The British International School Abu Dhabi’s (BIS Abu Dhabi) Head of English Sara Brazier’s excitement is palatable.
It’s clear that – and quite rightly so – she has lots of respect for the students who are participating in the Model United Nations (MUN) programme, a handful of whom (pre-pandemic) headed to New York, and at the time of writing are heading to Vietnam – virtually of course – as delegates.
The MUN programme is an academic simulation of the United Nations whereby students play the role of delegates from different countries and attempt to solve real world issues with the policies and perspectives of their assigned country.
It is a programme in which all Nord Anglia schools (of which BIS Abu Dhabi belongs) take part.
The programme presents a steep learning curve for the students and in the process teaches a host of academic skills, as well instilling confidence.
Sara explains how committees are set up and a head assigned.
Chair people then decide on the topics to be debated within a specific committee.
Students are then tasked with writing position papers, opening speeches, before going on to debate issues within the committee, taking on the persona of a delegate from the country they’ve been assigned.
Clearly it challenges students who have to not only research, but also empathise with specific views.
The biggest challenge, however, is to students’ own thinking, since the programme often provides an opportunity to explore a viewpoint that is contrary to their own.
One such student will be taking on the viewpoint of China, debating the political climate of Hong Kong in the latest MUN conference, which is taking place in Vietnam, virtually.
“The student expressed his dislike of China,” explains Sara. “However, I persuaded him that this particular debate is going to be really interesting for him, whether or not he agrees with the policies of China. Taking a look at the other side of that is a really valuable skill. I am happy to report that the student is sticking to representing China.”
Year 12 students at the school actually run the programme, with Sara overseeing it.
There are a group of nine, Year 12 students who have three committees, with three students running each committee.
In a weekly meeting with Sara, sessions are planned with delegates, who run the programme with Year Seven to Year 11.
The programme is optional and, according to Sara, has grown exponentially.
She recounts how in the early days with just four students, the school headed to a MUN delegation for the first time, not really knowing what to expect.
“We were going into it almost blind. However, the four students did spectacularly well.
We had one student that year who got up on stage at a high-level political forum meeting in front of Andrew Fitzmaurice, Chief Executive Officer of Nord Anglia and other notables from UNICEF, and debated in front of hundreds of people.”
Sara’s pride and excitement for the students’ work is again palpable as she explains how she has 50 students participating in MUN.
“It’s a wow moment for me when I’ve got all 50 of them online, I’ve got 10 in one room, debating the political situation in Hong Kong and another 10 debating child migration.
For me, it’s amazing to watch these students who actually at the beginning of the year, didn’t even know what MUN stood for.
Now they’re sat together and there are students who are aged 11 debating with students who are 17, 18 about things going on in the world. I think that’s really valuable life skills.”
For more information about the British International School Abu Dhabi, visit nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/abu-dhabi