Online solution to a common problem for international schools

Concerned about various pressures on staff and students, Deira International School (DIS) in Dubai had been looking for a learning platform to support Year 10 and 11 (G9 & 10) GCSE and IGCSE students.  Linda Parsons, electronic learning coordinator and science teacher at DIS explains the solutions the school found.

International teacher turnover and learning

We all know that the turnover of teachers in international schools is high. The European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and Council of International Schools (CIS) annual survey* of their member schools showed a turnover rate of 14.4 per cent. While teacher turnover is inevitable and an appropriate degree of teacher mobility is healthy, it can leave the students without a solid learning foundation: with each new teacher comes a different teaching style, varying expectations and their own favoured learning technologies.

Student controlled learning

For this reason, at my current school in Dubai, we encourage our students, to a certain extent, to take control of their own learning: we wanted to flip the traditional learning structure of the teacher leading the learning. In this way, students not only learn the important life skills of autonomy and taking responsibility of their own outcomes, but this also removes the potential of a negative effect of the transition period between new teachers. Like many international schools we have a very wide variety of nationalities, and with students coming to us from so many different countries with different apporaches to learning, there is always a wide span of competency levels. In this situation access to some kind of on-line learning really helps with ‘catch up’.

On-line support for learning

In particular, DIS wanted an online resource that covered all areas of the GCES and IGCSE curriculums which the students could use to drive their own learning. It had to be something that could be used before a lesson to ‘get ahead’, consolidate the learning content delivered by the teacher, and be used as homework as a revision tool. Having this resource to supplement their classroom-based development ensured that the learning experience for all our students was standardised, regardless of the teacher or aptitude of the student.


Having researched the field, we found that the resource that suited our specific needs best was called GCSEPod which provides learning content for each curriculum area in the format of a video ‘pod’. With our students growing up in the YouTube era we could see that the short, three to five-minute audio-visual ‘pods’ that explain the various learning concepts provided an ideal homework and learning resource. Watching the videos our students were able to make links and connections and frequently identify real life scenarios where a learning concept is relevant. Having done a ‘dry run’ with Maths, we opened up to other in other subject areas.


At the start of each new topic either the teacher or the students themselves create a playlist of videos that will facilitate their learning. We found that their naturally curious and inquisitive nature has meant they have often already watched many of the videos on the lists, and already  coming to a lesson with a strong level of understanding that the teachers can build on –  flipped learning that is taking our standards to new heights.


While we welcome this flipped, student led approach to learning, the powerful diagnostic reports associated with GCSEPod give us the information about any areas where a student may need additional support. One student, Aya Yassin, recently arrived at the school in year 9 having missed a lot of the chemistry curriculum. Despite being provided with textbooks and worksheets her chosen method of learning and reviewing the material was GCSEPod. In the topic of Metals and the Reactivity series, she achieved a 95 per cent pass mark!

Flexible learning for busy lifestyles

By turning our adoption of technology on its head, we have moved from having our teachers dictating when technology is used, to a place where we have self-motivated students proactively using a platform to learn content in their own time. Their natural curiosity drives them proactively to structure their own learning and revision, which leaves us to ensure they have an in-depth understanding with far fewer knowledge gaps – despite the many changes that international living can bring.


Linda Parsons is the electronic learning coordinator and a science teacher at Deira International School, a British Curriculum secondary school in Dubai Festival City.

* The European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and Council of International Schools (CIS) annual survey conducted for the 2005/6 school year.



Feature Image: Muhammad – Pixabay