Building an F1 car, exploring the solar system from within a space shuttle and constructing a robotic arm are some of the activities you will see students engaged in during a typical day at GEMS FirstPoint School (FPS) in Dubai.
You will also find some students learning in a traditional classroom setting, while others brainstorm in a corporate office in another part of Dubai.
This unique education system reflects the revolutionary approach taken by FPS as it seeks to develop a future workforce that is equipped to deal with the demands of the market.
“Education has started to peek around the classroom door but is not yet taking full advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that lie beyond its walls,” says Matthew Tompkins, the principal and CEO of FPS.
“The colour of the board at the front of the room may have changed, the chairs and tables might look a bit different, we may even record things and carry out research on a computer rather than in books, but fundamentally the environment and the processes within schools have changed very little in 50 years,” he opines.
On the other hand, most workplaces and jobs today are unrecognisable when compared to those of previous generations.
“Education needs to adapt and evolve to meet the demands of modern industry and prepare young people properly for employment in the Fourth Industrial Revolution that we are now in,” says Tompkins.
FPS, which has now become the lead school for Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) Rahhal programme, is working in partnership with global and local companies to provide an integrated and individualised curriculum for every student.
“In our younger years, this involves guest speakers and day visits to different industries. As the students get older, the time in industry increases, and the experts contribute to develop employability skills while also supporting learning in classes like business studies, economics and PE,” explains Tompkins.
In the sixth form, students have access to a one-day-a-week project-based internship with a company, where they work as a team to find solutions to issues posed by the company.
“At the end of sixth form, they leave with a set of traditional grades – enhanced by the hands-on experience of applying their knowledge in a ‘real’ situation, a two-year internship from a globally recognised company, industry-specific qualifications gained while on placement and a reference from the company,” says Tompkins.
“In interviews they attend, they are then able to talk with confidence about the workplace and the application of the skills and knowledge they have developed, and this will set them apart from all other students,” he adds.
So far, the school has worked with a number of businesses including Emirates NBD, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Emirates Airline and Facebook.
“The most developed partnership we have to date is with Siemens. The scope of our collaboration includes internships and curriculum support, but also a real push on the sustainability agenda and how we can continue to develop the next generation of leaders with the moral forethought and active accountability for future generations,” explains Tompkins.
Looking ahead, education will transform to be modelled around an integrated approach.
“The blueprint established through these links will be replicated across the globe and provide young people with a relevant and engaging experience throughout their school years. It will also provide a more able, better prepared and stronger workforce for our industries,” he adds.
To find out more about the school and the courses offered, click here