Abu Dhabi International School is located on Abu Dhabi Island in the traditional area of Al Rowdah. The school is one of the longer-established private schools in Abu Dhabi, having opened in 1992. It offers a US curriculum to high school at which point, from Grade 9, the school offers UK curriculum GCSE/IGCSE, and AS/A Levels.
This, the original Abu Dhabi International school (AIS), was founded in 1992 by Mrs. Jihan Nasr, who, according to the school has been dedicated to her mission of ensuring that every child is accepted, nurtured and provided with their needs, and grow to become unique individuals.
The school introduces itself by telling us that:
"At AIS we believe that every individual can make a difference and a positive change to the world is given the right opportunities. We also believe that the immeasurable can be achieved with a child with strong home-school partnerships. At AIS our students grow with the idea that they are powerful beings who create their own destinies through the consistent exercise of good choices. Sincerely believing that actions speak louder than words, we, at AIS, seek to model this lesson throughout our school. This is what makes students of AIS pioneers in whichever field they wish to pursue."
The Vision of AIS is 'To prepare global citizens who will lead for positive change'. The School's mission is ‘To support all students attain their full potential in personal development and active citizenship by providing the foundation for lifelong learning through quality education.’
AIS welcomes children from KG1 (KG) and KG2 (designated Prep) to Grade 12. With a total of just over 850 children, the school is half the size of its newer sister school, located in Mohammed bin Zayed City, which opened in 2005. In fact, the schools' share website claims that "As a diverse, inclusive school, we have an international body of students and staff from around 60 nationalities. Between our two locations, we have approximately 3,500 students".
Students are split across four phases of the school, KG, Primary, Middle School and the High School. Class sizes average 1:25 across the school, with a teacher and teaching assistant in the KG, Prep and Grade 1 classes.
There are approximately 40 nationalities with the largest group being Egyptian. The majority of students are from Arabic countries. Students are taught by 61 predominantly Lebanese teachers, who are supported by 6 teaching assistants.
AIS provides its students with the opportunity to graduate with the British (IGCSE and A-Level) programme after following a US curriculum from KG to Grade 8. Those who wish to continue following the American curriculum including AP programmes and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme transfer to the sister school at MBZ.
The school is accredited by NEASC for the US curriculum, and by the Cambridge International Examination (CIE) Board for IGCSE and A Levels.
Core subjects across all sections of the school include English, Math, Science and Arabic. French is obligatory from Grades 3 to 8 with those in Grades 3 to 12 prepared to sit for the DELF (Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française)---the official qualification awarded by the French Ministry of Education to certify the competency of candidates from outside France in the French language.
AIS offers a variety of Co-Curricular Clubs which are included in the school fees. These include Football, Basketball, Table Tennis, Eco Health and Safety, Robotics, Film Club, Innovators, UAE Cultural Club, Book Club, Poetry Club, Chess, Cooking, Public Speaking and Debate, Choir, Drama, Dance, Art, Francophone, SAT Math, Newsletter, Arabic Calligraphy, Quran Recitation, Yearbook, Photography, Escape Room, Bulletin Board, Fun Science, Track and Field, MUN, Rubik’s Cube, Drones, Fitness, Scratch, Folklore and Spelling.
Extra-Curricular Clubs are extra and attract additional fees; these include Ballet, Gymnastics and Taekwondo.
The school also offers a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) program (taken from the IB curriculum which is offered at the MBZ school) that includes international educational trips.
Unusually, 5% of places are reserved for students with special needs and learning difficulties and for those with Gifts and Talents. At the time of the most recent ADEK inspection in 2021-22, 0.35% of students, (so 3) had been identified with SEN requirements.
According to the school, "over the years, we have gained a reputation for successfully dealing with a variety of learning difficulties and disabilities through a well-structured Special Education department." This is noted in its inspection reports. AIS says that it reserves around 5% of places for children with additional learning needs.
The school sources Learning Support Assistants to support individual students and the fees for this depend on the services required. AIS also offers English as a second language support to students to attain proficiency in English.
The school administers the IOWA Assessments and MAP. It also participates in the TIMMS, PISA and PIRLS, and has consistently performed above the UAE average on all these assessments.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com was historically pleased to see that AIS published its examination results on its website. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Results for the IB Diploma are shared by subject, but not in terms of the most common, and useful, form - that of average points score and pass rate.
Whilst WhichSchoolAdvisor.com appreciates that examination results are not, and should not be the be-all and end-all of education, they are an important factor in parent and student choice and we urge all schools to be transparent in this context.
AIS on Abu Dhabi Island is based in an older building, and in 2018, stopped admissions temporarily in order to undertake substantial renovation works at the campus. We understand that this programme has been delayed, but that the school building was due to be reconstructed into a state-of-the-art facility for completion by August 2023.
The first ADEK joint inspection of both the Primary and Secondary sections of the school took place in October 2016. Previous inspections had treated the Primary and Secondary schools as separate entities. Historically the Primary School had been a particular area of strength. The school was rated Good at this time.
The most recent full inspection prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, when inspections were put on hold for 18 months, took place in 2018-19. AIS was awarded ADEK's second highest rating of Very Good. In the 2021-22 academic year, when inspections restarted, AIS again received a Very Good rating.
For reasons that have not been clarified, the ADEK inspections focused on four of the six Key Performance Standards only. The vast majority of ratings for Student Achievement were awarded Very Good, though Arabic and Social Studies were rated Good for the most part. Teaching and Assessment was rated Very Good across the school, as was the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, and Leadership and Management.
If you would like to read the inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - find it here.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey has received a very limited number of responses - a total of only seven - and this is insufficient for us to comment on the feedback we have received from parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at AIS and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please complete our survey.
Abu Dhabi International School has a long heritage and reputation which has now been underlined by the positive result of the most recent ADEK inspection. For families seeking a school that is successful in offering both the US curriculum as a starting point, with the option to continue at the original school with the British curriculum, or transfer to the newer MBZ campus for US or IB curricula in High School, this is a school that offers both options at a very reasonable fee level. Without doubt, the original campus is inevitably older, less impressive and spacious than the sister school at MBZ, but still has a great deal to offer.
Admission to the AIS Abu Dhabi campus was not open to students during the 2022-23 academic year and there is no indication that they will be so for 2023-24.
The last published fees at the AIS Abu Dhabi campus were in the value to mid-range (between AED 13,660 to AED 32,280). Those at MBZ, by contrast, range from AED 30,800 to AED 46,400 with additional book fees ranging from AED 500 to AED 2,700 (the highest amount is in Grade 9 at the start of the Senior school).
Abu Dhabi International School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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