May. 27, 2020


Nilay Özral

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Nilay Özral

CEO, Bloom Education

Bloom Education has much on its plate, with plans to bring its international brands abroad and explore ways to deliver more affordable high-quality education in the UAE.

BIO

Nilay Özral joined Bloom Education in 2019 as its CEO. Prior to joining Bloom Education, she was the CEO of Aldar Academies. In addition to overseeing Aldar Academies, during 2010-2013, she successfully managed a number of Aldar's major assets, including the final delivery and operations of the seven hotels on Yas Island, Yas and Al Bandar Marinas, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and Yas Links Golf Club. Before that, she was the strategic planning director at Sorouh. Özral has 17 years of strategic management and leadership experience in some of the world's leading multinational companies. She holds an MBA from Manchester Business School and the University of Texas at Austin.


Can you walk us through Bloom Education's education philosophy?
Bloom Education is highly aligned with the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, which includes specific aims to improve the quality of education in Abu Dhabi. We work closely in partnership with globally recognized international schools to ensure our students experience the best quality of education in caring, supportive, and tolerant environments. In 2011, we opened our first Brighton College in Abu Dhabi, followed by Brighton College Al Ain in 2013 and Brighton College Dubai in 2018. Our schools benefit from the strong links we have with Brighton College UK; not only are our academic results consistently exceptional, but our schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are both ranked as outstanding by the Department of Education and Knowledge in Abu Dhabi (ADEK). More recently, we partnered with Dwight School to open and operate its first school in the Middle East, in Dubai. We are also extraordinarily proud to have been awarded the operation and management of three charter schools by ADEK in 2019. The success of these partnerships in the UAE gives us an advantage to expand into other GCC countries. Besides taking our international brands abroad, we are also exploring how we can deliver more affordable high-quality education in the UAE.

What are some other gaps within the education sector?
The education sector in the UAE has certainly changed over the past couple of years. When it comes to education pathways, vocational studies is the obvious gap for some students as an alternative to high school or IB diplomas, GCSE, and A Levels, as not all students desire to become engineers, doctors, or lawyers. Vocational qualifications, such as B-Tech, offer a different route to university and are a mainstay in major education systems throughout the world. Unfortunately, these qualifications are not currently recognized in the UAE, meaning that they do count when it comes to obtaining the necessary equivalency certificate from the Ministry of Education for local students, which is essential for them to attend local or GCC universities.

What are some of the fundamental skills and attitudes being taught at Bloom Education?
As education providers, our role is clear: we must prepare our students for the workplace of tomorrow by providing learning environments and experiences that encourage and develop entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership skills beyond the classroom. It is difficult to know what skills the future job market will require; however, we can develop our students to think critically and have an inquisitive mindset. Engaging our students in their own learning is key, whether through project-based learning, innovative teaching methods, or embedding technology into our curriculum. We have introduced technology across all of our schools; a recent example being the introduction of Lego labs to teach physics, math, and creativity at our charter schools. It is essential to train our teachers effectively on how to integrate technology into their lessons. Entrepreneurship and innovation programs also play a key part. At Dwight School, the Spark Tank teaches K-12 students entrepreneurial, innovation, and leadership skills where they can apply for grants to develop and take their novel ideas and inventions with real-world application into the marketplace.

What is your outlook for Bloom Education, and what are your main priorities going forward?
Education in this region is still very much on a growth trajectory, and our focus is to expand across the GCC with our international brands and enter the local mid-tier/affordable market. We also want to expand our charter schools program in partnership with the government. Also, we have a strong desire to develop vocational pathways in our schools once these are recognized by the Ministry of Education. There may also be an opportunity in the future to establish a training programme within our schools in partnership with local universities to develop a pool of talented local teachers.

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