Offering the US High School Diploma, Advanced Placement tests, 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 Abu Dhabi. The Mohammed bin Zayed City branch is the second campus of Abu Dhabi International School and opened in 2015.
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, founded in 1992, is located in the Al Rowda District of Abu Dhabi Island. The Al Rowda school was rated Very Good in its last ADEK inspection, and it seems that its newer sister school, which opened in 2015, located at Mohammed bin Zayed City, is following closely in its alma mater's footsteps in many ways. AIS MBZ was rated Good in its first ADEK inspection in 2016-17 and Very Good in its second inspection in 2018-19.
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.”
For 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 original school now has around half of the number of students of the MBZ branch. The original school is due to be completely renovated by August 2023 and stopped enrolments for a period whilst preparing for these improvements to be made.
All this from fairly humble beginnings. The original school was established in 1992 by Mrs. Jihan Nasr (Founder & Director) as a kindergarten. The total enrollment at AIS in both campuses is now approximately 3,200 students. Today the MBZ school consists of approximately 2,120 students with an international body of students and staff from over 55 nationalities. There is a slightly higher proportion of male:female students at 1191: 926. The main student nationalities are Emirati (28%), Egyptian (17%), Jordanian (12%) and Lebanese (6%).
Students are supported by 153 teachers and 39 teaching assistants, providing a staff:student ratio of 1:25 for most sections of the school. Students are divided among one class in Nursery, seven in KG and six in Prep (the equivalent of KG2). Grades 1 to 3, and Grade 12 each have six classes, whilst Grades 4, 9, 10 and 11 have seven in each. Finally Grades 5 and 7 each have five classes, whilst Grades 6 and 8 have the lowest number at four each.
KG classes each have a teacher and teaching assistant with a maximum of 25 students, whilst Grade 1 has a teacher for each class of 25 students together with a shared teaching assistant between two classes. Thereafter, Grades 2 - 8 have an average of 25 students, whilst Grades 9 – 12 have 27 (though this will vary in High school based on students' elective choices).
Teachers are recruited from South Africa, Ireland, United States and Lebanon in the main and all are required to have a Bachelors Degree in their subject area and a Teaching Diploma or the equivalent of 10 years of teaching experience. All teachers must also meet the ADEK requirements for licensure.
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 newer campus.
AIS is one of a small number of Abu Dhabi schools to provide its students with the opportunity to graduate with qualifications from two of the most popular academic curricula - the US Common Core curriculum for which it holds accreditation with AIAA (the American International Accreditation Association). In addition, the school is accredited with the International Baccalaureate Organisation for provision of the IB Diploma Programme, widely regarded by many as the Gold Standard for university entry. Students study the IB curriculum to Grade 10 and may then choose between this and the IB Diploma for the final two years of study.
Additionally, students have the option to take a range of US curriculum-based tests to support college or university entry in the US including ACT, AP and SATs. Children in the Nursery (pre-KG) section follow a Montessori curriculum.
Core subjects in KG include English, Math, Science, Arabic (common for all students from KG to Grade 8), together with Life Skills, Coding, Physical Education. Elementary and Middle school students, in addition to the core English, Math, Science and Arabic, also study French (from Grade 3), Computer Science, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts and take Physical Education.
Students in Grades 3-12 are 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 French language.
In Grades 9 and 10 in addition to English and Math, Arabic, Computer Science, Visual Arts, Performing Arts and Physical Education, Science subjects are taught discretely (as Physics, Biology and Chemistry) and History and Economics are added to the curriculum.
Finally, subjects in the final two years of High School vary dependent on whether students are aiming to achieve a High School Diploma (HSD) only, whether they take AP subjects (options include Math, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Micro Economics and Macro Economics) to support their tertiary studies or whether they take the IB Diploma programme.
HSD subjects in Grade 11 include Arabic, Islamic Studies, Math Pre-calculus and Algebra, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Business and Economics, Computer Science, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Physical Education. In Grade 12, these are supplemented by Calculus (in place of Algebra).
Grade 11 and 12 AP students follow Arabic, Islamic Studies, English, Pre-Calculus, Physics C, Chemistry AP, Biology AP, Micro Economics AP, Business, and Psychology.
Finally Grade 11 and 12 IBDP students may choose among options including Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Math, English, Arabic, French, Economics, Business, Psychology, History, Visual Arts, Film and Music.
Among the less usual subjects taught by the school are Sculpting, Robotics and Film.
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.
AIS MBZ says that "central to our mission is creating learning opportunities for students to develop their character, nurture their interests and talents, and promote active and global citizenship. The co-curricular program offers learning experiences that complement, in many ways, what students are learning in their coursework. We offer a multitude of activities ranging from sports, the creative arts, to life skills and other academic-related clubs. The program is offered during school hours to allow all students to participate in an activity of their choice".
Co-Curricular Clubs are free and included in the school fees. These includes 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 is not included in the school fees - these include Ballet, Gymnastics, and Taekwondo.
The school offers a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) program that includes international educational trips. This is a requirement for students taking the IB Diploma programme but is also extended to students from Middle school.
AIS’s Inclusion Program has been acclaimed by ADEK as Very Good with procedures that identify and to cater for SEN students that are 'an example of best practice' and are very good for G and Talented students.
The goal of the programme is to maximize students’ learning competencies to enable them to enjoy their time at school, and to develop academically, socially, and emotionally to successfully function in school and in society. Speech therapy, occupational therapy and counseling services are offered as part of these services.
The goals of the counseling services are to ensure that each student realizes his/her full potential as a unique human being, and to facilitate the growth and well-being of each individual to achieve academic, personal, and life success. Through counseling, students are cared for and supported in their transitions to become independent, responsible adults. The school counselors provide confidential individual sessions, group sessions, as well as counseling-related programs.
At the time of the 2018-19 ADEK inspection, AIS MBZ had 4% of students identified with SEN requirements, slightly below the 5% of the total number of students that AIS reserves specifically for students in need of additional support. These students are supported by an SEN team of 10 teachers and a further 12 support staff.
Facilities include a dedicated SEN Department with 8 classrooms, a Sensory Play Area, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and special support services that include an interdisciplinary groups of specialists who work to support students. The school sources Shadow teachers for parents and fees depend on the services required.
The school offers an ESL program (English as a Second Language) to support students develop their English proficiency. It is designed to help students progress towards proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English. ESL specialists provide individualized instruction to students based on their proficiency level and ensure that they make the progress required to eventually meet curricular expectations.
The school administers the IOWA Assessments and MAP testing. Students also participate in the TIMMS, PISA and PIRLS benchmark tests, and consistently perform above the UAE average on all these assessments.
AIS does not publish separate results between the two schools under its umbrella, but as AIS MBZ is the only one to offer the IB Diploma Programme, it does provide some information. No results were published for 2020, when examinations were cancelled as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, and students were awarded their results based on internal assessment by the school.
However, in 2019, all students who sat the Diploma passed according to the school. Unfortunately, no information is provided as to the number of students who took the exams, so it is impossible to know the scale of this achievement - five students passing is rather different to a cohort of 50 or 100! It seems that at least one student achieved a score of 42 points of the total of 45, which is undeniably a significant achievement. The average IB points achieved by the students was 32. This is in line with the average results for all IB students in the UAE. A round up results for the UAE as a whole for 2019 can be read here. Read 2020 results here.
The ADEK inspection report for 2017-18 notes that "In 2017, attainment in the high phase for the few students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) was outstanding overall. Students’ attainment in recent Grade 12 Ministry of Education (MOE) examinations, in Arabic and in Islamic education, was outstanding. It was very good for the large majority of students who took the High School Diploma (HSD) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)".
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would strongly encourage AIS MBZ to share its results together with other UAE schools, so that its students too can share their achievements.
According to AIS, it has secured university placements for all its graduates (though we assume this relates to students from the original school to a far higher degree than MBZ). The school has also been recognized by ADEK as having a high rate amongst Abu Dhabi schools in securing university placements and admissions for its graduates in top-tier universities worldwide. In the past 3 years, all graduates obtained admission from 4-year colleges and universities including the highly ranked universities such as:
o Massachusetts Institute of Technology
o Columbia University
o New York University
o University of California, Berkeley
o University of California, Los Angeles
o Georgia Institute of Technology
o University of Toronto
o McGill University
o Imperial College London
o University of Manchester
o University of Edinburgh
o King’s College London
AIS has a College Prep Advisor who counsels and guides students with their university applications. She works closely with the students in their high school years providing career guidance and supporting them in building strong portfolios for their university applications. The school has a long-standing relationship with a multitude of universities all over the world that regularly come to visit the school in order to help students make an informed decision.
The school is located on a modern, purpose-built campus with a wide range of facilities. These include approximately 170 classrooms with WiFi throughout the campus, and specialist labs or classrooms including a Choir/Musical Room, Drama Room, Keyboard Lab, Guitar Room, Band Room, Drawing and Digital Media Room,Visual arts labs for sculpting and ceramics, a Print and 2D Art Room and a Ceramics Lab.
Science and Technology facilities include an Elementary Science Lab, individual Chemistry, Physics and Biology Labs for High School and IB students, Computer Labs, a Robotics Lab and a STEAM Lab.
Sport Facilities include a fully equipped Fitness room, a Dance Studio, Indoor and Outdoor basketball courts, a full-size Football pitch, a Running Track, a KG Gymnasium and Full Gymnasium. Finally there is a 859 seat Auditorium and a Full Library.
ADEK inspectors rated the school Good on its first inspection in April 2016. Two years later, in February 2018, the school was awarded a Very Good rating, having made significant improvements across the school.
No subsequent inspection has taken place, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, though AIS MBZ participated in a Distance Learning Evaluation implemented for all UAE schools in May/June 2020 and again in 2021. Both schools achieved the highest Developed rating.
The ADEK inspection team identified the strengths of the school as:
The inspection team found that Leaders had maintained and improved the school’s performance, which was very good overall. They had improved the quality of teaching, leading to improved achievement in all subjects, including those taught in Arabic. Teachers planned and used a wide range of teaching strategies and learning activities. Students’ very good personal and social development included a greater understanding of Emirati culture and traditions, whilst the protection, care, guidance and support of all students has been sustained and improved, particularly the support for SEN students.
The school had further developed its curriculum, offering suitable educational pathways for all students. Learning technologies were integrated into subjects and activities across the curriculum. School leaders had driven improvement very effectively since the last inspection, particularly in KG and High school sections.
In terms of areas of improvement, the inspection team recommended that AIS MBZ should focus on:
There is no question, that under the leadership of a new Principal, AIS MBZ made extraordinary progress in the two years between its first and second ADEK inspection.
Every key performance standard, with the exception of Student Achievement, was rated Very Good across the board. And though Student Achievement was more of a mix between Very Good and Good ratings (with Acceptable reserved for Arabic as an Additional Language in the Elementary section), there is no question that Learning skills rated Very Good across the school, we can only expect these standards to rise.
You can read the inspection report here - something that we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings.
According to the ADEK inspectors "Partnerships with parents are highly positive, impacting strongly on students’ achievement. The school provides regular communication and detailed reporting".
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received adequate feedback from parents to our Survey Given the positivity of the ADEK team, we were a little surprised at the feedback we have received. Overall, the school has received a rating of 2.6/5 or a 52% approval rating.
Over 3/4 of students felt a strong or very strong sense of belonging to the school, and a similar number enjoyed going to school either 'quite a bit' or 'tremendously'. However, it seems that parents are not as enthusiastic - particularly in the context of fee payments which were considered to be value for money only by 16% of respondents (compared with a UAE average of 69%) and, in fact, this was the percentage of respondents who totally disagreed that fees represented value for money. 62% of parents had also considered moving their child to another school.
And although 85% of respondents said that they were satisfied or partially satisfied with the academic performance of the school, 100% said that they needed to arrange external tuition for their children. There also seems to be a distinct lack of confidence in AIS MBZ's ability to meet the specific learning needs of the children for whom parents responded.
Most parents were at least partially satisfied about communication with the school and its disciplinary procedures. However, 70% were at least moderately concerned about bullying.
Given the somewhat negative views expressed by some of our respondents, it is perhaps not too surprising that only 54% stated that they would recommend AIS MBZ to other parents, whilst 38% emphatically said that they would not.
It is often the case that parents who are dissatisfied with their child's school, and who have not been able to resolve the issues behind this situation, will use a survey such as ours to make their feelings known.
In order to ensure a balanced response for a wide range of parents at AIS MBZ, if you are a parent, teacher or student at the school, please share your experience by completing our survey.
Based on the history of the original school and the comparative operation of the new one, it seems that Abu Dhabi International School MBZ has made a significant step in its development over the past three to four years. Clearly the ADEK inspection teams hold the school in high regard. It seems likely, again based on the history and success of the original school, together with the efforts of the leadership of the MBZ branch, that parents and students can expect to see bright futures at many leading universities.
However, we would like to see a more transparent approach from both schools in terms of academic achievement, and we most certainly hope that more parents and members of the school community will share their knowledge of the school to counteract the somewhat negative feedback that WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received.
Fees at the school are mid-range from AED 26,500 in pre-KG to AED 46,600 for Grade 12 placing it in ADEK's high fee category, although we would consider these fees to be at a moderate to premium level.
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