How do private schools in Dubai provide students with technical and vocational education and training (TVET)?

The UAE needs to produce 10 Emiratis with vocational skills for every university graduate produced to achieve a sustainable and diversified knowledge-based economy.[1] In order to achieve this target, the UAE has focused on building a national system to ensure quality technical vocational education and training (TVET) that prepares individuals for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities such as health care, computer technology, hospitality, office management and skilled trades.

Alongside a national system, private schools in Dubai have been introducing secondary school students to TVET as an alternative path to the world of work and future studies. In Dubai, TVET at the secondary school level is commonly provided through the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) under the UK curriculum and the Career-related Program (CP) under the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Both programs are designed for students aged 16-19. International universities such as Kings College London, University of Nottingham, and Middlesex University in Dubai are just a few that accept BTEC qualifications.

In this KHDA Chatter, we get a glimpse of TVET at the secondary school level from the following private schools in Dubai: Dubai English Speaking School (DESS), GEMS Wellington Academy, Repton School Dubai, Sunmarke School, and Greenfield Community School.

Dubai English Speaking School. At DESS, TVET options for secondary students are determined by carefully considering whether a subject may be better delivered through a vocational qualification widely recognized by universities and employers. A variety of BTEC qualifications are offered such as BTEC Sport and BTEC Enterprise. The tasks that students must complete closely mirrors the sorts of tasks they would have to complete in the workplace. For example, in BTEC Sport, students complete tasks related to the management of a fitness centre. And, in BTEC Enterprise, students engage in planning and operating a micro-business. Tasks commonly involve research, report writing, creating presentations and videos, and delivering events. Student work is assessed in accordance with the requirements of the BTEC exam board where students demonstrate skills acquired. DESS provides students with a Careers Coach and University Transition Expert that offer advice and information on careers and further education opportunities in areas of their interest. Career Day at DESS exposes secondary students to local businesses and industries to learn about career directions and employment opportunities.

GEMS Wellington Academy. Secondary students at GEMS Wellington Academy have the opportunity to develop technical skills through its Enrichment Programme. For example, students in Years 10/11 have the option to take a course in Musical Technology to explore the technical production and recording of music which counts toward the NCFE Level 2 Technical Award.[2] In-house career counsellors and guest speakers guide students in understanding technical and vocational career paths and in determining directions for vocational training. GEMS Wellington Academy follows the IB CP-Programme. Under this program, students in Year 12 engage in a week of work experience with local employers.

Repton School Dubai. Repton also offers the IB CP-Programme. The BTEC Level 3 Business fulfils the vocational component of this programme by providing a skills-based education that could lead to entrance into university, or a pathway directly into a professional career. While the majority of students interested in TVET are engaged in BTEC lessons, some engage in external work-placements. Guest lecturers from various industries visit the school and provide first-hand experience on industry standards and best practices.

There are a variety of strategies in place to monitor and evaluate skill mastery at Repton. Traditional methods such as school reports based on attainment and effort are one way of ensuring progress is being made. However, due to the vocational nature of the programme, feedback from supervisors/employers as well as self-evaluative feedback are applied. This 360-degree approach to evaluation gives not only the teaching staff a better perspective of each student, but allows the student to reflect and realise their own development in the process. Any student identified as working at an above-level attainment is then assigned as support for lower ability groups, creating a team dynamic among our classes. This emulates the workplace practice of mentorship and on-the-job training.

Although special budgets are put aside at Repton School Dubai for its students to pursue TVET projects around the campus, the majority of initiatives are sponsored by local companies. Efforts to gain sponsorship are led by students which is a learning experience in itself. For example, students at Repton School Dubai raised 20,000 AED from Life Pharmacy to fund activities culminating in a bake sale where proceeds went to Emirates Red Crescent.  

Sunmarke School. Sunmarke offers a wide variety of technical, vocational and career-related pathways for all students including Business, Hospitality, Travel and Tourism, Media and IT in the senior grades. Students follow a skills and practical based approach to learning technical and vocational skills throughout the school leading to formal qualifications such as BTEC and ASDAN in the senior grades. The school employs a full time careers counsellor to guide students. Activities and guest speakers provide students with greater insight into career options. Student have access to online platforms such a UniFrog which is designed to support students in making career choices and monitored by the careers counsellor and parents. Sunmarke establishes business and community partnerships on an annual basis. Company leaders are invited to make presentations and deliver workshops for students to shed light on the different types of industries and careers. Students in the senior year take part in an annual work experience programme.

Greenfield Community School. Since 2011,Greenfield Community School has offered the IB CP-Programme as part of its senior school curriculum. Some students study the academic IB Diploma subjects in alignment with a BTEC full Level 3 Diploma. These students also study a range of innovative ‘Core’ subjects which focus on the development of personal and professional skills, a work placement/internship, language development and service learning. By combining IB subjects with a BTEC Level 3 Diploma qualification, students are able to meet the entry requirements for many universities, colleges and employers. To date, 82 students have graduated from Greenfield with the IBCP. 

The type of vocational subjects offered to students at Greenfield Community School is based mainly on their interests and intended career paths. When the IBCP was first introduced, many students expressed an interest to study business and so the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in business was offered. This internationally recognized course is delivered as a Level 3, 12 unit & 120 credit course which meets the requirements of many universities. Listening to student interests, Greenfield now offers additional BTEC Level 3 Diploma courses in Art & Design. The BTEC Level 3 Art & Design course has 147 optional units so students can choose pathways in art, graphic design, media, photography, web design, gaming design, interior design, fashion & textiles, sculpture, printmaking, music production, and video editing. The BTEC course offers students an industry standard vocational learning programme where units are based on prescribed units of study, are practical in delivery and are continually assessed.

Each BTEC course has a number of mandatory units, usually 4 with 8 optional units which the student can select from a list of over 50. This gives them flexibility to select units which align with their career path. In the business course students are able to follow pathways in marketing, event management, accountancy, human resource management, logistics, retail management, plus many more.

Technical and vocational skill mastery at Greenfield is monitored by having students perform practical tasks through role play and ‘live projects.’ This enables students to demonstrate their skill mastery in a controlled environment. For example, students were required to set up a business by designing and creating a product to sell, with the proceeds being donated to a charity. Student received advice from local business leaders and brainstormed possible products they could make and sell. Their final product was a cookbook called ‘Flavours of GCS’ which included recipes from all of the 86 different nationalities represented at the school. Students worked as a team to design the layout, create the cookbook and meet local printers to negotiate a printing deal.

A key part of the IB CP programme offered at Greenfield is the links to local employers and businesses. The program at Greenfield includes a work placement programme that is a vital in guiding students to choose their career paths while exposing them to the professional working environment. In addition to the week-long work placements, Greenfield has initiated links with major business partners such as the Hilton Hotel group, and in particular the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, where student take part in ‘Careers Week’ and spend a day at the hotel learning about the hospitality industry and possible career opportunities.

Conclusion. TVET in Dubai private schools serve many purposes. For some students, TVET offers the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning to gain necessary credentials for practical work. While for other students, it offers a way to enrich the high school experience and prepare for college. Here are a few of Dubai’s students from some of the schools featured in this Chatter who are following the TVET track…

Gehna studied towards a BTEC in Art & Design. She was  interested in marketing and branding linked to social media. She did her work placement at Weber Shandwick which is a prominent PR and brand marketing company in Dubai. After graduating from high school, she was accepted to Middlesex University, Dubai to pursue a BA in Business with Marketing.

Yannick studied towards a BTEC in Art & Design and spent his work placement engaged in 3D digital imaging. He is now studying digital media at SAE Institute, Dubai.

Maximillian spent his work placement at the Hilton Dubai Hotel working in their Marketing Department. After high school, he went on to study business at university in South Korea.

Rhea graduated high school with a BTEC qualification. She spent her work place at Bloomsbury Cakes in Dubai. She then went on to study commercial cookery at the International Centre for Culinary Arts in Dubai. 

[1] UAE Government. Technical and Vocational Education. Accessed July 22, 2018

[2] NCFE is Northern Council for Further Education.

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