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Nasser Vocational Training Centre

Tom Tuohy looks at a pioneering school in Bahrain that is punching well above its weight.

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When it comes to new educational initiatives, few people think of Bahrain as a leader in the field, a country with only 1.4 million citizens. However, one school that stands out is Nasser Vocational Training Centre (NVTC), a new initiative of the Bahraini Government under the umbrella of the Bahraini Royal Charity Organization. In cooperation with Abu Dhabi Vocational Education & Training Institute (ADVETI), the Centre was established by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in 2014 and offers Mechanical, Electrical and Technical engineering courses to Bahraini boys in an English as a medium of instruction setting.

Partnering with Tamkeen, a semi-government organization, NVTC is also currently the only Bahraini school that has vocational specific goals for its students. This is part of the Bahrainization initiative to replace the many foreign workers in its industries with its highly technically qualified citizens. NVTC also provides On the Job Training (OJT) with prominent local Bahraini companies as well as training in English as an International Language Testing System (IELTS) for its final year students. Most of the teachers are British with QTS and all students study for either the Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) or the Key English Test (KET).

There are currently about 600 of students in three cohort levels: grades 10-12. I sat down with some of the teaching and management staff to get a sense of what makes the school unique.

Unique Aspects

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Karen Kudick has been teaching at the school since it opened and is now the English Department Lead Teacher. “The strength of the program is that it adequately prepares students for entering either the workforce or to join a university. This program allows students to be internationally certified in engineering.” In addition, students receive 2 hours of Health & Safety training per week from a British company, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB). Of the current Grade 12 cohort, 50% are expected to enter university and the remaining 50% enter industry or the military upon graduation.

Every student enrolled also receives a monthly stipend of 50 Bahraini Dinars (GBP 106) as well as a dedicated I-pad. The school itself uses an Apple based system with Apple TVs in every classroom and where the lessons are presented using I-pads as a learning tool. The students take the I-pads home to do homework and also keep the I-pads after graduation. High achieving students also get a chance to visit the UK over the summer on an all-expenses paid trip.

H.H. Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Opening Day

Student motivation

Dr. Angel Afolabi has also been at the school since the beginning and is the Lead Teacher for Maths and Science. She describes why the students are so motivated. “High achievers are awarded with a fully funded trip to the UK during the summer. After our first trip to the UK, student motivation in school increased dramatically.” With 6 weeks of OJT in the final year, students also have an opportunity of a job in industry immediately after graduation. They also receive a company stipend throughout this period. “This volume of student work sponsorship is new to both our students and the companies here in Bahrain. We now have sponsorship with companies such as of Gramco, Bapco, Asry, COMSIP, and Alba”, she said.

Another reason why students are so motivated is that after every midterm test, the best performing students are placed in higher level classes thereby they get to compete with students of similar academic abilities. Mr. Nabih Aziz is the Academic Vice Principal at NVTC having previously managed successful academic programs for ADVETI in Abu Dhabi. “We believe this approach works best as it keeps the students motivated to work hard to achieve the highest results. It also enables our teachers to tailor their lessons to students of similar abilities.”

While Bahrain may be a small nation, it is clear it has ambitious plans for the future of its young citizens.

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