A Crisis of Relevance

January, 2018

The teacher crisis—a shortage of qualified and capable teachers—is real and serious, but it is not the biggest threat to international schools today. There exists a crisis of relevance. Schools have a moral imperative to prepare young people for their future, and not our past, yet we have done little to disturb the centuries-old schooling model.

In a competitive market like Dubai, there is no guarantee that families will continue to send their children to your school. In fact, there is no guarantee that Dubai families will continue sending their children to any brick and mortar schools. They can now piece together a suitable education for their children through online platforms, experiential learning opportunities, and targeted tutoring. When we ask for tens of thousands of dollars of tuition, education often becomes a value proposition. Schools like the American School of Dubai may be fighting not only to preserve its market share of mission-appropriate students, but it may be fighting for its very existence. Are we remotely aware of this crisis?

We must disrupt the Victorian model of schooling by promoting flexible spaces, groupings and timetables, by putting homework in its proper place, and most importantly, by changing the role of the teacher from benevolent dictator and czar of content to coach and facilitator of learning. We must assess the hard-to-measure skills and knowledge, and not just the easily quantifiable stuff. Putting social and emotional learning on equal par with the “academics” will build school cultures of respect and compassionate action, and promote cultural competency for our youngest global citizens. When we will have the courage to be bold, break free from our cautiously progressive mindset, and do what we know is right and proper for our children?

Dr. Paul Richards
Superintendent, the American School of Dubai

The mission of the American School of Dubai is to challenge and inspire each student to achieve their dreams and to become a passionate learner prepared to adapt and contribute in a rapidly changing world.