Al Faris International School, located in the Al Tawun district of central Riyadh, offers the International Baccalaureate programs to students aged 3 to 18 years.
Established in 2004, Al Faris International School (FIS) is a fully accredited International Baccalaureate World School, receiving approval to offer the IB Diploma Program in 2016 and the Primary Years Program and Middle Years Program in 2017. In addition, the school is accredited by US Schools and Colleges association, Cognia (formerly Advanced) and offers a US High School Diploma to graduates.
FIS has close to 2,400 students of whom approximately 60% are Saudi citizens and the balance from a range of over 25 nationalities. A cornerstone of the IB curriculum is open-mindedness and respect for different beliefs and points of view, and therefore a cornerstone of FIS school policies. Students of all backgrounds and all faiths are welcome.
Asked to define the best qualities and characteristics, the school said “Al Faris International School aims to foster an understanding, intercultural and highly effective learning environment that inspires students to become compassionate, knowledgeable, ethical and socially successful global citizens in a world of differences.”
Mrs. Al Marzouki holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from King Saud University and a Masters' in Education from Rochville University, USA.
Mrs. Al Marzouki states that her Mission for Al Faris International School is "to provide high quality yet affordable education for Riyadh families, which takes advantage of the most advanced and effective resources and produces graduates who are active contributors to the betterment of their local and global communities."
Al Faris International School follows the philosophy and teaching methodology of the International Baccalaureate Organisation which centre on inquiry-based learning, whereby students actively guide the learning process through inquiry and discovery, reflect on their learning and translate knowledge into action. The school has adopted the US Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Math, English and Social Studies, and Next Generation Science Standards for Sciences in terms of content.
The curriculum includes the core subjects of English, math, sciences, social studies/history as well as Arabic, French, computer studies, robotics, art, and physical education.
The Primary Years Program (PYP) is provided to students in PreK to Grade 5, the Middle Years Program (MYP) to those in Grades 6 to 10, and the Diploma Program (DP) to seniors in Grades 11 and 12 (DP Years 1 and 2). The school also offers an accredited American Diploma Program.
The school provides Educational Publishers' McGraw Hill, Pearson and other textbooks and learning resources to meet the Common Core standards. Digital publisher Kognity is used by students in the IB Diploma Program. By merging all of these resources together, FIS ensures that students reach their full learning potential through different learning approaches that build social and emotional learning skills, college and career-ready skills, and enhance problem-solving. This emphasizes the students’ role in the learning process, giving them the autonomy to explore, ask questions and share ideas.
The Language of instruction is English, and, perhaps a little surprisingly, FIS does not provide language support to students who are not fluent in English. It does, however, offer reading classes with specialized reading teachers for Grade 1 to 3 students who require extra reading support.
Technology plays an important part in the school’s delivery – particularly in light of the Covid 19 pandemic. All primary students are required to bring a tablet to school daily which is used for interactive learning activities, access to online reading materials, and student research.
Students can expect to be assigned homework, the volume of which varies between 45 minutes to an hour daily. In addition to the academic program, all students have regular PE classes from KG to Grade 12. In common with all IB curriculum schools, Creativity, Action and Service is a fundamental element of the school's provision and takes place through a range of extracurricular activities and clubs that are offered outside of regular school hours.
These include after school sports and exercise classes, Varsity and junior varsity sports competitions for middle and high school students (as part of FIS’ affiliation with the International Schools Sports League in Riyadh), Model United Nations for Grades 9-12 and CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) which is a requirement of the IB Diploma Program. High school students are expected to be involved in a variety of service activities.
Students wishing to pursue the IB Diploma are required to participate in external examinations through the IB Organisation. MYP students are given the option to complete on-line external examinations to receive the IB MYP certificate. In addition, students are prepared to complete optional SAT examinations through the College Board. FIS is a SAT testing centre.
According to statistics from the 2017-18 academic year, one year prior to the last academic year in which examinations took place as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and the first year in which FIS students took the IB Diploma, FIS students achieved an average point score of 35 (well above the global average) with the highest award for an individual student being 41 points (4 points away from the maximum of 45). The average grade obtained at the school by students who passed the diploma was 5.52/7.
The school did not reveal the number of students who participated in the IB Diploma examinations - always a relevant fact, since a smaller cohort is likely to achieve higher scores than a larger, more inclusive group of students.
According to FIS, 95% of students pursue further education post-graduation, either within Saudi Arabia or the US.
Classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards or “smartboards” which allow the teacher to integrate multi- media presentations, video/audio and website content into his/her teaching, thus providing a stimulating learning experience.
Sports facilities at the school include two swimming pools, indoor and outdoor soccer and basketball courts, a full sized gymnasium, ballet and gymnastics rooms.
In addition to the sports facilities, FIS also offers a canteen to students. Whilst most students bring a packed lunch from home, the canteen offers healthy snacks and food alternatives for special dietary needs (ie. vegan, kosher etc). All food served at the school is halal. There is a strict healthy foods policy with no offering of chips, sweets, sugared drinks, etc. Students are expected to adhere to this policy also with lunches brought from home.
Whilst a long-established school, the introduction of the IB programs in the last five years gives Al Faris International School the opportunity to differentiate itself from other schools in Riyadh in providing a genuinely accredited international curriculum that will appeal to expatriate as well as local families.
It seems that the passion of the owner and Director is directly responsible for this choice. Mrs. Al Marzouki comments on her Linkedin profile, "I am actively involved in service activities, including diabetes and cancer awareness, environmental campaigns, and an ongoing initiative through Al Faris International's IB CAS program to support Jordan's refugee families."
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Fees range from 37,000 SAR in the KG grades to 45,000 SAR for Grades 10 to 12. These are very reasonable fees compared with newer IB schools in the city. There is a one-time Registration Fee of 3,000 SAR.
All students are required to complete an entrance exam. This is usually conducted on-site. Students will be tested on English, math and science knowledge. Entrance exams for the following academic year begin in March each year.
School hours are from 7:15 am, with Pre-KG and KG classes finishing at 1:30 pm, and Grades 1 to 12 at 2:20 pm. The KG Department offers an after school activities program for Pre-KG and KG students from 1:30-2:30 at extra cost.
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