Eton College to launch virtual courses in UAE schools

Famed UK institute to train pupils in soft skills through virtual lessons

A4AAXF Eton College / London
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A college known for producing 20 British prime ministers and educating members of royal families from around the world will launch courses at schools across the UAE this year.

EtonX, a subsidiary of Eton College in the UK, will be starting a Future Skills Programme in 20 schools across the GCC this September. 

Under the programme, pupils will take part in virtual classrooms and work with children from diverse backgrounds to learn soft skills including communication and resilience. 

Pupils between the ages of 14 and 20 will be able to pick from nine courses such as critical thinking, verbal communication, creative problem-solving, entrepreneurship and CV writing.

Eton College is recognised worldwide for producing many of the UK’s leaders, including current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Notable alumni also include George Orwell and Bear Grylls.

Catherine Whitaker, chief executive and head of learning at EtonX, said communication courses were proving most popular locally.

“The most popular courses in the UAE are public speaking, making an impact, verbal communication and interview skills,” she said.

“In the UAE, there is a growing awareness around the need for skills that supplement and complement academics.

“There is a climate in the UAE around thinking about education as more than success in exams and that is coming from the government and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai.

EtonX’s seven-week courses aim to prepare children for the challenges of the future and can be adopted into their school curriculum to supplement teaching or used as an after-school activity.

Pupils will come together every week in groups of eight and meet in a purpose-built virtual classroom with a tutor.

The courses will follow a flipped learning method for which pupils must come prepared to speak and engage in the lesson.

Gems Education will be among the schools to introduce the new courses this academic year.

Pupils will be able to choose from a self-study model, where they will be given study material that they work through on their own, or a taught course. 

The self-study model costs $59 (Dh217) while the seven-week course taught by a tutor costs $399 (Dh1466).

“We have been targeting international schools and are working actively in Hong Kong and in South East Asia,” Ms Whitaker said.

Pupils enrolled in the programme will be able to interact with peers from across the globe and learn to work in multicultural teams at an early age. 

Ms Whitaker said the programme aim to prepare pupils for the workforce upon graduation from university.

“Technology is changing jobs and industries and if you just focus on technical knowledge that can quickly become outdated.

“Students will need to have skills such as collaboration to deal with those changes,” she said.

Alan Williamson, chief executive at education provider Taaleem, said, personal tutoring has proven to be more popular among pupils than e-learning in UAE.

“Schools in Dubai are innovative and use technology for study support, independent learning and homework.”

He said many renowned international brands have tried to establish themselves in the UAE using e-platforms but have struggled to gain traction. 

“There are a large number of curriculums on offer in the UAE and the challenge for e-learning platforms is how to match their offering to different curriculums.”

He said that despite this, the programme would be teaching pupils valuable skills.

“It is vital for pupils to learn soft skills as we live in a global society where they will be expected to work across continents, customs and cultures.”

He said children can learn independently and collectively using technology but e-learning works best when properly directed and monitored by a teacher who knows the child and understands the gaps in their knowledge.