In 1979, one year after Dubai College had opened, the American new wave band Talking Hands released their album Fear of Music containing a now iconic track called Heaven. In the song the band describe a kind of Promised Land which happens to be a bar, and the bar is called Heaven. There is a party and everyone is there, and everyone will leave at exactly the same time. And in Heaven the band plays their favourite song not just once but all night long and it is hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting, could be so much fun.
On 30th November 2019, I happened to find myself in just that bar in the company of some 250 Dubai College alumni, both staff and students, including Conceicao Sousa, our former caretaker of 36 years, Tim Charlton, our founding Headmaster, Tony Foulger, our founding Bursar and his daughter Sarah as well as Ian and Bernie Brooks, who established the Dubai College London reunion in November 1988 among many other significant staff and students of yesteryear. This reunion was my first despite approaching my 9th year at the school and it felt like a momentous occasion to visit.
I recently stumbled across a store room at the back of the auditorium in my school which looked like a SMART board graveyard. The bulbs in their projectors had long since dimmed, the software is now obsolete and their eventual function, as a glorified projection screen, has been replaced by simple LCD screens across the school. And yet like many of us desperately hoping for edtech’s much vaunted solution to teachers’ (delete as appropriate) marking load / reporting / feedback / assessment / admin / differentiation / creativity / work-life balance / love-life I await the latest edtech initiative as the potential salvation to education’s woes.
However, does anyone remember inBloom, iBooks 2 (or even iBooks1 for that matter), SharpScholar, TutorSpree or KNO? No, nor me. According to the techedvocate these are some of the biggest edTech failures of the last decade. These edtech startups, despite being backed by some of the industry’s biggest names (The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and Apple to name but two) have sunk without a trace. Too often a big idea backed by a big marketing campaign trumps the received wisdom of those on the front line.
Students educated at international private schools are among the most powerful on the planet. Their power, however, does not (simply) come from their socio-economic status or vicariously through the leadership positions which their parents hold or indeed the leadership positions which they themselves may go on to hold when they graduate from university.
Their power comes from the breadth of their horizons and the access which they have been given to this world through the globally recognized credentials they earn at school, the self-confidence they develop among articulate peers, parents and staff and the social capital they acquire through their real-world connections.
To know yourself, to know the options available to you and to know how to fulfil your needs and wants puts most privately educated international school students in a position beyond the reach of many. As a consequence, now, as much as any other time in human history, our students must recognise that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power.