Despite its British sounding name, Abu Dhabi Grammar School offers the Canadian curriculum to students from KG to Grade 12. It is located in the Tourist Club area of Abu Dhabi Island.
The story so far...
Abu Dhabi Grammar School (AGS) was established in 1994, and is open to students from KG to Grade 12. AGS adheres to the Nova Scotia schools programme. In the 2016 ADEK inspection report, the school was rated as Acceptable and improved its rating to Good in 2018.
The school is attended by over 1,100 students from over 50 different nationalities. The largest nationality groups are Jordanian (19%), Egyptian (13%) and Syrian (11%) with some 5% Emirati. Students are divided up into Elementary (KG to Grade 6), Junior High (Grade 7 to Grade 9) and Senior High (Grade 10 to Grade 12). The Elementary school represents just over 50% of the student body, with a further 30% in the Junior High (Middle) school and just under 20% in the Senior High School.
Students are taught by some 77 teachers, supported by approximately 11 teaching assistants. The teacher:student ratio is 1:14 - a relatively low ratio that should ensure adequate individual support and curriculum adaptation for students.
The academic year runs from September to June and is divided into two semesters. The main school holidays are: Winter break (mid-December to early January), Spring break (late March to early April), Summer break (late June to early September).
What about the curriculum?
The Canadian curriculum is highly regarded by the OECD (Organisation of Economic Development) which rates it among the top 7 in the world, and by PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) which rated it fifth in the world for performance by 15 year olds in English, Maths and Science.
AGS follows the Nova Scotia Canadian curriculum which is accredited by the province of Nova Scotia in Canada. Students who meet the requirements of the Nova Scotia Department of Education graduate with the Nova Scotia High School Diploma. The program is taught in English and students must meet the same graduation requirements as students in Nova Scotia public schools. Transcripts are produced by the Department of Education in Nova Scotia from marks securely stored on an online student information system. This Nova Scotia diploma will afford students the opportunity to enter post secondary studies at prestigious universities and colleges anywhere in the world.
Abu Dhabi Grammar School (Canada) has elementary classes from KGII to Grade 6. Elementary classes are taught English Language Arts (listening, talking, reading, viewing, writing and other ways of representing), Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science by qualified teachers. Visual arts is integrated across the curriculum. Specialist teachers teach Arabic Language, Islamic Studies, Physical Education and French Language. French is a compulsory program from Grade 4 to Grade 9. Junior high classes run from Grade 7 to Grade 9. Junior High students are taught: English Language Arts, French Language, Physical Education, Mathematics, Arabic Language, Technology Education, Integrated Science, Islamic Studies, Social Studies, and Music and Art.
A Nova Scotia High School Graduation Diploma is awarded to students High School students who have successfully obtained a minimum number of 18 credits. Compulsory subjects include Language, Communication, and Expression; Fine Arts including art, dance, drama, or music; Science, Mathematics, and Technology with options including Business Technology, Communications Technology, Computer Programming, Construction Technology, Construction Trades, Design, Electrotechnologies, Energy, Power, and Transportation and Exploring Technology. More Arts focused subjects include Film and Video Production, Multimedia, Food Technology, Food Preparation and Service and Textile Production.
Further more practically focused courses include Housing and Design, Manufacturing Trades, Production Technology, Skilled Trades, Textile Technology and Transportation Trades. The Personal Development and Society subjects include Physical Education, Dance, Fitness Leadership, Physically Active Living, Yoga, and Physical Education Leadership. More conventional Humanities subjects include Canadian history (including options of African Canadian Studies, Canadian History/Histoire du Canada, Études acadiennes, Gaelic Studies, and Mi’kmaw Studies, whilst Global Studies include options of Global Geography, Advanced Global Geography, Global History, and Advanced Global History.
There is no question that this one of the most wide-ranging curricula that we have found in the UAE.
In addition to the academic subjects, the school also has a strong focus on physical activities and arts options. The Athletic department is the main health division in the school devoted to enhance the mental and physical well being of the students. The school believes that playing sports or engaging in extracurricular activities play an important part in student's character/personality development, enabling students to develop management skills, negotiation skills, communication skills, convincing skills, conflict management and confidence.
Extra-curricular activities include a wide range of sports activities for both boys and girls, including Ballet, Basketball, Dance, Football, Kick-boxing, Rugby, and Touch Rugby, Running, and Yoga. Arts activities include Drama and Dance, Pop Dance and Music and Movement, to Art Club, Arts and Crafts, How to Draw and Cartoon Drawing, to Yearbook production. There are also a wide range of more academically focused clubs for Public Speaking, Islamic Studies, Maths, Spanish, Chess, STEM, I-pad, and an Eco Club. Most interests are catered for.
What about academic achievement?
According to the 2017-18 ADEK report, most students meet the expected academic standards with a large majority exceeding this, particularly in grades 1 to 6. In Arabic, results are exceptionally high in the MOE examination. By grade 12, almost all students pass the Canadian Leaving certificate, enabling them to move onto university or to their chosen profession. However, given the school is selective on intake, there has been the sense it should be outperforming those benchmarks and this concern remains in the latest report.
What about the facilities?
In 2008 Abu Dhabi Grammar School opened new premises, and further upgraded its facilities in 2010 to include a new gymnasium, 25 meter pool, cafeteria and a high school section with 10 classrooms, science lab, dance studio, music room, computer lab and library. Facilities are described as "adequate", but the current report notes that staff are frustrated by the need for further development of the cramped site.
Students are offered a range of sports activities, including: Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Field hockey, Football, Gymnastics, Handball, Netball, Swimming and Table tennis.
What the inspectors say
There is no question that AGS has made significant strides in improvement over the past years, having moved from Weak to Acceptable to Good over a period of three inspection rounds.
The latest report for 2017-18 found much that is positive in the school, rating five of the six key performance standards as Good, and the sixth - the protection, care, guidance and support of students - as Very Good.
Inspectors found the strengths of the school to be:
In terms of Student Achievement, most measures for the Arabic-based subjects were rated Acceptable. For the English-language core subjects of English, Maths and Science, the vast majority of measures were Good, although KG Maths and Science were rated Acceptable.
Inspectors commented that "Students’ learning skills are good and they are often very highly involved and motivated. Most know how to improve, take pride in their learning and can easily work independently or in groups. Through cross-curricular themes they can see how one subject interlocks with others. Students’extensive and very confident use of different technologies develop good critical thinking and problem-solving skills".
Students' personal development is a particular strength of the school with this rated as Very Good across all sections. The inspection team noted that "Students’personal and social development is good overall with an outstanding attitude to learning,combining effectively with an exceptionally high work ethic. Students develop as self-reliant and independent learners, demonstrated by very good behaviour. Strong and constructive relationships are embedded".
Teaching and Assessment was also found to be Good across the school, though it was not as strong in the Arabic-speaking faculty. Similarly, the curriculum was also rated Good across the school although the inspectors found that "The curriculum meets the needs of most students but is less effective in challenging the more able" and more notably "Less consistency is seen in the Arabic medium subjects particularly in the High phase".
The overall quality of the Leadership and Management of the school was found to be Good, with good capacity to maintain the process of improvement - a fundamental requirement and good news for the school and its students. The inspection team agreed that "The principal and senior leaders provide a clear vision, middle leaders have appropriate roles and morale is high. Senior leaders do not, however, hold all teachers sufficiently to account for the progress of students over time. Consequently, achievement in the Arabic subjects is not progressing at the same rate as in English subjects".
Specific recommendations for improvement by the inspection team were the need to:
The school competes with American based curricula in general in Abu Dhabi, and more specifically another Canadian curriculum based school, the Canadian International School, which follows an Alberta based programme. Given the increasing number of new schools (including the Abu Dhabi Grammar School branch, now renamed Maple Wood School), the Grammar School will need to continue to work hard to keep its popularity. All the signs are that it has every intention of doing so.
Tuition fees for the school are mid-range, starting at AED 21,400 for KG2, rising to AED 45,100 for Grade 12. There is an additional fee for books, starting at AED 1,300 for KG, rising to AED 3,300 by Grade 10. There is also a transportation fee of AED 2,900, if utilised.
More information on tuition fees, and availability of places, can be found under the fees tab.
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