Offering the US High School Diploma, Advanced Placement tests, GCSEs and GCE A Levels, as well as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Abu Dhabi International School must be considered one of the most flexible schools in terms of curricula in the UAE - if not the entire world. The original Al Rowda-based school is no longer accepting new admissions, so all new students join the new school which opened in MBZ City in 2015.
Abu Dhabi International School MBZ was rated Very Good in its last ADEK inspection in 2017-18. The report can be viewed under the Inspection tab. A full update of this review will take place in due course.
The story so far...
The Abu Dhabi International School (AIS) branch at Mohammed Bin Zayed City is a private, coeducational school licensed by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education. The original school is located in the Al Rowda District of Abu Dhabi Island. According to its ADEK inspection report of 2016-17, the original school, which is located in an older building, is due for demolition and it is no longer accepting new students. The Al Rowda school was rated Good in its last ADEK inspection, and it seems that its newer sister school, located at Mohammed bin Zayed City, is following closely in its alma mater's footsteps in many ways.
For new students attending the new campus, fees are between 50% and 75% more expensive than the original school, although existing students are protected from the increase. The new campus was inspected by ADEK in April 2016, only a very few short months after its launch in September 2015. Inspectors noted that "The school has quickly established a positive and purposeful learning environment since opening in September 2015, and has good capacity to continue to improve". Key staff - both the Principal and the Vice Principal (who is Head of the Elementary School) - have transferred from positions at the original school, ensuring a degree of stability that might not ordinarily be found in such a new school.
All this from fairly humble beginnings. The original school was established in 1992 as a kindergarten. The total enrollment at AIS in both campuses is now approximately 4000 students. Today the MBZ school consists of approximately 2,600 students with an international body of students and staff from over 70 nationalities. The main student nationalities are Emirati (22%), Egyptian (18%), Jordanian (13%) and Lebanese (7%). Students are supported by 183 teachers and 75 teaching assistants, providing a very good staff:student ratio of 1:10 for most sections of the school and 1:13 in the Middle School.
The school’s Vision and Mission is “To support all students in attaining their full potential in personal development and active citizenship by providing the foundation for lifelong learning through quality education.”
In addition to its academic programme, AIS is well known for its personal approach which aims to foster a “family atmosphere”, making parents and students feel welcome. The Al Rowda school celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017 and the aim of the Founder is clearly to see a similar success for the new campus.
Uniquely, in our experience, AIS provides its students with the opportunity to graduate with qualifications from all three of the most popular academic curricula. These include an American programme (ACT, AP and SAT & SAT Subjects Tests and TOEFL), the British (IGCSE and A-Levels) programmes or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, enabling graduates to 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 school is accredited by AdvancED and the American International Accreditation Association and the Cambridge International Exam Board, together with the International Baccalaureate Organisation. We believe it is the only school group to offer such a broad range of curricula - and based on the performance of its students from the original campus, students do very well academically. Clearly the new school aims to replicate this approach and success.
According to the ADEK inspection team, the curriculum has a clear rationale based on the Massachusetts State curriculum standards and is broad and balanced. As well as the core subjects, the curriculum is further enriched with the opportunity to study Art, Music, French, Information and Communication technology (ICT) and PE. The Ministry of Education (MOE) curriculum is followed in Arabic, Islamic education and social studies.
The AIS educational system includes academic and co-curricular programmes designed to promote academic excellence and physical well-being, through which students discover and develop their interests and talents. The school maintains a culture that promotes good habits of character, and emphasises active citizenship through community service and global awareness.
Students studying the IB Diploma Programme benefit through the CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) programme which includes regular visits to support charities in Nepal, among other projects. AIS encourages its students to discover the world around them as well as to develop their own their own interests and talents through varsity sports teams, theatrical productions, cultural and fundraising events, community service, field trips, travelling, and a variety of extra-curricular activities.
ADEK inspectors rated the school Good on its first inspection in April 2016. Its care and protection of students was singled out as Very Good. Inspectors noted that “Abu Dhabi International School – Branch provides good education. Senior leaders and teachers have successfully established a good quality of learning environment and a positive work ethos in the short time the school has been open. There is a warm, caring ethos in all phases of the school. The successful establishment of a good quality provision in kindergarten (KG) is providing the platform for accelerating progress as students move through the school. The special educational needs (SEN) programme provides good opportunities for students to grow socially and academically in an inclusive and caring environment. Attainment is in line with curriculum expectations in all grades across the school and in almost all subjects. Progress in subjects taught in English is good in most grades”.
The Leadership of the school is promoting a culture of innovation that is sharply focused on developing high quality teaching to improve student learning opportunities and achievement. The school has embedded innovation in the curriculum by making it more child-centred; with a focus on developing thinking skills and having students take more responsibility for their own learning. Teaching effectively integrates learning through cross-curricular projects which helps children connect particular skills with an understanding of real world application. There is a clear awareness of the importance of developing critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills, whilst carefully planned units of inquiry also encourage purposeful investigation and the development of problem-solving skills.
Key strengths of the school were identified as the establishment of effective procedures and systems to successfully launch the newly opened school, which is actively promoting students’ development. Most students exhibited positive attitudes, good behaviour and enthusiasm for learning. The quality of teaching and learning was found to enhance student progress in most lessons. There is a strong emphasis on the development of English competencies and skills, enabling students to confidently access all curriculum areas.
The Kindergarten and Primary sections were praised for their rigorous and effective assessment and planning, supporting students’ learning, and the school was noted for its the well-developed care and guidance procedures which create a safe and supportive environment for learning for all students, including those identified with social and learning needs or students with special educational needs.
Unusually, 5% of places at both campuses 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 where the provision for meeting the needs of SEN students was found to be well structured, resulting in them making good progress. A Director of Student Support Services provides effective leadership and is a strong advocate for SEN students and their parents. Parents actively seek enrolment of their children at the school because of the receptive and inclusive provision. Facilities, such as the adaptive physical education (PE) room and sensory room, further enhance the learning opportunities for SEN students.
Students’ personal and social development was found to be good. Students share warm and positive relationships with their peers and teachers and they are sensitive to the different backgrounds of their peers and respect their differences. Children in Kindergarten have very good attitudes and enthusiasm for learning. Older students exhibit good attitudes to learning as well.
The school has established effective communication with parents and is in the process of forming a parents’ group and to extend opportunities for mothers’ to be involved in the life of the school. The parents praised the school for the quality of education and its caring family ethos
Areas for improvement were noted as the quality of teaching and learning to improve achievement in subjects taught in Arabic, a need for increased consistency in differentiating learning activities, the development of greater student understanding of UAE culture and the need to increase integration of technology into learning across the curriculum.
Of course, it is still early days for Abu Dhabi International School MBZ, but the initial ADEK inspection report is very encouraging. At this stage, students have not yet graduated from the school and so performance for College entry cannot yet be judged. However, based on the history of the original school and the comparative operation of the new one, it seems likely that parents and students can expect to see bright futures at many leading universities. Further details of the performance of students at the Al Rowda campus can be found here.
Fees at the school are mid-range from AED 31,300 in KG1 to AED 46,400 for Grade 12.
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