SISD Principal Ruth Burke, who came on board in September 2021, is a passionate and inspiring educator, with a career spanning more than three decades – teaching in Ireland, the UK and the UAE. During her career, Ruth has driven her schools to receive Outstanding ratings from the KHDA, and has a deep understanding of the International Baccalaureate education programme, which aims to develop students’ intellectual, emotional, personal and social skills ready for a globalised world.
Having served as a principal at three Dubai schools – Jumeirah English Speaking School, GEMS Wellington International School and Deira International School, Dubai, during the last 13 years, Ruth has almost unrivalled experience of what it means to teach and manage schools in a truly multicultural environment.
Her achievements include improving academic outcomes, increasing attainment for UAE nationals, developing better parent/teacher communications, transparency and engagement, and achieving improvements across the board at all her schools.
Ruth holds a Bachelor of Education degree with Honours from Trinity College, Dublin and a Masters in Educational Leadership and Management from the UK’s University of Bath.
Please tell us about the school’s values?
Swiss International School Dubai (SISD) is unique; it’s unique in lots of ways – we are one of the only IB World Schools globally, we are amongst only a few bilingual schools in the world, and we are a Swiss boarding school set in a desert in the Middle East! Our values underpin these unique elements of the school; bilingualism, excellence, sustainability and togetherness. Our bilingual programmes bring together four of the world’s most spoken languages and provide students with exposure and an opportunity to acquire high level language skills.
As a Swiss School, we aspire to the high levels of academic and pastoral excellence that these schools are best known for. Our facilities and campus environment are also world-class. Our students and staff believe that social, cultural, economic and environmental awareness prepare us to play our part in shaping a better future, both for ourselves and for those around us. The school campus is eco-friendly, winning international acclaim and awards for using less energy to create a comfortable and healthy environment. Finally, together we make a difference, and we are avid supporters of active participation and engagement by staff, students, parents and the wider community in all that we do.
Tell us more about your concept of a ‘global citizen’?
The ethos and principles of our school curriculum, the IB, is about developing global citizens, and at Swiss International School this is an integral part of everyday school life. We want our students to understand the dynamics of different cultures, religions and nationalities, and equally to embrace these and recognise that this is normal and real world. We want them to care about the environment, to care about our future habitats, to stand up for big issues, and to be global changemakers.
The IB provides us with a framework to equip students with the skills and mindsets to be able to do this confidently and passionately, and we are immensely proud of this. From the age of 3 years, our students are taught to be principled, risk takers, good communicators, team players and empathetic – all skills that we know will support the success of the next generation.
How does sustainability fit in with the ‘international’ lifestyle of many pupils?
The consequences of climate change do not look the same around the world and affect communities very differently. The ‘international’ lifestyle our students lead allows them to broaden their horizons and gain awareness and sensitivity about how sustainability differs in other parts of the world. While some parts of the world suffer warmer summer days, others are being completely flooded. Additionally, certain aspects of living a sustainable lifestyle are not accessible to some communities and having that knowledge allows them to approach sustainability with compassion and open-mindedness.
Do you think Swiss International School Dubai pupils are more eco-aware than other schools’ pupils?
Being one of our core values, Sustainability permeates every aspect of our pupils’ days; it is webbed into the curriculum and is a topic that our students are very passionate about, routinely researching and presenting on. This new generation are uniquely sensitive and knowledgeable about climate change, and I believe our students do go that extra mile and are offered the resources and knowledge to excel in that area.
Sustainability is discussed and taught in all classes from PreKG upwards, so it is a concept that all students relate to and we are keen that students understand their role in making a difference, not only in school but also in the outside world.
Could you tell us about recycled shoes that pupils can wear as part of their uniform?
We were delighted to be leading the way with this fashion initiative for school uniform! We had been following the Thaely concept for a while, and we saw an opportunity to allow our students to have access to these shoes as part of our school uniform. The Thaely shoes are made from recycled plastic carrier bags, plastic bottles, and rubber. Since the launch, the shoes have helped divert more than 48,000 plastic bottles and more than 40,000 plastic bags from landfills – every time our students wear the shoes, they are reminded of their contribution to society.
The design of this school is simply incredible, could you tell us more about it?
SISD is proud to be a pioneer in the development of a better educational environment!
We worked with various prestigious organisations to develop the first ever purpose-built infrastructure in a desert climate to meet Minergie standards: EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Sorane S.A., Archilab S.A. and Minergie. The school is an eco-friendly campus, meeting the highest standards of energy consumption; this benefits student well-being, providing a healthy and comfortable environment that supports learning, and helps students achieve their full potential.
The building is designed as a high-grade envelope with the best air tightness and the highest insulation standards, to reduce air loss as well as heat transfer. At the same time, the light transmission is optimized to reduce electricity consumption. The school was also awarded the DEWA Conservation award, in the category “Education establishment that implements Energy Efficacy Technologies”, because of our economic and innovative way of minimising water consumption.
One of the major draws to your school is boarding, could you tell us more about that and why Swiss International School Dubai’s boarding stands out?
Our boarding proposition is certainly unique in many ways! It is a world-class and premium boarding experience, situated in one of the most dynamic, safe and exciting cities in the world. The school is strategically located to appeal to families from both Europe, Asia and Africa, and is located only 15 minutes from the largest travel hub in the world, Dubai airport. A mixture of superb facilities, purpose-built luxury boarding accommodation and the beautiful Middle East weather makes Dubai a very exciting and premium place to board. Needless to say the activities on offer in Dubai also make it a teenage dream boarding destination – water parks, theme parks, deserts, malls and beaches and lots more! Cultural experiences and appreciation of the local culture is also important, and we provide our students with the opportunity to experience local events, cultural attractions and to understand the country in which they live.
We also offer a wide range of fitness, sport and fun enrichment activities to ensure all our boarding students are engaged and challenged and making long-lasting memories! Skills developed in boarding are certainly skills for life – collaboration, independence, time-management and community cohesion – all great preparation for university too. Our expert team ensure that all elements of student wellbeing and academic development are supported to ensure the students achieve their full potential.