Bahrain Bayan School Chairperson Dr. May Al Otaibi speaks exclusively with Durrah about the school’s commitment to environmental sustainability and innovation.
“More than just an accomplishment for the school, this is a national achievement for Bahrain."
Congratulations on winning the 2018 Zayed Future energy Prize. Can you tell us a little about the Project your students Created that won them the Competition?
It is a sustainable energy project called EcoLab 360 that involves installing a 50kW solar photovoltaic system, a 1kW wind turbine, a 25kW/192kWh battery storage system, a greywater recycling system (25,000-30,000 litres/month) and a food waste recycling system (six tonnes/ year) at the school campus. The platform also aims to educate students on sustainable practices and technology, which revolve around five key pillars — reduce, reuse, recycle, raise awareness, and renewable energy. Winning was a very pleasant surprise because we were competing against so many countries. More than just an accomplishment for the school, this is a national achievement for Bahrain. We are looking forward to using the project as a platform to build awareness about environmental and sustainability issues.
There were more than 2,000 submissions from over 100 countries for this edition of the Prize. what do you believe are the Factors that gave BBS students the edge to win it?
I think passion, motivation, and dedication were the biggest factors. The students worked tirelessly on this project; they even came in after school and on weekends. What makes their achievement even more incredible is that they worked on the project during Ramadan while they were fasting. I believe they put in so much effort because they genuinely care about the project and the issues that surround it.
The win demonstrates that your students care passionately about the environment. what steps does bbs take to be more environmentally friendly?
In February this year, we built a greenhouse on campus where students of all ages can learn more about agriculture and horticulture. Taking care of the plants teaches them responsibility and allows them to see the results of their hard work blossom. The greenhouse, which is 7x12.5 metres, is filled with a variety of fruits, and vegetables as well as, shrubs, trees, and plants. Some of the plants include Ixora, golden ficus, aloe vera, neem, Indian jasmine, caesalpinia, and jatropha.
What other achievements have BBS students accomplished over the years? Can you give us a few notable examples?
Many schools have Model United Nations (MUN) programmes, which teach students about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. After many years of hard work, BayMUN became the first THIMUN (The Hague International Model United Nations) affiliated MUN in the country and we hosted the Kingdom’s first THIMUN conference in 2014. The conference has grown to become the school’s biggest event of the year and it attracts students from schools across the island and beyond. Another achievement was winning the Formula One in Schools Technology Challenge in Bahrain. Our students designed and manufactured miniature race cars out of balsa wood using computer-aided 3D design software. F1 in Schools has helped change perceptions of technology, science, mathematics, and engineering by creating a fun and exciting learning environment for students.
BBS has educated thousands of students since its establishment in 1982. what motivated you to open it back then?
My friend Kathleen Acher Kaiksow and I noticed there were no private, non-profit, bilingual, national schools in Bahrain at the time, which is why we decided to start our own. We just wanted to open a nursery that taught both English and Arabic, we had no idea it would grow to become one of the Kingdom’s most prestigious schools. Initially, it was a pre-school for KG1 and KG2 and we only had 40 students. Kathleen left after a year but the school’s success continued to grow, which lead to a gradual expansion of the curriculum and grade levels. The school was a labour of love, built with passion and a strong sense of community, which remains unchanged to this day. Our goal is to develop internationally minded students with confidence
in their abilities and a desire to embrace their responsibilities as national and global citizens.
Would you say that your ambitions for the education sector in the kingdom have been fulfilled? Or is there more to be done?
I think the Kingdom’s education sector has come a very long way but there is always room for improvement. By developing curriculums, modernising schools, and improving the quality of teachers, we can ensure that students excel and realise their full potential. In addition, I believe we need to work on developing a stronger sense of Bahraini identity and citizenship. We are incredibly fortunate that His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, and the Economic Development Board (EDB) are working hard to achieve these goals.
How would you describe the evolution of BBS students From the school’s early days to today? are there major differences between students back then and now? And are they positive changes?
I don’t think the students have changed, but the country’s needs certainly have. In the past, Bahrain’s prominent industries were business, medicine, and finance but the focus has recently shifted to other areas such as engineering, technology, and tourism. The school’s aim remains the same – to prepare students for the jobs of the future by equipping them with the skills they need to excel.
What would you identify as the main obstacle standing in the way of students achieving their full potential today?
I think motivation is often the biggest obstacle because students who are unmotivated won’t participate in class, retain information, or learn effectively. At Bahrain Bayan School, all of our students are highly motivated, passionate, andcompetitive, which are important qualities both academically and in life.
Can you tell us about the upcoming kindergarten? Is there any unique concept behind it? What should we expect in terms of programmes, architecture, etc.?
I’m proud to say it is a state-of-the-art green building, built to the highest standards. There is a garden on the roof where kids can learn about the environment and take daily gardening classes. We are also creating a space where students can learn more about Bahrain’s history, which is painted on the walls in acrylic. We will teach a broad variety of subjects, including theatre, which we encourage from pre-school until high school. We will also teach presentation skills and public speaking, which build confidence and life-long communication skills.
What are the school’s plans going forward? Are there any future plans you can share with us?
The school is steering away from traditional learning methods and ‘cookie cutter’ applications, which is why we are implementing an Innovation Hub. The state-of-the-art facility will provide hands-on learning opportunities and technology integration. It will house CNC machines and 3D printers, as well as a fully equipped robotics lab and a Vex Lab. The Innovation Hub will also include a digital Research Centre, which will be open for public membership in 2019.