ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Youssef El Achkar, Chairman of the Board of RAK Academy, on the academy's pioneering work in the Emirate, preparing students for the future, and its upcoming plans.

Youssef El Achkar
BIOGRAPHY
Youssef El Achkar was elected as a member of the Board of Ras Al Khaimah English Speaking School in 1996, which was later renamed as Ras Al Khaimah Academy. He has been the Chairman of the academy’s Board of Governors since 2010 upon the decision of HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Member of the Federal Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah. He graduated from the civil engineering faculty at Saint Joseph University in Lebanon and holds an advanced degree in civil engineering from IGN University in France.

How did RAK Academy manage to position itself as one of the pioneering schools in Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE?

RAK Academy has established itself as a pioneer of high-quality private education throughout its 40-year history. It is the first private school in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah to offer co-educational, internationally accredited programs to a diverse and international student body. RAK Academy started with 40 students and now we have 3,410. The base of a good school is good teachers; therefore, a high quality of teaching and learning is at the forefront of RAK Academy. We have increased our standards of quality and qualifications for our teachers and have obtained accreditation from the Council of International Schools (CIS) and British Schools Overseas (BSO). We have adopted these organizations' key criteria to improve teaching and learning. We also develop student support services for a wide range of learning needs within RAK Academy, including English as an additional language. We find our students do not have a high level of ability to learn English so we have put this additional support in place. We adopt a new governance structure that deals with higher order matters, such as policy development, risk, and security.

What have been the most notable changes in RAK Academy, especially taking into consideration the increasing number of expatriates and their changing demands?

We now have three schools under one academy. The first school offers the British national curriculum (BC) from KG1 up to year six. We have a second school offering the Primary Years Program (PYP) and that goes from Pre-K up to year six. Both of these schools run at full capacity and they feed into our Middle School, which emphasizes the British model. That is followed by our secondary school, which offers both the advanced BC and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Students can choose between the BC and the IB programs. This is exciting for us because it enables our school to prepare both national and international learners. Students from Europe tend to do the IB curriculum.

In what ways does RAK Academy prepare Emirati students to become leaders in the UAE's knowledge-based economy?

We focus on offering world-class standards like AS/A Levels and IB diplomas, and on global citizenship so that UAE students understand different cultures and differences in people from around the globe. We give them the opportunities to engage in all sorts of extracurricular school events, such as sporting events, musical performances, art, and outdoor activities. We know our graduates are successfully practicing professionals in fields such as medicine, law, engineering, sciences, economics, business, and arts and humanities. Our graduates have already provided us with a second generation of learners because we have been here for 40 years.

How has government's National Innovation Strategy affected RAK Academy and its curriculum for 2016?

For years RAK Academy has adopted progressive policies and responsive models in order to meet the mounting expectations and ambitions of all its learners. In this light we believe our school is at the center of innovation and excellence, and at the heart of the community. With every learning cycle we revisit our strategic objectives. We learn from our collective experience and embark on refining our strategies to better meet the expectations of our learning community. We keep up to date with all the requirements from the Ministry of Education and, if there are any problems, we know they can be solved in discussion with the ministry.

What can we expect from RAK Academy in the near future?

We will open two primary schools, one in Al-Rams and the other in the Al Hamra area. We have already selected the locations and His Highness has approved them. Construction will start in June 2016. The schools should be ready for the new school year in September 2018. Moreover, we are upgrading and improving our facilities because we follow international standards and work toward obtaining ISO 9001 accreditation.