The British Columbia Canadian School: Hard Hat Tour

Dubai's newest Canadian school will be opening in September, and went along to learn more about both the school and the Canadian education system...
The British Columbia Canadian School: Hard Hat Tour
By C Hoppe
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Let’s be honest, there’s not many parents who know very much about the Canadian education system, and that’s a real shame, because it has rather a lot going for it...

So here’s some quick facts…

The Canadian curriculum is currently tied in 4th place with Finland in the overall 2015 OECD PISA rankings, with the province of British Columbia (BC) the highest rated state within Canada itself.

The country has regionalised its education system, meaning each province is relatively autonomous and controls its own school policy, curriculum and regulation.

The curriculum lies somewhere between the US Common Core and the IB curriculum, with a strong student focus, emphasis on students following their passions and interests and robust examinations at Grades 4, 7 and 12.

In addition, there’s a concerted push from the Canadian government to attract tertiary education students to study in Canada’s universities, this is supported by an expanding system of international schools to work as ‘feeders’ around the globe.

With Trump in the US, and Brexit rumbling on in the UK, Canada’s respected tertiary education system coupled with a will to actively recruit international students, all makes it a rather attractive proposition for parents seeking tertiary education options.


Hoping to tap into the Canadian ‘feel-good-factor’ this year, is the British Columbia Canadian School (BCCS) in Dubai Investment Park.

Set to open in September 2017, the school will accommodate around 1,400 students when complete.

For the school’s inaugural year however, it hopes to open with two KG1 classes and one class per Grade from Grade one to six.

The school is an attractive proposition. To comply with British Columbia (BC) regulations, it is only permitted to employ BC qualified teachers (except in the case of Arabic tuition), all with a mandatory minimum five years’ teaching experience.

There’s also a ‘twinning programme’ endorsed by BC province, which will see the school linked with an elementary school in Chilliwack (a town in the region).

The school pledges to add additional first language provision for every 25 nationals which sign up. (Principal Shaun Merke believes this might well kick-off with Italian, as the school has already signed up numerous Italian families.)

The school will not only be regulated by the KHDA, but will also require certification and regular inspection from the BC government.

But it’s not all about policy, once completed the school will host a good range of ‘premium’ facilities including: science labs, play spaces (indoor and outdoor), large canteen serving hot meals (included in the fees for KG classes), a 25 metre pool and multi-purpose hall (to be completed in Feb 2018), an additional full size gym, dance studio, tennis courts, various ball courts and more…


The school is the second BC curriculum school from Egyptian owner, Karim Mustafa, who already owns the successful British Columbia Canadian International School (BCCIS) in Cairo, Egypt.

A recent BC government inspection of the Cairo school commended the owner for his strong administration team and liked that members of his family were actively involved in supporting the principal and his team.

The BCCS founding principal Shaun Merke arrived in February this year, after nearly three years as principal at BCCIS.

Even from Cairo, Merke says he has been involved in the design process and now ‘in country’ he’s been working with the project team to adapt and develop the building further.


On site, the construction is deceptive. The three- plus storey Secondary section still has a way to go. However, as this will not be utilised until 2019, it will remain unfurnished until required.

The single-storey KG building to the front of the construction is however, nearing completion and will be where the founding students spend the 2017/18 academic year.

Set around a large curvaceous outdoor play-well, the KG building’s large glass fronted classes are modern, bright and inviting.


Interestingly, like its northern neighbours over in Scandinavia, Canada does not actually have a KG curriculum component, preferring children play throughout their younger years and start school at 6 years old.

In the absence of a Canadian KG curriculum, the British Columbian International School, plans to utilise the Creative curriculum for its KG classes.


Priced at AED 35,000 for KG up to AED 54,000 for Grade five and six, BCCS represents really rather good value for the facilities on offer and combined teacher experience.

However, thinks the biggest draw for this school will be the robust curriculum and the tertiary education options once students successfully complete their Grade 12 examinations.

Although BC qualifications are welcomed globally, it will be to Canada that we expect most students to look.

Canada is not short of top university options including: The University of Toronto ranked 22nd globally and the best in Canada, British Columbia University (ranked 36th globally In the Times Education rankings), and McGill University (ranked 42nd this year in the Times Education University Rankings).

While a 'Canadian' curriculum and education may still not be as well known as its British, IB or US counterparts, is certain once Dubai’s parents understand the real ‘pros,’ of the school and the tertiary options it unlocks, it is very unlikely the school will be short of students.

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