We chat to Karim Murcia, the new principal at GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys
Tell us about your background in education?
I gained my first experiences of teaching while I was studying for a BA in French and Arabic at university in London, and I immediately fell in love with the profession. My teaching career began in 2004, in an outstanding school in North London, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to gain a Master’s in Teaching from the Institute of Education during this time. After that I continued my career as Head of Modern Foreign Languages and Senior Leader before becoming Deputy Principal in a newly opened academy, also in London.
I then had the honour of being the founding principal of Eden Girls’ School in Slough, UK, which I led from its opening in 2015. It was a privilege to be a member of the school’s vibrant learning community and see the hard work of staff and pupils recognised in May 2018, when the school was judged as outstanding by Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education]. GCSE Results in 2019 gave the school a Progress 8 score of 1.16 and Attainment 8 score of 61.5, both in the top one per cent of schools in the UK.
What attracted you to GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys (NSB)?
I am very proud to have joined NSB and am excited about maintaining the school’s drive towards becoming an outstanding school and the flagship educational institution for boys in Dubai.
I believe that personal and professional experiences and insights will enable me to develop the school’s values-based approach to education, inspired by the richness of Arabic culture.
I am determined that the school will deliver a world-class, innovative and inclusive offer, ensuring students become successful global citizens with a strong national identity. It is extremely exciting to be at the heart of the UAE National Agenda, striving to meet and exceed ambitious targets in international assessments and GCSE examinations, which our Year 11 students will sit for the first time in the summer next year.
How would you describe your approach to education, and what is your vision for the school?
I believe the pursuit of excellence is based upon the unshakeable belief that every student is unique and special and has the capacity to succeed. My vision is of a safe and happy learning environment where warm and positive relationships and shared high expectations empower students to achieve excellent outcomes as they thrive and develop as leaders. I want leadership to be distributed throughout the whole school, with a range of structures and programmes ensuring pupils are able to express their opinions, shape school developments and take on greater social responsibility as they engage regularly with local, national and world events.
What are the big issues, talking points, challenges and opportunities across the education sector?
One of the major challenges I have faced as a principal has been related to teacher recruitment. This was a particular challenge in the UK where so many teachers leave the profession early with the feeling that their work is not valued. In my new role, I am particularly interested in supporting the wide range of GEMS Education initiatives, such as the Global Teacher Prize and Mariamma Varkey Award, which promote the uniquely important role that teachers perform and their potential for transforming the communities in which they work.
Who do you look to for inspiration, both on a professional and personal level?
My colleagues and students inspire me every day. I admire the members of staff who work tirelessly in their respective roles across the school to provide students with the best possible experiences and go above and beyond to improve the life chances of learners. I am also continuously moved by the resilience of students who, often against all the odds, work tenaciously to achieve their potential and give selflessly to others in their school and wider community. I have seen students overcome a wide range of barriers, including significant socio-economic disadvantages, to achieve incredible educational outcomes and become role models for others.
Tell us one thing about you that your students might be surprised to learn?
I am not sure that students in the school realise that, in addition to my passion for the Arabic language, I also speak French and that I studied and worked in the beautiful city of Paris. I think they would be surprised to learn that I used to walk past the Eiffel Tower every morning on my way to university. I am very much looking forward to sharing my love of languages with the learners in our school and helping them appreciate the many varied and rich benefits gained through the study of language and culture.