Of all the wonderful schools and curriculums I have seen since my recent arrival in Dubai, I must say I am impressed. Parents have a plethora of choice as to both which school to attend and which curriculum to pick. Many parents will select a curriculum based on their home country but I have spoken to many expat parents who are looking for something better than the type of schools they attended back in their day at home. For this reason I am thrilled to be part of the team bringing Progressive American Education to Dubai.
By definition progressive education has a strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking, collaborative, cooperative work among students, inter-related, inter-disciplinary curriculum study units, opportunities for hands on learning and a learning in your community, social responsibility values. How does that work in the classroom? We are very fortunate at my school, Clarion School, to be affiliated with the Bank Street College of Education, where the process of teaching to children’s developmental stages was explored and studied to become the genesis of progressive education. Bank Street is the core of our curriculum at Clarion School and is localized for Dubai to allow our children an opportunity to a learn-in-place environment.
I see the current trend to “push down curriculum” into the Kindergarten years as troubling. Our school will open Pre-K to Grade 2 in September with upper grades to follow each year. I am mentioning this because skipping development stages for learning in the kinder years is detrimental to growth in social, emotional and thinking skills. These are crucial skills, which need to commence in those young years. They are the basis for both curiosity about learning and life and social behaviour needed in the future. Those are the attributes that make children happy to come to school instead of arriving reluctantly each day with a sad frown. Reading and numeracy skills in young children are teacher accomplishments but not necessarily student accomplishments. Developing thinking skills by these young students are true accomplishments that can be built upon as they grow and go forward at school.
Because progressive education is founded on the knowledge of child development stages we have the liberty and I think gift of allowing children to be children, in an environment where children are curious to learn. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting. At a progressive school, classrooms are filled with intentionality. This means the classroom is filled with intentional tools to evoke wonder and assist the child to explore – be that an ipad to research or practice, a book on topics related to subjects being studied, tools to interpret and re-imagine and extend the lesson, items to provoke questions or support knowledge as it is gained. This is a rich environment for emergent learning as the curriculum lesson takes place, allow for wonder in classrooms, guided by teachers trained to progressive education teaching methods. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting.
We hope to imbue students with an experimental, critical, ardent approach to their work. If we can do this, we are ready to leave the future to them.