Student Success needs Parental Involvement even in Private American Schools in Dubai

This week, KDSL coordinated and presented an Education Parent Forum in Dubai focused on American curriculum schools. Parents of students in American curriculum schools had the chance to connect, ask their questions to a panel of experts, and learn about best practices. Parents had compiled insightful questions about how the US and IB curricula compare, how special needs were being addressed in American schools in Dubai, the readiness of Dubai graduates for US elite colleges and universities and finally, the introduction of the Common Core Curriculum in schools in Dubai.

The parent group had carefully constructed their questions to voice their concerns and asked about what else they could do for their children to help them succeed and be competitive with other students back in the US? Parents articulated concern about two key issues, university acceptance and the new curriculum in the US.


  1. Parents wondered about graduates from Dubai schools being admitted to good US colleges and universities.  Peter Davos explained that the American-curriculum students were not at an advantage to study in American universities for two major reasons. First, they have grown to have a false sense of entitlement, and second, they have a perception of global issues that is peppered with a privileged bias. The combination of these two attitudinal issues reflects a graduate who is simply not realistically ready for the competitive life of a top tier university in the US – and it shows in their applications!
  2. Parents were confused about the quality assurance of the American curriculum and what is considered “American?” The development and the introduction of the Common Core Standards were explained by the panel with an emphasis that schools in Dubai have no real measures that can stop them from calling their curriculum American. But for those schools who have adopted the Common Core, there is notable pressure on school teachers to reform their practice; and teachers are calling out for professional support from their school leadership. The panel was clear – the Common Core is new and teachers are struggling with making sure that they (i) understand and appreciate the goals of the Common Core and (ii) have the professional support to be able to implement it appropriately in their classrooms. So parents need to put pressure on school leadership to ensure the teachers have the professional development to do their jobs and not just put pressure on the teachers!

The panel was very clear about the responsibility of parents to work with the school to prepare their child for graduating and being ready for a good post-secondary school. Surprisingly, these parents seemed unmindful that they were already ahead of the norm in Dubai. The forum was held at a school at 10am. They already prioritized becoming more informed about their children’s educational opportunities over anything else that day.

Do these parents realize that they are already doing something for their children’s attainment just by showing real interest?

The effect of positive parental engagement promoting the importance of education for their children is critical on student attainment. In fact, there are studies that show that parental involvement has a bigger effect than schools in shaping student  achievement. It seemed that in the minds of these parents, they were just being parents. But in Dubai, where there is a marked lack of parental involvement  because of a popular belief that “the education of their children is the sole responsibility of schools,” these parents were being superstars!




One thought on “Student Success needs Parental Involvement even in Private American Schools in Dubai

  1. Physical inactivity among children has become normal and it is too important to not address the structures and foundation from which they draw the blueprints for their adult lives. Not just their adult bodies, but their adult, character, emotional resilience and social skills.

    So how and where do we address the problem?

    Looking at the school system, sports, physical activity and physical education are seen as optional or extra-curricular, rather than the powerful investments that they are. Academically, a number of research studies substantiate that children need sufficient amounts of physical activity a day not only to prevent obesity and its related issues, but to improve their performance in the classroom and socially as well. In addition to the proven positive physical and mental health impact of being active, there is a strong belief that regular participation in physical activity is linked to greater brain function and cognition.

    The science is clear. Physical activity does more than create good health. It contributes to leadership, productivity and innovation. It unleashes human potential, and this is what drives economies forward.

    During school years, the value of health and fitness needs to be embedded in each student. Let’s work on launching a standard PE guideline in all schools, standardized and consistent across the Region, and look at a bigger picture working with parents, school management, teachers and coaches. Let’s leverage key local athletes and coaches to motivate and inspire young people. Let’s engage and activate students in inspirational fitness events such as the Dubai Fitness Championship, as we did last year where 40 students assisted in athlete liaison and backroom help.

    Within the school, let’s create more positive physical activity class to kids 7-12 years olds! In my experience working in GCC schools and more locally in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it can be observed that the aspect of FUN has been removed from Physical Education lessons. According to UK statistics, only 20% of young people enjoy traditional, competitive sport. 50% of young people would participate more if they felt the playing field was leveled and that they were able to happily try new, innovative and creative activities such as parkour, calisthenics, zumba, trampolining, martial arts, climbing and jumping.

    Most importantly, parents need to make a concerted effort at providing fun games and activities and work as a family to encourage an active lifestyle. While kids may need a nudge from mum and dad to get into the habit, care should be taken to not make it seen as a “chore”. While leading by example is a great start, with kids of active parents tending to uphold the same habits into adolescence, a better strategy when it comes to getting children to move is to get them to appreciate being active and see it as a fun, positive thing!

    These are habits can stick around into adulthood and deliver benefits that reach far beyond the physical. Not only is it good for them and their future – it is crucial.


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