Homeschooling Part 2: The on-line school movement
Throughout the GCC, an increasing number of parents are opting for a home-schooling education model for their children. The reasons behind such a far-reaching decision are:
- the low teacher-to-student ratio appealing for students with learning difficulties
- special needs
- gifted students
- traveling/adventurer families
- parents finding traditional curricula too rigid in its academic skills-focused approach,
- timing flexibilities for young professional athletes/entertainers etc.
- the freedom for children to explore and develop life skills at their own pace
- the increasing “brick and mortar” school fees
The claim by parents that current traditional curricula is not for every child for the future is echoed by recruiters in the Middle East and globally. Unemployment rates for youths evidence that the next workforce generation is not fully prepared with skills essential for navigating the job market.
These claims are taken with great consideration among alternative education providers, who work to identify the evolving needs from local and expatriate families, and cater for them. Cody Claver, the general manager of iCademy Middle East in summarizing the particular value the school provides students that fell off the traditional curricula wagon, stating ‘We can provide students with the level of ability they are ready for, so we can challenge them to a greater degree, or if they need extra help and support, we have the ability to provide that as well.’
iCademy Middle East is a Dubai-based, fully accredited private online school for grades K-12, providing a rigorous, affordable and individualized approach to a student’s education, according to their ability, needs and interests. More than 600 students throughout the GCC follow the online American curriculum offered by the school, while 130 students are registered in the blended model space provided at the centre located at Dubai Knowledge Village. In addition, the school delivers specific educational services, such as the iCad+ for special needs. iCademy also partnered with Gems, providing a curriculum and training support for their new Gems sport academy, with about 30 students utilizing the blended model approach, in order to customize their education experience around their training programs.
In the blended model offered at the centre, the learning experience is facilitated by hired learning coaches, with a teacher/students ratio varying from 1:6 in grade K-2 to 1:10 in high school. For students following the online curriculum and working typically in a home environment, the support of a caring adult, a parent or a shadow teacher is necessary to facilitate their learning. This low ratio brings a level of cognitive engagement with the curriculum for each student, which is hard to replicate in a traditional classroom.
iCademy’s assessment system, especially from K to 8 is mastery-based, so it minds the data about a given student and how he or she is performing. But the key concept, according to Claver, is that ‘the students have to engage in their curriculum and they have to take the responsibility for their learning, and it really fosters within students a sense of self-worth, their self-esteem is significantly improved, because they have ownership over their learning’.
With a 12% growth year on year over the past four school years, there is little doubt that iCademy made a very accurate analysis of its market, offering a high quality and individualized alternative education that an increasing number of families dissatisfied with the current traditional education system are asking for