DUBAI //A federal college has decided to open its own high school in an effort to produce students who are better prepared for university.
The Dubai Women's College (DWC) will open a high school on its campus in September next year for girls in Grades 9 to 12. The school will be jointly managed by DWC and K12 Middle East, and will offer the American curriculum and parts of the national curriculum.
"We decided we had to do something to improve the education system," said Dr Howard Reed, the director of the college. "We have been hearing the promises that high schools in the country will turn out better graduates but most of our students still have to take one to two years of remedial programmes before they can start the degree courses."
About 95 per cent of students entering federal universities need to take foundation courses.
The education strategy, endorsed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to eliminate the need for such courses by 2020.
Running them has also become a huge financial burden for federal colleges and universities.
Dr Reed said offering remedial courses uses up 30 per cent of the college's budget. "We have 600 new students every year and it pains me to see the poor quality education they receive and the time they waste in foundation programmes," he said.
The school will start by enrolling about 60 Grade 9 students, both Emirati and expatriate, for the 2012-2013 academic year.
They will be taught seven subjects through a mix of online modules and campus activities, and they will have access to college facilities such as the gymnasium and library.
At the inauguration of the new school yesterday, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, called on other universities to follow suit.
Jeffrey Herr, the head of the K12 International Academy, who will also be the principal of the new school, said the model would treat pupils as individuals.
"The advantage of this hybrid system is that it allows pupils to move at their own pace."
"And they can benefit from collaborating online with pupils and teachers in our sister schools and networks around the world as well."
Officials said they would follow a rigorous admissions procedure and have started visiting other high schools to recruit pupils. Dr Reed said such recruitment would not be based on marks, but that prospective pupils should show a commitment towards education.
"Also, we wanted a mixed school because it creates the best learning environment," he said.
Government middle school pupils who want to enrol will take an accelerated programme in mathematics, science and English as a Second Language from January to June to prepare them for the demands of the American curriculum.
"The courses will bring them up to speed with the requirements of starting the academic lessons at DWC High School," said Mr Herr.
However, the school will come at a cost. The annual fee is Dh50,000, which includes a pupil's books and iPad.
Dr Reed said the school hoped to subsidise the cost from the second year of operation. "We would like to give out scholarships, too," he said.
The school will also double as a platform for DWC students training to be teachers.
"I went to a public school and because English was not taught well, I had to take a foundation course," said Nahla Khamis, a student of the education programme at DWC.
"That wasted my whole year and I do not want that to happen to my brothers and sisters," said the first year student, who has siblings in public schools.
"If this school can help provide all the necessary skills they need to immediately start their degree programme, then I support it."