Having extensive experience in both Swiss international schools abroad and some of the most prestigious boarding school brand names in his native Switzerland, Beat Sommer was always going to be an almost ‘perfect’ choice to launch what must certainly be one of Dubai’s most unique schools.
The Swiss International Scientific School Dubai, the city’s first premium bilingual IB curriculum offering a truly European education here in the Middle East, offers French, German and English Language IB curricula based on the PYP and MYP programmes.
The intention is that SISD will ultimately offer the IB curriculum to the Diploma level in French and English, the Swiss Matura and potentially act as a testbed for a German language IB Diploma.
With Sommer at the helm, the school has navigated a successful launch with over 350 admissions in the first year, and in 2016 with the addition of Grades 8 and 9 to the school and growth of the Primary school, 650 students now attend the school. The addition of a Boarding School option in 2017 will add a further dimension.
The premium-plus school appears to be right-on-track despite its highly specialised and ‘niche’ curriculum AND these somewhat turbulent financial times. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believes this is no small part due to its founding-principal Sommer.
How long have you worked in the UAE?
I have been working in Dubai since August 2014, when I joined the founding team of the Swiss International Scientific School.
What made you choose the education sector?
I have chosen education as a career because I believe that educating young minds is a privilege and that it is the most important function in our societies. I am passionate about working with young people and feel honoured to impact the next generation. Education is a reflective practice, there is never an end-point to being a better educator and I see this lifelong journey as both enticing and invigorating.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the industry in the UAE?
The last several years have witnessed a tremendous surge in the number of schools across the UAE. More and more schools provide the same services and it has become particularly important to provide a unique curriculum with the highest quality standards in academics and campus life. The transient nature of the UAE’s population makes for an additional challenge with respect to teacher retention, a key factor of quality and continuity.
What are the key milestones in your career so far?
My most significant achievement has been to occupy the position of Head of School at three outstanding day and boarding schools in Switzerland and now in the United Arab Emirates. This has given me the opportunity to further develop and sometimes turn around existing schools, but most importantly to create a new school from nothing but a plot of sand and an inspiring vision. For any education professional, these are truly wonderful endeavors.
What do you think is your greatest achievement, in education, to date - and why?
I can state without hesitation that my greatest achievement has been the successful launch of a brand new premium school here in Dubai. In the current global economic environment and taking into account the stark competition amongst schools in the UAE, I am particularly happy that we have managed to create a school committed to the highest quality standards in such a short period of time. Our excellent team at SISD has made this a particularly enriching experience.
Name three things which get you up and motivate you each day?
This one is easy!
What would you still like to achieve in your professional life?
Ideally, I would like to have the time, energy and resources to set-up my own unique dream school!
What is your advice for others hoping to emulate your success?
My main advice to young professionals would be to always remain open to new opportunities and believe in your strengths while keeping an open mind and facing challenges with a sense of humour.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of working in education?
Without doubt, the main source of pleasure throughout my career has been to accompany children on their learning journey, contributing positively to their daily development and hopefully providing them with a happy memory of their life at school.