Widescreen International School situated in Sharjah, the UAE, offers its students Cambridge Curriculum adapted to meet the requirements of globalization and diversity. There are more than sixty-two nationalities found there, which ensures a truly international experience for both students and the staff. The school offers both primary and secondary broad-based education of the highest quality, giving students unique opportunities to build character, obtain knowledge, learn practical skills, develop leadership talents, and elaborate analytical thinking to the level at which they will be able to overcome challenges posed by the world of work. At the same time, traditional values and beliefs of the UAE are not left behind, either. The school promotes peace, tolerance, enlightenment, support, and collaboration. The Arabic language and Islamic Studies are the pivots of the students’ learning experience, which allows them not only to gain knowledge of the subjects but also to implement it in practice when they organize various enjoyable activities.
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The entrepreneur who was interviewed for the analysis at hand is the Head of the School. He stated that the school mission was not only to follow the content of the curriculum but also to provide students with the opportunity to take part in curricular and extracurricular activities, sports programs, community services, and performing arts. The entrepreneur is convinced that this helps children become more sensitive to all aspects of life regardless of their race, religion, and social status. The mission he believes to be central for the education of the youngest is that they should be brought up in love with a cultivated feeling of self-respect as well as respect for others. The campus is another chance for them to become more independent, improve their problem-solving skills, develop critical thinking, and shape their physical form. The entrepreneur places a great emphasis on role modeling since it teaches children how to avoid and resolve conflicts, and establish successful communication with their peers and teachers. The idea is that in interaction students learn more not only about their schoolmates and environment but also about themselves. Although it is crucial to grasp the content of the curriculum, it is no less important to learn how to be a reliable friend, how to behave in a group, and what to do to establish and support relationships.
The Head states that the outcome of the education provided during the early years of development is critical since they determine whether a person will be able to achieve success in the future. That is why it is the primary mission of the campus to provide an engaging and at the same time secure environment for students to grow, communicate and learn. All the activities, in which they are involved, are well-planned and designed to support the curriculum and expand on it.
The entrepreneur claims that the campus follows the dictum “a sound mind in a sound body”, which implies that sports and physical development are also integral for students’ overall development. They have an opportunity to excel in cricket, basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, swimming, and other team and individual sports. To demonstrate their achievements, they can take part in several cities and country matches, tournaments, and expeditions.
Thus, it is clear that both the school in general and the campus, in particular, do their best to provide their students with the most favorable environment to discover the world around them, to obtain valuable knowledge, and to make a difference in present and future.
Modern education requires new methods and strategies, how do you plan to introduce innovation into education and which inventive approaches would you implement?
As the Head of an Early Years campus, my focus is on providing the youngest of students with experiences that will ensure a strong foundation in their overall education. Students need to be given the chance to explore different materials and explore outside the box.
I believe that innovation in the early years is proving students with the chance to play, explore, get messy, make mistakes, and have fun. Generations before grew up in a different world; children were free to explore their neighborhoods and were not governed by a society that feels that any potential risk must be removed from a child’s life. You have schools where balls are being banned because a child might get hurt. At our school, we had to wrap trees to prevent injury.
I say we need to allow children to take risks and get hurt. Only then will they gain the experience and knowledge that will assist in strengthening their overall abilities. Our children today are also not as physically active as generations in the past. This has produced students with weaker educational abilities, as their bodies are not developed to the stage to tackle the challenges we are offering. The key to a strong mind is a strong body.
One of the goals of educational leadership is to provide progress to the school; do you see creation as the primary form of progress or discovery of previously unforeseen aspects?
With education, you are always looking forward while never forgetting the past. Education is the innovator of the world; it provides the platform for every other profession to begin. We must always look at moving forward, to provide students with challenges that will give them the knowledge to reach higher levels. However, as we proceed into the future we must always be looking back at the routes we have taken. There are times when reviewing previous practices has revealed a path that should be revisited.
Changes are a common occurrence in private schools, how well do you adapt to them?
One of the greatest attributes of a teacher is the ability to be flexible, as educators, we have all experienced occasions where we have begun to present a lesson and quickly discover that it isn’t meeting our expectations or the students’ need. We then have to be able to alter the lesson on the spot and switch our direction.
I feel that the experiences I had before moving to the UAE and taking the role as the Head of School greatly assisted me in appreciating that changes happen and we have to adjust ourselves accordingly. The UAE is quickly moving forward with improving its education system and we must follow suit. Recommendations and new regulations come throughout the year, it is our job to ensure we support the changes.
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What do you believe to be the main advantages of private schools over public ones and how would you ensure that they are used to their full potential?
Private schools bring the best of the world to our communities. In the UAE parents have the opportunity to enroll their children in American, British, Australian, Canadian, or Indian curriculums. Each one of these takes a different direction in the way they educate their students. In a multi-cultural society with many countries represented the need to provide the population with choices that better emulate their home curriculum. Public schools are limited to locals, without private schools there would be no opportunities for ex-pats to educate their children, which could result in a few ex-pats moving into the country.
For private schools to meet their full potential there needs to be a certain level of expectation from the host country in the quality. We see this with KHDA inspections; Dubai has established a framework that provides schools with strong guidelines on where they need to be. Schools need to hire a strong teacher who is familiar with teaching the set curriculums and provide ongoing support for their continued growth.
Private schools also need to regularly evaluate their performance and ensure sure that strategic plans are put into place for continual growth and development.
The majority of educational leadership involves a lot of human interaction; do you understand the importance of emotional intelligence when thinking of a solution in a situation that involves humans?
When emotions are permitted to rule a discussion they can take a small concern and turn it into an epic issue! When dealing with concerns or problems a leader must interact in all situations with a calm head and an approachable manner, they must provide empathy, understanding, and clearly articulate their solution to the issue. Leaders must also be fair and just, they can never show favoritism that might spark further emotions to develop.
This is not a skill that can be taught, it must be learned and fostered. With each experience and situation, a leader learns how to better resolve human conflict
Personal Reflection and Plan
The first point that interested me the most during the interview was the entrepreneur’s perception of inventive approaches that the school is going to implement to ensure that its students are provided with the best educational opportunities. The emphasis was made on letting children “take risks and get hurt” to teach them how to “explore outside the box”. I believe that the interviewee touched upon one of the most pressing issues ignored by a big number of modern schools, which have become overprotective and therefore produce “students with weaker educational abilities”. Several arguments can be cited in support of physical development in schools:
- Sports and fun and inspiring. Although the primary task of every school is to develop cognitive and intellectual abilities, it is wrong to forget that childhood is a fleeting time, which should be made not only productive but also enjoyable for young learners, who will carry their habits, perceptions, and values into their future life. This implies that being active in childhood will make them healthy and active adults.
- Team games foster social interactions. Children who play team sports are more successful in making friends and developing interpersonal skills.
- Physical activity boosts academic performance. Kids who are encouraged to do sports show better performance in the classroom. This way the problem indicated in the interview (“their bodies are not developed to the stage to tackle the challenges we are offering”) can be solved.
- Sport is a way to connect with the environment. Children come to understand the world around them and become more adaptable.
- Encouraging students to take risks develops their leadership skills. Effective leaders are formed from early childhood as their success relies on high self-esteem, confidence, and physical and intellectual power. Being closely supervised by teachers and strictly limited in their sports and playing activities, children lose their natural confidence and creativity.
- Sports develop a sense of community. Not all students are going to run big businesses in the future; however, all of them are going to take their niche in the labor market. Becoming a part of this network means communicating and cooperating with others. This ability is perfectly developed by sports.
The idea to leave caution behind for the sake of developing healthy and strong individuals that the Head of the School promotes is quite innovative for schools of the UAE. That makes me believe that out-of-the-box thinking is one of the key characteristics of a good entrepreneur.
Another pivotal aspect that seemed quite important to me as a future professional is the interviewee’s attitude to innovation and changes. It is now quite popular in many industries to perceive innovation as the major driving force of success. However, a good entrepreneur knows that “as we proceed into the future we must always be looking back at the routes we have taken”. No development can begin from scratch. The UAE cannot simply copy the western way of education and business while neglecting cultural traditions and values existing for many centuries. In many cases, the pace should be slowed down to give entrepreneurs a chance to estimate whether they are moving in the right direction. “There are times when reviewing previous practices has revealed a path that should be revisited”.
I also paid special attention to the part of the interview when the entrepreneur was speaking about flexibility as “one of the greatest attributes of a teacher”. I believe that this ability is an integral part of successful entrepreneurship since it allows quickly adapting to the ever-changing environment and choose the most appropriate direction of further movement. There are several ways in which one can become more flexible:
- It is important not to be afraid of changing the course if your perception of the situation changes. As has been already mentioned, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes; yet, it is wrong not to correct them when they are discovered.
- An entrepreneur must rely on his/her judgment while taking into consideration the opinions of other stakeholders. Every member of the team should feel that he/she makes a difference and contributes to achieving the common goal.
- There is nothing shameful in asking for help. A flexible leader realizes when outside intervention is needed to solve this or that problem as it is impossible to eliminate it from within.
The question about private schools is also indirectly related to flexibility as they give ex-pats a chance to choose the most suitable education for their children. Not everything should be taken at face value. Flexibility also implies giving a second chance to ideas that may first seem to undermine the prestige of national education.
Blindly following the course means being closed to opportunities. Entrepreneurs must always bear in mind that there is room for several perceptions.
Finally, the idea of being emotionally intelligent has set me thinking about how leaders must balance their logic and emotions. The interviewee claimed that an entrepreneur should be able to “in all situations with a calm head and in an approachable manner, they must provide empathy, understanding and clearly articulate their solution to the issue”. However, the issue is rather complex since it is not fully clear how to keep calm while being deeply engaged, and how to avoid favoritism while being empathetic.
Personal Growth Plan
To support my personal growth in the given area, I have elaborated the following plan that involves a set of approaches to become an effective entrepreneur:
- Being passionate. It is crucial to becoming passionate about what you do and tries to achieve. The idea is that the passion of the leader inspires employees and allows building a committed team.
- Focusing on the positive. An entrepreneur must concentrate not on problems but opportunities. This helps eliminate obstacles, waste, and distractions automatically. Staying focused allows performing a few things simultaneously but doing them well.
- Working hard. Success is impossible without hard work. One must be ready that no lasting success can come overnight as it must rely on long years of hard work.
- Enjoying the way. Learning to enjoy the process is essential. Small achievements also deserve attention even if the ultimate goal is far.
- Trusting yourself. Although metrics are important, an effective leader trusts his/her intuition, too. There are too many internal and external factors that simply cannot be measured and included in spreadsheets. Logic is indispensable to leadership; yet, in some cases, intuition is the best guide.
- Being flexible. Flexibility does not imply being spineless. Entrepreneurs must be able to stay persistent in the pursuit of their mission even though the ways to the destination may be changed during the course.
- Relying on the team. Even the most talented people cannot be universal workers. In a good team, members complement one another’s merited.
- Being honest. Concealing problems from employees ruin their loyalty and undermines the status of the leader. It is very easy to lose trust but it is next to impossible to regain it.