Today’s Learners – Tomorrow’s Leaders
Ruth Burke| Deira International School Dubai
Ruth Burke, Director of Deira International School (1)

In selecting a school for our children, there are many elements parents will investigate. In choosing the correct pathway and setting for any child, decisions will be based on a range of factors. Here in Dubai, the range of options is vast, in terms of price point, curriculum and location.

One aspect of critical importance on any child’s successful learning journey which should be founded in success, challenge and happiness will be their readiness and agility in selecting and managing their own professional or vocational and career pathway. Equipping students with the skills necessary needs to be an area of focus for all schools and educators, strategically embedded in both the formal and hidden curriculum at schools.

An emphasis on developing leadership skills and opportunities in students within and beyond the school gates should be significant. From primary age, a range of leadership groups can work closely with staff, parents and their peers to positively impact practices, policy and provision. Groups such as our Wellbeing Warriors, Heritage Heroes and Tech Gurus are an integral part of many school approaches to leadership development with Student Counselors, Performing Arts Leaders, Journalists and Paparazzi groups work diligently to impact both within and beyond the school gates.

A focus on communication, collaboration and connectivity, cultivated from early years with peer led learning opportunities and a formalized buddy learning system in place can further develop the skills required for students to be ready and able to maximize their learning opportunities. The Wakeham Review of STEM (Science, Technology, and Engineering & Mathematics) degree provision and employability (2016) stressed the importance of building transferable skills and providing work experience. It commented on the need for ‘softer skills such team-work and project management’ to be embedded in the curriculum and for more employers to offer work experience.

Many Schools offer a program of structured vocational support and work experiences including access to a range of specialist speakers, mentors and facilitators who help to inspire students and make the world of work tangible and highly accessible.

Internships for example, afford students great scope to develop their experiential learning. The IBCP (International Baccalaureate Career-related Program) includes a work placement component, an area highly valued by employers,59% of employers rating it as one of their most important factors when recruiting graduates (CBI/Pearson, 2017). 65% of employers in the Employers Perspectives Survey (2016) rated relevant work experience as critical or significant when recruiting too, rating it more highly than academic or vocational qualifications (Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards, 2017). In addition, higher education students who undertook any type of work experience are more likely to attain a graduate job (BIS, 2013).

It’s proven that school systems which systematically develop work placement opportunities engender the success of students over the long-term.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup’s higher education division, claims that setting up students in a professional environment, interning, for example, is key in preparing them for a successful transition to working lifestyle, expectations and the environment of the workplace. The traditional model of preparing students for tertiary education needs review. Students must be nurtured, through all programs, to develop and refine the skills, attitudes and knowledge for life beyond formal education.

The additional value brought by ensuring meaningful work placement with honest feedback and systems in place to support improvement will contribute to personal growth and to deeper learning.

About the Author

Ruth Burke, currently works as a Director of Deira International School. She is a school leader with the distinction of having led outstanding schools in Dubai for over ten years.

Educated in Trinity College, Dublin and later in Bath University UK, Ruth holds a Masters’ Degree in Educational Leadership and is a strong proponent of empowering staff through distributed leadership models. Her strong connection with Learning and Teaching, as well as her aspirational approaches to all aspects of education, make Ruth a very in touch and visible presence to students, staff and parents. Her relentless pursuit for excellence has been instrumental in building schools of considerable repute where inspection, academic outcomes and aspiration levels evidence her high expectations approach and a culture of collaboration, with parents as partners as a key component.

Mother of three, with children, spanning 6 years to 24 years of age, her passion for creating high- performing learning opportunities for both students and staff is tangible and her drive to ensure quality outcomes for all learners is refreshing.

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