’s senior entrepreneurs.

Further useful activities include TedED Student Talks and the MUN (Model United Nations) programme which offer further diversity and skill development surrounding global events, public speaking, research, teamwork, and presentation skills.

Pupils that join the Kent Radio team develop skills in broadcasting, content creation, journalism and voice-over artistry. The KCD Speaks Online Newspaper also offers seniors the opportunity to fill various roles such as Managing Director, Journalist, Photojournalist, Photographer, Online Web Developer, Content Creator and Copywriter, etc. Supplementary qualification options are provided to pupils in the form of Duke of Edinburgh, Sports Leaders Awards and the Extended Qualification Project, and Kent College plans for further expansion into LAMDA, Public Speaking and Performing Arts qualifications.

English National Curriculum-based GEMS FirstPoint School (FPS) was among the first schools in the city to place a priority on offering Centres of Excellence, focusing on specific future careers that students might want to follow, and building relationships with partners in industry to enable students to experience and influence what their future careers might look like.  According to Siobhan Dickerson, Director of Specialism and Careers and Higher Education Advisor, at GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa,

“Everything we do at FPS centres around the future competencies and skills a learner will need. These are the backbone of what it means to be a future-focused global citizen, who is compassionate, can work with others and stands out from the crowd.

Leaving school with top grades is no longer enough to secure your dream job: you need a host of competencies, core values and soft skills matched to a modern workplace, and more than ever it is likely that your job will come not as a result of a direct application, but through an offer made from someone in your network.”

Through learning from and working with partners in industry, FPS says it knows what future employers are looking for and can therefore equip its students so they are ready to take on the challenges of the world of work.  Having early access to business, sports and technological provisions in school, supported by industry partners, means FPS students get to explore the world around them and try different work settings before they make a commitment at age 18.

It is the need for this development of key skills that has led FPS to develop its careers competencies, ensuring every student actively learns and practises the types of skills companies are crying out for. These involve innovation and collaboration, empathy and critical thinking. FPS sees it as its duty to make sure children are being taught the skills they will need to be a successful global citizen who is ready to take on the jobs of tomorrow.

By focusing on competencies, FPS is preparing students not only for their working life, but also for the Fourth Industrial Revolution as world-ready citizens, clearly focused on their future while thriving in subjects they are passionate about and enjoy.

According to Dr. Bruce Major, Superintendent at Innoventures’-owned Collegiate International School (CIS), “The future is now for our students. Schools must have an instructional approach that facilitates the development of critical thinking skills at all of its phases. CIS implements practices that allows students to matriculate through the cognitive processes of acquiring a skill, applying a skill, and analyzing and synthesizing skills from Pre-KG through to the senior years of study in a systemic way. Specifically, the school has adopted a skills-based approach to teaching and learning that doesn’t set attainment as the benchmark for knowledge, but rather as the first stage of the learning process.” 

According to CIS, knowing the answer is simple. However, having the skills to reason and think are much more essential.

Within each lesson, students are asked to complete authentic learning tasks in which they demonstrate mastery of the skills through real-world, hands-on activities that extend their learning. All lessons are concluded with a research component where students are responsible for the integration and analysis of the content. The research stage of the learning process is often the most enjoyable because here, students have the freedom and flexibility to incorporate their own interest, skills, and talents into the learning process. This makes learning fun and rigorous at the same time.

Having options to choose an IB Diploma pathway, an US High School pathway, or Advance Placement course offerings, students at CIS are well equipped with the skills necessary to be successful in a future career market and economy that’s unknown in this day and time.

Tara Lambert, Head of Primary at Nord Anglia International School (NAS) told WhichSchoolAdvisor, “School leaders need to look very carefully at their curriculum – more than just having a knowledge-rich overview. This process is about exchanging rather than transferring knowledge; we must be ready to learn from students too, rather than assume we know best. We must get deeper into the details about our young people knowing more about the real issues in our world. Furthermore, to support our students, we are developing in more detail not what the students are learning, but how they are learning.

Over the last few years, NAS has reviewed and reformed its curriculum to align with the principles of Expo 2020, using the Expo themes of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability to ensure that the curriculum is relevant for students and remains fit for purpose, fit for place, and fit for time.

The school’s new curriculum will focus on UNICEF’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), facilitating the opportunity for students to develop their global competencies that will allow them to be learners that are aware, curious, and interested in the world and how it works. That they continue to develop as global citizens in a world that is ever changing and that is driven by technological innovation.

Ms. Lambert told us:

As educational leaders, we understand that rote learning and only sharing subject content will no longer allow our students to thrive in the outside world. Our teachers focus more intently on skill development and student engagement. They do this by mapping skill development throughout the curriculum and across phases of the school, prioritising risk-taking, independence and creative learning opportunities.

IB Learner Profile Attributes are embedded from Nursery to Year 13. This allows students to apply those skills across a range of subjects while developing creativity, collaborative problem solving, critical thinking, ethical decision making, effective communication, and leadership skills. This prepares our students for future jobs that don’t even exist yet…”

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