Bought by Al Najah Education (Horizon English School/Horizon International School) in late 2015, Sabari Indian School is the Dubai-based private equity firm’s first Indian curriculum acquisition.
At point of purchase however, the 400+ student CBSE-i school’s performance was lac-lustre, to say the least.
Opened in 2013, the school had a 34 percent teacher turnover, and under 500 students, while its first and only KHDA inspection report in 2015, rated the school Acceptable, noting- urgent changes were required in both management and teaching.
Yet, fast forward one year, and things at Sabari are looking significantly brighter.
First, Al Najah Education appointed new Indian Curriculum Head Karan Brown, the ex associate director at GEMS India.
Brown has since led an impressive recruitment drive which has included the appointment of principal Latha Venkateswar, who comes with 32 years’ experience in India, Oman and Dubai.
Brown says, “she matches the ethos and vision of our school… she will take it forward with a huge bang!”
Next she set about recruiting Father Stanley Lawrence from the Don Bosco Association. Lawrence now heads administration and extra-curricular activities at the school.
In the process, Lawrence engineered an association agreement between Sabari and the prestigious Don Bosco Association of India.
In addition, Brown has also recruited nine new heads of department to lead and mentor the Sabari teaching staff.
Over the past year, Brown has been implementing innovative policies across the mid-fee bracket school.
To start, all classes have been capped at a maximum of 24 children.
In the KG/foundation stage, students work at innovative ‘learning stations,’ instead of the more traditional desk-based activities.
Grades two to five at Sabari now have a curriculum topic-based learning system, more akin to the UK curriculum than the CBSE.
And, development has not stopped there, Venkateswar is adamant the CBSE curriculum can be improved upon to offer the students a more rigorous 21st century education and keep the school current with the UAE’s National Agenda obligations.
She is currently in the process of mapping the CBSE curriculum’s shortcomings and looking at additional curricula and courses to add to Sabari’s offering.
“We want to bridge the gaps, making the curriculum more creative and innovative,” she says.
“We need a curriculum which reaches international standards… we will not remain a CBSE school alone.”
The Don Bosco philosophy of ‘head, hand, heart,’ also plays a big part in the ‘new’ Sabari School ethos.
Head: Apple Learning at Sabari
Sabari is the first Indian school in the city to implement iPad based learning across all school Grades. Currently, the school is trialing a pilot device scheme, of which Brown says, “We’ve had a strong, positive response.”
The devices will roll-out across the school next year and interestingly will be paid for by the school itself, not the Sabari parents.
Hand: The New Extra-curricular Programme
Sabari is introducing mandatory after-school activities, twice weekly, these include: yoga and meditation, herbal gardening, swimming when the soon to be added- indoor swimming pool is completed and even horse-riding.
Heart: Mentoring for Every Child
Brown has most recently introduced a novel student-mentoring scheme which sees each teacher tasked with mentoring three students. Each Sabari teacher then works one-on-one with the child and parents.
“Every child has a special skill or talent and we want to nurture that,” says Brown.