Guide: International School of Choueifat Group

The first International School of Choueifat started in Choueifat, Lebanon in 1886 and later spread to various parts of the Gulf region. The first Choueifat school in the Gulf opened in Sharjah, UAE in 1975 and subsequently others opened in other cities across the Middle East.
Guide: International School of Choueifat Group
By David Westley
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The International School of Choueifat - Lebanon is the mother school of the SABIS group of schools. It was established in the village of Choueifat, Lebanon, in 1886 by Tanios Saad and Louisa Procter, an Irish woman who was teaching in the area. The first building to be used as a school campus was an original mill factory. It was originally for girls only.

Only the Dubai school has an external rating, and that only because it is a requirement of Dubai. The KHDA rating has rated the school Acceptable for the last 9 years, below the Good rating it wants to be the minimum standard of schools in the emirate. Despite this the school is popular. The Dubai branch has just under 4,0000 students for example, the majority of them Arab nationals, with approximately 7% Emirati. The school had 153 teachers and 31 teaching assistants, with the majority of teachers coming from Ireland. 

The SABIS approach

The promise of the SABIS approach is that university is reachable by the majority of students, "not a select few". It is an admirable philosophy, and it would be good to see SABIS publish the results of external based examinations, something its schools, certainly in the UAE, do not do.

Presently it is not possible for parents assessing schools to see whether the teaching style actually works in practice.

The style is a quite traditional, and precisely because it uses methodologies that are no longer in favour, increasingly unique for schools offering Western based qualifications.

SABIS has not adopted the learning through play, child-centred style of education adopted by newer teaching methodologies, but maintained a rigorous approach of classroom teaching (i.e. not child centred), tests, monitoring and group class based teaching.

Monitoring is used "to prevent the development of knowledge gaps during their learning process".

According to SABIS: "Unlike one-to-one or individualised teaching, where each child is taught for a limited amount of time, the SABIS Point System of teaching is an interactive approach that involves the whole class in the learning process. When in class, students learn actively.

"They do not simply listen to lengthy explanations or take dictated notes. SABIS teachers list the concepts to be taught and introduce them one "point" at a time applying the cycle of Teach, Class Practice, Individual Practice, and Check.

"The teacher explains the point to the class, gives an example in which the point is used, and then assigns a written activity to check for individual student understanding. Group work is then used to complement the SABIS Point System whereby students work in small groups to check their work and provide additional support to their classmates.

"This time also gives the teacher the opportunity to visually survey the learning in the room and assess the need for immediate re-teaching. The teacher moves to the following point only when practically all students show in writing - and not just orally - that they have a firm grasp of the 'point' taught.

According to feedback to, the approach is intensive, and demands motivated students. Saturday school is required across SABIS schools, especially for students with identified knowledge gaps. Homework can be considerable. 

Although the curriculum is rigorous, the teaching style is noted to be inflexible, which can create challenges for students who require modifications or adaptations to suit their particular learning needs. Teaching overall is described as acceptable.

On a positive note students’ attainment and progress in the high school is often very good, while personal and social development of students in high school, particularly through their involvement in its ‘Student Life’ organisation and in its high-quality sporting events.

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