Gulf Insider interviews Dave McMaster, Director of the
American School of Bahrain (ASB).
What makes the American School of Bahrain different?
I think one of the main differentiators would be our campus. The building itself was purpose built to include innovative spaces like the maker-space room, food technology lab, six science labs, two libraries and more. Our staff comes from 11 different countries,with a majority of North Americans trained in the US and Canada – it’s a very diverse group and I think that makes us unique. In addition to that, our founding organization, Esol Education, connects us with a global school network, accreditation bodies and educational collaborations with universities, such as MIT CSAIL Lab’s App Inventor and Stanford University’s Pre-collegiate Program. Our Advanced American Curriculum includes STEAM learning, PBL, coding and design thinking. We also focus on extracurriculars,performing & fine arts,sports and service projects. At ASB,we are committed to developing the whole child and providing a happy and supportive learning environment!
How have you been able to extend support to students and parents during the crisis?
The best support we can provide right now is trying to be as communicative as we can with parents. In contrast to my experience as a head in different countries, I have personally been involved in interviewing potential students and their parents here in Bahrain. We have also implemented virtual platforms to conduct our admissions testing and meetings with parents and students. Next year at ASB,a range of e-learning platforms will support the continued delivery of our program, allowing for video interaction, student submission of learning activities, and collaboration among all groups.
What have you learned through being more involved in students and parents’interviews?
One of the things I affirmed is that a parent’s highest priority is their children’s education, next to their health.Parents are also concerned about what lies in the future of schools once they reopen. This came out in every single interview we’ve conducted; regardless if they’re coming from Bahrain, the region or other parts of the world.
Can you elaborate on the safety measures undertaken at ASB?
Every single school has put an enormous amount of time and effort to make it as safe as possible – the same is true at ASB. We are following the National Taskforce’s protocols and regulations on COVID-19. We have issued our COVID-19 Campus Opening Plan that outlines all the health and safety measures being implemented, as well as our distance learning provision for students who are unable to attend class in person. We have two isolation rooms in case a student or a staff member falls ill during the day. We have a nurse who has vast experience in schools and pediatric hospitals. We’re also hiring a second nurse as we don’t take the matter of safety lightly.
How are you approaching the new academic year? What is the arrangement for the hybrid system of physical plus online classes?
We’re one of the few schools that have the capacity to have everybody in the campus every day, with regular hours should they opt to. However, we fully understand that some parents are still hesitant for their children to attend regular classes. Still, we are preparing for every student to be on site. We are very fortunate to have the space to be able to accommodate students face to face or you can call it “mask to mask”.
What would you say is the future of education?
Firstly, technology has had the biggest impact on education change in the last century. Secondly, I think the pandemic has forced the education sector to do things differently, take a step back and look at how children are being educated. Schools are interacting with each other more than they have in the past, not just in Bahrain but around the world. We’re not just relying on ourselves; we’re reaching out to others for support. And I see that as a positive change we can hopefully adopt for life.