Choosing their path

With more than a hundred schools in Dubai alone, choosing the right nursery
or school for your kids involves much more than curriculum and facilities…

Education

Not only do parents want their kids to get the best education to help them grow into successful adults, but they also want what’s best for their kids in terms of learning environment. Not all nurseries and schools are alike, and we’re absolutely spoilt for choice here in the UAE.

“There are so many nurseries choose from in the UAE, but the best thing to do is narrow your search to your specific needs. For example, think about location, timing, pricing, and curriculum. Contact the nursery in advance to see what information they can offer you before you visit them. Make a checklist of everything your child may need and only then will you be ready to take a look,” Sally Alshakarchi, Founder of Honey Bee Nursery in Dubai and Sharjah’s Bumble Bee Nursery, tells us. And the single mother of two knows a fair bit about early education.

What you should be looking for
Bring your exhaustive list with you when you eventually do head to the nurseries you’ve narrowed your choice down to and go through everything you have thought of and whatever else comes up. For example, gauge the extent to which the environment is friendly and welcoming. Do they show interest in your child? Is the setting clean and safe, with fire exits clearly marked and safety measures displayed? Do they have a nurse on site? You should also be able to check staff qualifications and have them explain the curriculum to you.

“As the UAE is very cosmopolitan and so many different nationalities reside here, I believe that sometimes it can be quite challenging for parents to find the right curriculum for their kids,” Alshakarchi says. “Parents should do some research about the different curriculums on offer in the UAE. Some start with learning through play methods, whereas others are more focused on academia. You would also need to think about Primary School transition. The best thing would be to choose a nursery that delivers a curriculum that’s the same as the one your child will be transitioning into in Primary School.”

You will know if you’ve chosen the right nursery for your kids by the outcome of their development and its impact on their well-being. Some kids are too young to talk and can’t express themselves or communicate, but you will still see the difference. Young kids learn many things through their emotions and social understanding. If a kid’s needs aren’t being met emotionally or socially, this could affect their development and slow down their learning. Not only that, but your kid will find it difficult to trust and build relationships with others.

Time for school
When it’s time to move on to the next step and leave their early years behind, you’ll need to find a school that your kids will love. And if you thought the first part was difficult enough, we’ve got some news for you: choosing a school is a whole different ball game.
Asia Diaz, admissions manager at Clarion School, helps us with this part. “First and foremost, parents should discuss what’s most important for them as a family when choosing a school. For example, tuition fees, location, curriculum, school mission statement or philosophy, academic rigor, and foreign languages. Once you’ve prioritised what’s most important to you and your family, the process of choosing a school will become clearer.”

It’s of critical importance that you take a tour of the school, too. This will give you an opportunity to see for yourself what the values of that particular school are. Plus, you get to see for yourself if what’s mentioned on their website is being implemented on the ground and in
the classrooms.

“You need to trust your intuition,” Diaz adds. “What’s the feel of the school? How did it feel to you when you walked in? The administrative staff you meet first reflects the attitude of senior leadership and ownership of the school, whether it’s a small independent or one of a big group of schools. That corporate culture feeds directly into teachers’ psyche and actions.”

As for the curriculum, you can avoid any confusion by doing your research. “There are many great resources online where parents can gather more information about the different curriculums offered here in the UAE. The major curriculums offered in Dubai are British, American and IB. The KHDA notes there are more than 19 curriculums on offer. If the big three don’t feel right for you – look deeper,” Diaz points out.

“It’s also important to know your kids and how they learn. Do they need a very structured environment, are they more creative, or are they very academic? Knowing your kids will help you pinpoint a curriculum and school that best meet their needs. Yes, it’s hard to know your kids’ style at the young age of three or four, but there has to be something that stands out.”

Think about the future
Influencing your curriculum decision must be how long you envision yourself staying in the UAE. Your school should enable your kids to seamlessly go to a school in your home country in the sequential grade, not skipping or delayed by a grade. Most importantly, look for your kids to be challenged and positively engaged in their learning; At the end of the day, your kids are the ones who have to be in the chosen school for the majority of their day (no pressure here). The right school environment will affect their development – cognitively, socially and emotionally. Diaz says it’s all about your kids wanting to go to the school you’ve chosen.

“When you’re on the school tour, do the kids look like they’re engaged in activities or bored? Do the kids you see have a positive relationship with the teachers? In general, do the kids you see look happy? Look carefully at the student work displayed. Is it a true representation of a kid’s work or templates created by teachers?” Looking very closely will help you unlock just the signs you need to be able to confidently plan your kids’ education and future…
Honey Bee Nursery: City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 340 9994); Bumble Bee Nursery: Burj Khuzam Street, Sharjah (06 522 8461); Clarion School: Al Asayel Street (04 407 3000).

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