Travels to Dubai

Dates of travel: 29/3/12 till 10/4/12

I have been very fortunate indeed to have been awarded the Travel Bursary Fund. My journey has provided me the opportunity to collect rich and insightful data at a school set in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which follows the United Kingdom’s (UK) curriculum. Below is an account of my observations at school and a brief explanation of my experiences at Dubai.

There were many similarities and differences identifiable at my placement. For example in the morning two school registers are completed here in the UK . One register acknowledges which children are present and the second register identifies the children’s chosen meal option for lunch. In the UK children are able to go home for lunch, bring a packed lunch or order a freshly prepared school meal. A second register is taken after lunch in the afternoon to identify the children present. In contrast, however, children at my placement in Dubai did not have an option for their lunch. It is obligatory for all children to bring a packed lunch and snack with them to school. In return their teacher was able to accommodate the electronic register taken only once in the morning. Perhaps the structure of the day is the initial reason why children have a limited lunch menu option.

For example staff are expected to be on site by 7.15 a.m., with registration starting at 7.45 a.m. First lessons begin 7.50 a.m. Mid -morning children have fifteen minutes playtime and fifteen minutes for snack. This is repeated in the afternoon for lunch. School finishes at 2.30 p.m., except Thursday when they finish at 12.50 p.m. Perhaps the earlier start is preferred due to the rising temperature in the afternoon.

Children in UK would attend school Monday to Friday at approximately 9am till 3pm, children in Dubai, however, attend school Sunday to Thursday. The school week is structured to accommodate for the Friday Islamic prayers. At my placement there was a prayer room provided, Islam is not just a religion but a way of life in Dubai. Another notable difference I came across was the long school term they have all year round which in return permits a ten week holiday during summer. There summer holidays this year will begin on Thursday 28th June 2012 and are not required to return to school until Sunday 8th September 2012. Perhaps this is a sensible option as it can get as hot as fifty degrees in June alone.

Having observed first hand experience in both Year One classes and reception classes I would undoubtedly consider my placement a reputable school. They were inches away from a outstanding report from Ofsted. The only factor which was considered imperative and yet not addressed to its full potential at the time was the practice of Arabic language. There have since been alterations and the Arabic language has been adapted in much more depth as suggested by Ofsted. The UAE Government employs Ofsted inspectors from the UK to carry out inspections. Here in the UK a school may receive a few days notification from an inspector that they will be visiting and highlight their area of interest for example numeracy. However, in contrast, in Dubai the Ofsted inspectors provide three weeks’ notice, yet they could query about anything of their interest upon arrival.

The Arabic language in Dubai is considered as important as what we would consider literacy here in the UK. The entire teaching staff I was working alongside with were born and graduated here in the UK. There were two Arabic classes that I was able to observe, the lessons were delivered by different teachers whom came in on a regular basis solely to teach Arabic. Arabic is taught from Year one onwards, given that the children were only introduced to Arabic in September I was very impressed when I realised that almost all the children were able to put the Arabic letters in alphabetical order. Arabic was a new language to all the children at school. The vast majority of children were originally born in the UK and have settled in Dubai.

There are also Physical Education (PE) teachers whom come in on a regular basis to teach PE. The PE teachers do have a fraction of advantage when compared to the UK. The school has a swimming pool on site and large outdoor play areas as there are no community centres. Both PE and Arabic lessons provide their own initial teachers the opportunity to accommodate PPA time. Whereas here in the UK either the deputy head teacher would deliver some lessons or more so a supply teacher is called into cover.

A swimming gala took place at my placement; all the children whom were participating were able to invite their parents given that this event was taking place on site, thus promoting parental involvement. I have been very fortunate to have obtained hands on experience in numerous schools here in the UK. Having reflected on all my experiences another noteworthy difference dawned on me. There seemed to be a much stronger bond with parents, everyday there would be at least one parent volunteer present to help with whatever task the teacher may set for them for example putting children’s work into files or simply just listening to children read.

Living in a country which has a zero tolerance policy towards crime left me and undoubtedly as mentioned by staff feeling safe and secure. One parent did point out to me that one of the incentives to living out here in the UAE is not only the substantially low crime rate but also the fact that her son is coming close to his teenage years. She is less worried out him being able to get hold of alcohol and showing interest in relationships as this seems to come along at a later stage here. There is a more as she explained ‘relaxed approach’ towards life.

In contrast to the UK, there are many beaches which both the children and family can enjoy on a regular basis. Surfboarding, swimming, volleyball are the sports I observed being participated by various age groups. Unfortunately I was unable to take any photographs at both school and at the beach as this was a set rule.

There were two local Malls both which have attractions for example an aquarium and a water show set with light effects and music. There are different areas in Dubai which we would consider the ‘market’ here in the UK. All shops sell everything that you need from garments to every day necessities. This is an area where it is norm to negotiate the prices were as in the Malls the prices are fixed. As you would appreciate it all depends on what the individual is seeking.

My own self-reflection of all my placements set in a mainstream primary school including the one in UAE lead me to concretely believing regardless of how much literature one reads the key insights obtainable through observation and hands on experience is invaluable. The opportunity to observe education in action in Dubai has provided me the opportunity to reflect on the differences in lifestyle and also compare and contrast the delivery of education.

This will undoubtedly be an addition to my Curriculum Vitae.