Meet the Principal, Andreas Swoboda

Andreas Swoboda has taken the helm at the soon to open Emirates National Schools, Dubai. With the campus very nearly ready for the first cohort of students, we wanted to find out about Mr Swoboda and his plans for this sixth branch of the Emirates National Schools group.
Meet the Principal, Andreas Swoboda
By Jenny Mollon
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Emirates National Schools Dubai (ENS) will open in September 2021 in a brand-new campus in the Al Khawaneej area of Dubai. We met with Principal Andreas Swoboda to find out more.

Mr Swoboda, what drew you to a career in Education?

If I am honest, failure! I wanted to be a professional footballer. I was pretty good in my youth, but it wasn’t to be. I went on to study PE and English at university level and then I became a teacher for PE and English. Now, of course, I'm glad it worked out the way it did, I've been a much better teacher than footballer!

Can you tell us about your career to date and how you came to be here in the UAE?

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. I left Germany for Kenya in 1993 and taught German at two local schools. I then I became the Administration Manager of the German School in Nairobi. I stayed in Kenya for eight years, before a new opportunity took me to Singapore. There I had the opportunity to open an International school in addition to the German school I was working for. I was in the right place at the right time and I led the development of the European section of the school. I did that for four years. My next stop was two years school leadership in India. I then had an opportunity to work in back in Germany, in Hamburg. We saw it as a chance for our children to put down some roots! After six years in Hamburg, I went to Madrid, Spain and was Head of School at the International College, Spain in Madrid. Then life brought me to the UAE!

I like the challenge of a living and working in a new place, to me it’s not something to be afraid of. Part of the reason I came to the UAE is that I have never lived in the Middle East and I wanted to get to know the culture. I had visited Dubai a few times but visiting and living here is very different.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe in a democratic leadership style, but then I also believe that there isn’t one single leadership style that works the best. An effective leader has to adapt to suit the situation. Sometimes a transformational leadership style is needed, sometimes a more instructional style. I expect that here I will be a completely different leader than I was in Germany. In Germany, with the Work Council, labour laws and unions I felt like more a lawyer than an educator!

The staff of any school are its biggest asset. They need to nurtured, supported and challenged. It’s important to me to take care of my staff, and at ENS they are going to be a great international mix of exciting and talented teachers. For me, every school leader should also do some teaching. If you have your feet on the ground, you know your school, your students and your team. In Hamburg and Madrid, I taught Theory of Knowledge, I have taught German, English and coached lots of basketball teams!

Mr Swoboda, outside the soon to be completed primary campus of Emirates National Schools, Dubai

Emirates National Schools Dubai has recently opened for registrations. What has the reaction to the school been like?

We have had a very strong interest from the community in a short space of time. In the first year we will be opening from Pre-K to Grade 5 and our secondary campus will open in our second year of operation. We have an appealing curriculum offering, a mix of IB and the US Common Core standards. We have only been open for registrations for a few days and we already have close to 100 students signed up for September, which is incredible!

What does it mean to you to be opening a new school in Dubai’s vibrant education sector?

It’s a great opportunity. I almost can’t describe it! It is a wonderful opportunity to create something and benchmark yourself against other great schools. This is going to be a first-class school with first class facilities.

How will the ENS curriculum be nuanced for the UAE?

We will blend the local requirements with the learner profile attributes of the IB. We are not only talking about academic instruction…we are talking about team work, skills, presentation as well as characters traits like being caring, kind, thoughtful and reflective. That is very important as being reflective is a big part of an IB education.

Why should families choose your school?

We’ll have great facilities and great staff, but what will be most important is the feeling inside the school. Happy teachers make happy students and happy students make for better learning. A great atmosphere alongside the blend of the American curriculum element and the educational methodology and character building of the IB. It’s going to be a wonderful mix and I can see that our Emirati students will go on to add to the future leadership of the UAE.

How do you see the school evolving in the next 5 years?

In five years, I expect we will be at our full capacity of 1500 students in primary and the same number at the secondary campus. It will be a flourishing school in every way… with assemblies, exhibitions, parent seminars and a great selection of after school activities. In fact, well before five years from now, ENS will be a fully fledged school with everything a parent and student could ask for.

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