Thursday Thoughts | The Downe House DNA

23 June 2022

An enormous advantage of being partnered with Downe House School in the UK is the opportunity to draw upon over 100 years of experience educating girls and developing a school that offers the best experience for its pupils. We call this the Downe House DNA and if you want to learn more about what this means for day to day school life, please visit the Downe House DNA Podcast where you can hear first hand experiences from members of the Downe House community.

The diagram here outlines the characteristics valued highly and fostered within the Downe House DNA. So how does this DNA translate to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? An important part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is the Human Capability Development Program which:

“.. focuses on developing a solid educational base for all citizens to instil values from an early age, while preparing the youth for the future local and global labour market.”
Vision 20301

At the heart of the educational strand of Vision 2030 is the commitment to developing skills for the 21st Century workplace whilst continuing to foster the strong values of the Kingdom and the Arabic language. At Downe House Riyadh we take the best of the British curriculum, the characteristics that embody our DNA and merge these seamlessly with the teaching of the Arabic language, Islamic and Social Studies. We develop the characteristics of our DNA in both the examined curriculum and our vibrant co-curricular offer. Opportunities to develop character are found in lessons, playing team games, solving problems and in wider school life from student council to House competitions. We believe it is the job of teachers to provide pupils with opportunities to problem-solve in small groups, undertake research independently and deliver presentations to the class. These are all chances for pupils to learn how to get along with other people in groups, learn about their own strengths as a member of a team, hone their leadership skills and develop confidence.

I am particularly inspired by Objective 2 of the Human Capability Development Program which is to ‘foster the values of mastery and discipline’. Mastery of any subject or skill requires a good deal of discipline and a willingness to sometimes fail along the way. At Downe House Riyadh we believe there is no better place to fail along the way to mastery than in the safe confines of a warm and caring classroom. There is something to be said for the disciplined approach to working hard and practising often, even when you feel that progress is slow or non-existent. Leonard (1992)2 wrote of the ‘mastery curve’ and it has since been visualised as per the diagram shown here.3 What strikes me is the similarities between the ideal of encouraging mastery and those characteristics in the Downe House DNA such as resilience and aspiration.

We are excited to embark on this ambitious educational journey with you and, together, provide our pupils with an enviable education.


Adele O’Doherty

Head of School, Downe House Riyadh

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