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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Dubai's newest schools aim for every child to be a coder

Schools teaching children as young as three to code and use new technology

The new Dunecrest American School integrates learning coding with other lessons to help teach pupils critical thinking. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The new Dunecrest American School integrates learning coding with other lessons to help teach pupils critical thinking. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dubai's newest schools are focusing on integrating coding and new technology into teaching methods to ensure all their pupils learn problem solving and critical thinking.

Dunecrest American School, which launched in September, starts teaching coding to children as young as three. Bill Delbrugge, director of the school, believes that rather than treating coding as something to be learnt in isolation, it should be embedded in everything that children do.

An example lesson for three-year-olds might see a child who is learning about the Wizard of Oz tasked with getting Dorothy from point A to point B on a computer screen. When they push arrows to move Dorothy, they are learning to sequence.

Nigel Cropley, principal at Gems Founders School Al Mizhar, which also launched in September, said the school aims for all their pupils to be coders "from foundation stage to Year 13”.

“We want these children to be problem solvers. It’s about solving real-world problems with the use of technology,” said Mr Cropley.

Pupils at the school will do projects looking at issues such as how the school can be more energy efficient.

The school also has an innovation wing where children can innovate and do complex coding, and they also have 3D printers.

Joanne Wells, principal at South View School, said the fact that technology affects every part of our life is at the heart of the way they now run the school.

However, she believes at the same time that preparing children for a distant future should not mean overlooking the present.

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"Everyone talks about getting the child ready for 20-25 years later, but, on any given day, a child is just trying to do their best. What matters to them is now.

"They can’t just be sat down and told about the future. It has to be about now as well,” she said.

Teaching children soft skills and financial understanding is as important as teaching them coding, added Ms Wells.

Another new school, Dubai International Academy Al Barsha, has a product design laboratory where pupils can do 3D imaging and design. They blend traditional design with modern technology.

At this laboratory, pupils can design and manufacture their own products. Hammers, screws, and tools are laid out in an industrial fashion alongside printers and laptops — pupils actively design on computers, use a projector to project the designs on the material and then make the object.

Pupils study robotics and coding in primary and secondary school. There are robotics clubs and programming sessions available to senior classes.

The school also has a digital design studio, where pupils are faced with a research problem and have to create a solution.