Home LearningExcellence In...Schools Achieving Excellence Together

Achieving Excellence Together

by Eddie Rayner

The new Misk Schools campus within Mohammed Bin Salman Nonprofit City in Riyadh will open this summer, with the 21-hectare site comprising nine school buildings for male and female students aged 4 to 18.

“Children will enjoy opportunities like nowhere else in the world,” says Dr Steffen Sommer, Director General at Misk Schools. “The new campus will enhance their learning and understanding, and, most importantly, the facilities are designed to complement and enhance, on a practical level, the teaching our students receive in all subjects.”

This is extremely welcome news for those in the capital and surrounding areas who are looking for a positive, vibrant and meaningful education delivered in the most inspirational buildings in the region. But as Dr Sommer acknowledges, world-class facilities on their own do not make for a world-class education, commenting: “They can add to it in an extraordinary fashion, but only if all other systems in the school are effective and designed to support, care for and teach the children in a modern and innovative style. At Misk Schools, this is exactly the case, with the entire school designed for interdisciplinary learning in small groups at all levels, which is revolutionary in the region, and exceedingly rare internationally.”

Misk Schools’ vision is to be a top institution for leadership, enabling students to serve their nation and the planet, with Dr Sommer explaining: “Our vision, and that of the Misk Foundation, is completely aligned with Vision 2030; we are at the forefront, making a unique contribution in the field of education for the whole of Saudi Arabia.”

“The new Misk Schools campus is the physical realisation and, with it, the practical epitome, of KSA’s vision for 2030”

Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow
The campus has been designed to support Misk Schools’ curriculum focus on creative thinking and leadership development through personalised life pathways. Its light-filled teaching and learning spaces are flexible, supporting the school’s commitment to fit the curriculum to the child, not the child to the curriculum – a promise delivered through one-to-one mentoring and a 1:5 teacher-to-student ratio. “We are educating the whole person with a focus on academic excellence and a varied multi-facetted extra-curricular programme that has at its core a plethora of opportunities at all levels,” Dr Sommer says. “We are the first and only High-Performance-Learning school in the Kingdom, for we believe that all students can and will be high achievers. With this in mind, Misk Schools provides highly specialised and fully accredited post-graduate training for Saudi teachers in order to develop local talent and help create a generation of Saudi teachers that are amongst the best in the world.”

The facilities are indeed impressive, with the 110,000m2 of buildings being eco-friendly and highly digitally connected. Kindergarten (incorporating Pre-Kindergarten) is followed by Lower Primary, Upper Primary, Middle and Senior Schools, which are segregated with mirrored facilities for boys and girls. Each school features academic classrooms, a library, art and design studios, science and food technology labs, Arabic culture hubs, an IT suite and a music room. Each also has a kitchen in support of the schools’ ‘farm-to-table’ initiative.

“The design goes far above and beyond what could ever be required by a school in any country and in any education system – indeed, it has no precedent internationally”

As students mature, the specification of facilities becomes more sophisticated. “In STEM, older students have access to specialised, multidisciplinary workshops for coding and robotics, as well as mechanical, electrical, systems and control engineering (mechatronics),” Dr Sommer says.
“In culture and the arts, there are filmmaking and digital editing suites, plus two black box theatres complete with high-tech audio-visual production hubs and lighting rigs, while the culinary arts are supported by a Master Chef-style kitchen.”

Whole school facilities include three professional-style auditoriums (the largest of which can seat up to 850) and an exhibition gallery for cultural showcases. A total of 29 Summer Olympic sports are catered for, together with e-sports. Included are specialist academies for golf, go-karting, and equestrian. Alongside 25m and 50m Olympic swimming pools, there is a learn-to-swim pool, a sports hall with 12 multi-purpose courts, a gymnastics hall, two FIFA standard synthetic grass football pitches and two 400m Olympic athletics tracks. In addition, there are numerous outdoor and indoor areas for low-impact exercise, all set in a landscaped environment planted with over 1,000 trees.

New Campus Has No Precedent Internationally
The new campus will deliver a progressive student experience that benefits from innovative learning spaces and facilities that have set a benchmark for schools throughout the world. “The design goes far above and beyond what could ever be required by a school in any country and in any education system – indeed, it has no precedent internationally,” says Dr Sommer.

“The entire school is designed for interdisciplinary learning in small groups at all levels,” he continues, “which is revolutionary in the region, and exceedingly rare throughout the world. Coupled with our High-Performance-Learning teaching and learning philosophy, which encourages and enables project- and enquiry-based learning as standard, our approach fosters the development of 21st-century skills, providing optimal preparation for entry into leading universities and the job market.”

The facilities are indeed impressive, with the 110,000m2 of buildings being eco-friendly and highly digitally connected

Direct Access to Leading Universities
Misk Schools’ mission is to instil in young people the knowledge, values and skills they need to become leaders of themselves, of others, and in their field of study.

“Our core philosophy is simple and revolves around educating the future leaders of Saudi Arabia and the world, giving them an international outlook while following the Kingdom’s own value system,” Dr Sommer says. “We look to cultivate a developing child’s physical, emotional, moral, psychological and spiritual attributes, focusing on academic excellence and a multi-faceted extra-curricular programme.”

With an individual class size of no more than 15, Misk Schools provides a very personalised approach to education and is the go-to school for leadership, the teaching of which is fully integrated into the curriculum at all levels.
An innovative school at the forefront of education, Misk Schools offers its own Diploma, which students receive at the end of their studies in Grade 12. It meets international standards of the highest order, covering all areas required for the four-year transcript, including internships in industry and commerce. The Diploma’s rigour and design provide direct access to top Saudi, US, Canadian, UK and other universities worldwide.

A New Age of Education
Unquestionably, technology has transformed life as we know it, and the classroom looks much different than it did even ten years ago. Educational technology offers instant access to information and a wide range of learning opportunities, which is why its presence in the classroom is vital, and why Misk Schools has invested in the finest systems available.
“Each classroom and each laboratory is equipped with the highest standard of IT equipment, and there are AI teaching and learning facilities in all academic departments,” Dr Sommer explains.
“There is a specialised AI learning and programming space designed and equipped by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) where teaching is supported by specialised staff from SDAIA and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), as well as a learning space designed by the Education & Training Evaluation Commission (ETEC).

“In addition, there is an e-sports suite that has been designed by specialists in the field, with the subject being taught as part of the curriculum.”

A total of 29 Summer Olympic sports are catered for, together with e-sports.

Misk Schools is committed to sustainable development too and believes it is important to prepare young people for the future in a healthy and forward-looking environment, with Dr Sommer saying: “A lot has been done in the way of sustainability. There are cooling towers for cooling the outside spaces to economise on air conditioning and all buildings are exceptionally well insulated. Light infusion has been maximised and heat penetration minimised. Similarly, natural shade has been maximised by an optimal physical arrangement of the buildings. Plenty of shade is provided by an abundance of trees and plants.”

Opportunities for All
Students enjoy a whole array of opportunities at Misk Schools, not only STEM but also the arts, which many schools tend to relegate to a secondary position. This is acknowledged by Dr Sommer, who speaks of the many different career pathways available nowadays, not just the more traditional ones. “There is an abundance of opportunities for girls and boys of all ages to engage in drama, music and dance using our 850-seater state-of-the-art theatre, our music facilities and so forth. All Misk Schools’ students learn to play at least one musical instrument and many of the 11 Cultural Commissions of the Saudi Ministry of Culture are also provided for within the main curriculum, such as the culinary arts and fashion.”

This approach to the arts underlines the ‘opportunities for all’ commitment within the Saudi Vision 2030, as do the school’s sports facilities, which include up-to-the-minute fitness studios, used extensively to underpin and support Misk Schools’ healthy-body-healthy-mind programme for students, together with a nutritious food provision and tailor-made food services in keeping with individualised fitness regimes.

The healthy-body-healthy-mind programme is equally applicable to staff who need to set the best example to students in the way of healthy living.

Leadership in All Subjects
Extra-curricular activities often make powerful contributions to students’ well-being, their sense of connection to the school community and their engagement in academics. This is why, Dr Sommer explains, Misk Schools offer a plethora of co-curricular activities that span far-reaching academic activities such as preparation for national and international Olympiads, sporting activities in team and individual sports for boys and girls, including football, basketball, cricket, rugby, horse riding, golf, go-karting, e-sports and swimming.

Furthermore, the school also offers outward-bound-type activities, as well as other pursuits such as chess, business acumen and public speaking. The programme is revised and renewed every year taking into account the students’ suggestions and wishes.

The campus has been designed to support Misk Schools’ curriculum focus on creative thinking and leadership development through personalised life pathways

Aligned with the National Vision
It is widely accepted that parental involvement is effective in supporting children’s learning overall and at Misk Schools parents play an important role.

“We have a Director of Parent Engagement whose prime responsibility it is to inform, engage and involve parents in all things academic, ensuring their full understanding of the curriculum and how its components link into each other,” says Dr Sommer. “She is also responsible for the parents’ full understanding of our welfare system and their role in it, as well as our safeguarding policies, procedures and expectations. In addition, she manages parental feedback, which is gathered regularly and responded to.

“We have a parents representative committee where each year group is represented. The principals of the schools meet the members of their respective parent-representative committees on a regular basis to discuss all aspects relating to the school and their children’s experiences. The members are given space and time in school to regularly meet the parents in their year groups for discussions and exchanges so they are always optimally informed of what is on parents’ minds.”

Better Education Develops the Nation
As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) acknowledges: ‘Saudi Arabia has embarked upon an unprecedented reform agenda known as Vision 2030, which aims to create a dynamic, diverse and sustainable economy. To meet the demands of a 21st-century, knowledge-based labour market, Saudi Arabia must develop a highly-skilled population, which puts education at the centre of Vision 2030’. Misk Schools is at the vanguard of this quest, with its new campus, opening this August 2023, able to accommodate over 1,000 students.

When asked what has excited him most about the school’s ongoing evolution and the creation of a new campus, Dr Sommer instantly replies: “The new Misk Schools campus is the physical realisation and, with it, the practical epitome, of KSA’s vision for 2030. Our vision and that of the Misk Foundation is completely aligned with the national vision, and at the educational level we are at the forefront of making it happen, not only for our students but for the whole of Saudi Arabia. The magnitude of the task we have undertaken and the reality of what has already been achieved make us proud and give us the energy and drive for what is to come.”

Dr Sommer concludes by saying: “Our children represent our future hopes and dreams, and they deserve the finest education we can provide. At Misk Schools, we believe that every student has the ability to succeed, and we are committed to making a difference in their lives by encouraging them to be open to the boundless opportunities for learning, discovery and achievement.”

Dr Steffen Sommer, Director General of Misk Schools, is a passionate linguist and High Performance Learning expert with over 25 years of leadership experience in Europe and the Middle East. He is Vice Chair of COBIS.

Misk Schools

    • +966 11 821 0900