What do you remember best from your school days? The residential trips, the sports fixtures, or the school productions?
There’s a reason why these memories stand out. It’s because extracurricular programs provide children with meaningful experiences, a growing sense of independence and self-worth, and a lot more.
While the academic curriculum is and should be the main focus of school life, extracurricular activities can make all the difference to your child’s development. A comprehensive extracurricular program is a must in a good school.
Read on to find out more about why you need to be looking for a school that prioritises extracurricular programs and the best activities to look out for.
The benefits of extracurricular activities are wide ranging, affecting many aspects of your child’s life.
Research shows that extracurricular programs boost academic performance in mathematics, science and right across the curriculum. This is because of the study skills that the programs nurture. Resilience, problem solving, and confidence are just a few of the life skills that can be developed in extracurricular programs and each will boost your child’s academic scores.
Extracurricular activities also enable character development. Your child’s self-worth and self-confidence will benefit when they find something they can both enjoy and excel in. They are more likely to engage with their learning environment, accept constructive criticism, and potentially build leadership skills.
Through extracurricular activities, your child can explore their interests and broaden their horizons. Often, lifelong hobbies and interests are ignited at after-school or lunchtime clubs where there are more opportunities to socialise and meet like-minded new friends.
Finally, college and university applications benefit from a student being able to talk about more than their grades. A history of well-rounded participation is looked on favourably.
Here are three particularly beneficial extracurricular activities, all of which are on offer in some Dubai schools, including GEMS Metropole school.
1. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a globally recognised and highly respected program run by schools and youth organisations all around the world. It is designed to equip young people with invaluable life skills that will prepare them for the incredible opportunities that will come their way as adults, both in their work and personal lives.
The scheme is available to young people aged 14-24 and has three levels of progression: bronze, silver and gold. At all stages, it is designed to really challenge pupils and to boost their resilience and resolve, as well as their independence and teamwork.
All three levels have four core elements: volunteering, physical, skills and expedition.
Volunteering must involve committing time to supporting a voluntary or not-for-profit organisation.
To pass the physical section, students must demonstrate personal improvement in a physical activity like sport, dance, or fitness.
The skills section also involves showing improvement over time in one skill outside of physical activity, i.e. music, cookery, first aid, coding, chess, animal care and much more.
The fourth element is the popular expedition segment. This is perhaps the most challenging for many young people. It involves planning, organising and undertaking an expedition in a group but without adult assistance or motorised transport. Self-reliance is the key skill being fostered through the expedition.
For the bronze award, the expedition must last two days and one night, and three days and two nights for the silver. For the gold, students must undertake an expedition lasting five days and four nights.
2. Student leadership opportunities
You should always look for a school with plenty of opportunities for children to be involved in decision making and to represent pupil voice.
First, an abundance of these opportunities shows that pupils are valued and respected within the school. It demonstrates that their thoughts and opinions matter. The school is shown to be striving for a democratic, fair community.
Second, student leadership is going to provide your child with the chance to prepare for future responsibilities and roles. It will improve their confidence and foster their sense of community. It will nurture their self-belief and abilities in skills like communication, problem solving and creativity.
Ideally, a school should have plenty of student leadership roles so that they can be shared fairly and democratically, presenting all children with a chance to be involved in some way.
A system should be in place so pupils can represent small groups, such as their form, through to potentially becoming head boy or girl and representing the whole school. Student leaders should represent every phase of the school, from the youngest pupils to the oldest.
Pupils should have the opportunity to present a student’s voice on many topics. These might include health and well-being, eco policies, curriculum, digital learning and more.
3. Model United Nations
Model United Nations (MUN) is a simulation of the United Nations in a school setting. Here, children are asked to consider global issues such as international relationships, the promotion of peace, human rights, and global living standards.
MUN involves the research and assessment of issues, developing solutions, debating and lobbying to reach resolutions on a range of globally important topics. Students adopt the roles of different countries, which helps pupils develop their empathy and understanding, as well their negotiation and communication skills. MUN involves collaboration with other schools or outside organisations and the conferences often take place in a higher education setting.
This is a challenging and highly rewarding program for young people. Standards are high. It is an excellent way for a young person to improve their knowledge of global issues, have the opportunity to communicate with a wide variety of people, and develop skills that will help them achieve greater success in their school and adult career. For this reason, university and college admissions tutors look very favourably at Model United Nations involvement.
These three extracurricular programs are examples of outstanding provision available in Dubai schools and internationally.
If you’re finding it difficult to decide where to send your child to school, taking a closer look at the quality of the extracurricular activities can often help you make this very important decision.
What will you encourage your child to get involved in?