This is a private school. Does that make it elitist? I was thinking this over the other day as I was digging in the garden. In went the spade. Yes, of course it is elitist: the skills and abilities the school helps children to develop will put them on the path to rich and productive lives; they will learn how to work at a level they could not have achieved without this education. Why else would parents pay?
Out came the spade. No, of course it isn’t: equality is at the heart of the school. This is human-scale education with a set of values clearly rooted in the sense that people are people, no matter what their station in life. When we have community meetings we don’t set up little elites. Everyone comes together to help make decisions. Everyone has an equal vote. We encourage teachers to step back and allow children to resolve their own problems because we don’t want an authoritarian, hierarchical culture in our school.
As the spade went in and came out, I went backwards and forwards thinking of the two sides. It drew me on to think about admission criteria in the school. This is a private school that parents choose for their children. And, since we have a strong component of parental engagement, the ideas, desires and values of parents will come flooding into the school, enriching it and providing endless food for discussion, dialogue and debate.
These notes are my reflections on admission criteria. I would value your suggestions if you think they can be improved.
Criteria for admission to MBAT
- We do not discriminate based on ability. This is not a selective school
- We do not discriminate based on disability. In the case of severe physical and learning disability, we will make a compassionate evaluation of the circumstances. We must take into account the amount of the curriculum that takes place outdoors, the staffing available and the facilities at our disposal
- We do not discriminate based on race
- MBAT is a mixed school throughout. We do not discriminate on gender, but we reserve the right to consider the gender balance in a class when assigning places
- Parents and students sign an agreement when they join the school. MBAT has a unique philosophy which parents and students must agree to.
- There are three Open Days- one per term- when prospective parents can visit the school. Visits outside these times are more limited in scope and must be arranged by prior consultation.
- Application forms are available online or from the school office throughout the year. New students normally enroll at the beginning of a school year.
- Applications will be considered by the academic committee in May.
- Interview dates will be set up for parents and children throughout June.
- Prospective parents must read the Parents Handbook, available online and in a printed copy.
- Prospective students must read, or be aware of the Students Handbook. The Students Handbook is written in different versions for each phase from Kindergarten to Upper School.
- Transcripts will be taken up from previous schools.
- Students will be assigned to their respective classes and the teaching staff responsible will write a personalized letter of welcome.
- If a class is oversubscribed, selection will favor children with siblings at the school. Thereafter, priority will be on a first come, first served basis. Parents will be offered the opportunity of joining a waiting list if their child is not accepted.
- There is an induction week for new students at the beginning of each school year.
- There are pre-term courses in essential English for children whose first language is not English.
Special Educational Needs
The SENCO administers Special Educational Needs provision and there are teachers with training and experience at each level of the school. Free schools such as MBAT are beneficial for many children who suffer in conventional schools.
Elitist or Not?
What we want to offer within the school is not elitist. We want children to feel accepted regardless of their background, ability, or gender. This is unlike mainstream schools in UAE, where there is a separation of boys and girls. The social cohesion within the school is broadly western and, since we are using the English National Curriculum as a guide and I am English, loosely aligned with British liberal values.
Solen is the promoter of the project. She is Turkish, has lived in the United States and is a part of Emirate society now. Her children are Emiratis. The school will reflect the culture of the Gulf in its curriculum and languages, with both Arabic and English as teaching languages.
Parents who invest in an MBAT education for their children will be making a wise choice for their futures. The school values and cherishes its students. They grow up through the school in communities where they can make choices and decisions about what they do individually, in groups and as a community. They learn how to negotiate the boundaries between freedom and license. This is a sensible way to raise children into adulthood and it will give them a solid foundation for future growth.
MBAT is a school set in Nature. We want our students to grow up feeling the responsibility to be responsible custodians of Nature. That shouldn’t be elitist, should it?
Now I have to return to the garden. There is plenty of digging to do and there is no better way to meditate on recurrent issues. The mere fact that I have the garden makes me feel privileged as I know so many who don’t. But it still needs digging…