The UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda emphasises the development of a first-rate education system and has set as a target that students in UAE rank among the best in the world in reading, mathematics and science exams. Our students have written the PISA, TIMSS and International Benchmark tests in addition to the CAT4 tests. All statistics need to be seen in context, assessed for what they do and do not tell you and one must avoid making sweeping generalisations, whether positively or negatively. Used wisely, they can identify what we are doing well and give us specific strategies for improvement.
The PISA and TIMSS were written in 2015 and give us a snapshot of the school two years ago. Comparing this data to the International Benchmark Tests results from 2016 we have been able to track improvements in Maths and Science and now are at least in line with international standards. That is what we expect from an inclusive school. Together with our external examination results at Diploma and BTEC level, there has been a steady increase in recent years. Our English results remain consistently above international averages. That is affirming, but we need to dig deeper. We examine the data carefully and look for areas of strength and development and have targetted particular subjects and year groups where special attention is needed.
Parents of students in Grades 3 to 12 will have received your child’s CAT4 data. These are ability tests and identify students’ strengths in verbal, quantitative and spatial reasoning and from this an indication of how well a student is likely to perform in particular subjects. They also show students’ learning styles. I would encourage you to read and discuss these reports wisely with your child or children. They are useful for setting targets for students and tracking their progress towards those targets, which we do. They help teachers to know the preferred learning styles of students and to adapt their teaching methods accordingly. But, please be cautious. The test could have been written on a bad day, or if your child does not speak English at home he or she might have misunderstood the question. There are many reasons why a student may have performed poorly and that does not mean that they should feel that a ceiling has been placed on their academic ability. What we don’t want is for our children to think that they are useless in a particular subject and that it just not worth trying.
Finally, all data is about questions, not answers. What can we do to adapt our teaching strategies to encourage boys to do better? How can we help girls who are strong verbal learners to become better spatial learners? How can we improve our writing in English? Seen like this we can use the data to help our children to know themselves better and to develop practical strategies to improve.
We are enjoying a very successful sporting term, building on last year’s successes. I was delighted to be told by Matt Christensen this morning that our Boys’ U16 basketball has been promoted this year to the top league and next week will be playing in the quarter final here at GCS. That means they are in the top four schools in Dubai and are in contention for the trophy. Our Boys U18 team will also play their quarter final and, if they are successful, they will be promoted to the top league.
Our soccer teams have also been enjoying a successful season and I often enjoy the opportunity to watch them in action. They are playing with a grit and determination that we have not seen before. Like many of you, I come from a country and culture that sees sport as an integral part of school life and it gives me great satisfaction to see more and more of our boys and girls participating and being more committed and competitive. If they are physically active and healthy their sense of well-being and academic success will also improve. They also learn so many life lessons.