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 wide range of curricula and although fundamentally US curriculum, offers opportunities for students to achieve High School qualifications for entry to universities in the US, UK and internationally, as well as throughout the Gulf.
This, the original Abu Dhabi International school was founded in 1992 by Mrs. Jihan Nasr. It has an international body of students and staff from over 70 nationalities. With a current population of approximately 1,400 students spread across four phases of the school, numbers are broken down into KG with approximately 170 children, Primary with approximately 750, Middle School with around 365 and the High School with approximately 115 students. Class sizes are 1:24 in Kindergarten and an average of 1:25 in the remaining grades. The largest nationality groups are Jordanian and Egyptian (each 18%), Emirati (17%) and Syrian with 12%.
The buildings of the school are old, and according to the latest ADEK inspection report issued in 2016 (where inspectors noted the need to improve the quality of accommodation and resources), the owners intend to demolish the current buildings and to replace them. Meanwhile, a branch school has opened in Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed City (in 2015), to which students from Al Rowdah have access at preferential fees. No new students are being admitted to the Al Rowdah school during 2018-19.
The School's misssion 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 provides its students with the opportunity to graduate with an American program, the British (IGCSE and A-Levels) programme or the International Baccalaureate Programme and join top tier institutions worldwide, such as Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and the Sorbonne of France, as well as, regional universities in Lebanon, Egypt, and the UAE. The school’s website provides details of universities to whom its graduates go on for further studies, and the list is impressive.
The main curriculum followed by 80% of students is the American with the UK and IB programmes accounting for approximately 20% of students between them. Students studying the US curriculum are prepared to pass external examinations and assessments, which include ACT, AP and SAT & PSAT Subjects Tests. Upon completion of Grade 8, students either continue in the American curriculum or select the British curriculum when they are entered for IGCSE and A-levels in Grades 10 and 12 respectively. Upon completion of Grade 10, students enrolled in the American program may choose to apply to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The school is accredited by AdvancED and the American International Accreditation Association, together with the International Baccalaureate Organisation. To our knowledge, Abu Dhabi International School Al Rowdah and its branch at Mohammed Bin Zayed City are the only schools to offer access to all three international pre-College curricula and qualifications.
Class sizes are set at a maximum of 25 students per class across all grades with English as the primary language of instruction. Arabic is offered to both native and foreign speakers, and French is offered from Grade 5. AIS offers a variety of extra-curricular activities, including: badminton, basketball, soccer, table tennis, volleyball, arts and crafts and a little eccentrically, book making.
The most recent ADEK inspection took place in October 2016. Previous inspections had treated the Primary and Secondary schools as separate entities. This was the first combined inspection across both phases. Historically the Primary School had been a particular area of strength.
In the most recent inspection, strengths were found to be the progress made in spoken English allowing students to use technical language in other subjects; the attainment of students in a range of subjects by the time they leave in Grade 12; the relationships within the school, attitudes to learning and students’ contribution to the community; teachers’ positive attitudes towards improving their own teaching and to sharing best practice with others, and the safe and secure learning environment provided by the school.
Strengths of the Primary included students’ well‐developed speaking and listening skills in English and Arabic; very high quality personal skills; strong classroom relationships supported by a range of highly effective behaviour management strategies; successful inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN); well‐focused and supportive leadership teams, and a commitment and drive towards continuous improvement.
The Primary does have areas to work on however. Of note, is the need to improve pupils' English and Arabic writing skills across the curriculum, to give greater allocation and access to information and communications technology, to improve the use of assessment and progress data to inform skills‐oriented lesson planning and to identify next steps in learning for the full range of ability levels and to focus on the curriculum to deliver higher order thinking skills, particularly for high achievers. The KG curriculum also needs to build independence and enable children to make guided choices.
At secondary, the school is notable for its high achievement in external examinations by students in Grades 10 to 12.
At IGCSE, 69% of its students scored A* and A in five or more subjects, with almost 95% scoring A* and A in Chemistry and more than 80% scoring A* and A in Mathematics, Physics and Biology. At GCE (AS – Level), 50% of its students scored triple A in Mathematics and two Sciences, with 92% scoring A in Mathematics. At GCE (A – Level): 42% of its students scored three A* or A in Mathematics and two Sciences, with more than 80% scoring A* and A in Mathematics and Arabic. These are grades worth shouting about.
At IB, the average diploma points awarded to AIS students was a very credible 34 (the world average is 29.81). This puts it near the top of the class for UAE-based schools.
Elsewhere AIS Secondary shares many of the strengths of its Primary school, and is noted for its "well‐developed skills in English and Arabic", high quality personal skills of its students, strong classroom relationships supported by a range of highly effective behaviour management strategies, a clear vision for the curriculum, and core subjects that have a well‐structured framework, the successful inclusion of students with special educational needs, well‐focused and supportive leadership teams who, together with teachers, students and parents, embrace the school’s vision, commitment and drive towards continuous improvements.
Areas of improvement focus on the need to address the variability in teaching and learning particularly in primary and middle phases, to provide better accommodation and resources by continuing the planning and implementation of the new premises for the school, and to ensure all levels of ability are provided with the highest level of support.
Unusually, 5% of places are reserved for students with special needs and learning difficulties. 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.
Fees depend on the campus. At the Abu Dhabi campus, fees are in the value to mid-range (between AED 13,200 – AED 28,300). At the MBZ campus, fees are firmly mid-range (between AED 30,800 – AED 46,400).
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