Al Ain Juniors School was founded in 1989, initially with the launch of its nursery, and contrary to the name, educates children from KG1 to Grade 12 offering both the CBSE and Cambridge International UK curriculum.
The story so far...
2,800 student strong Al Ain Juniors School (AJ), which, contrary to the name, takes children from 4 to 18 years of age, was founded in 1989. It is part of the AJ Group of schools, which includes Al Ain Juniors Nursery, Zakher Private School, and The Hope Center for Students with Special Educational Needs.
Having started out as a Nursery school, AJ added Primary, Secondary, and Senior Secondary over the intervening years, with the first batch of grade 12 students appearing for their first Board exams in 2004. The British curriculum was introduced and
The school's website introduces itself as "a comprehensive school aiming to achieve excellence at all levels. Within a clear and firm structure, AJ seeks to develop self-discipline and individual motivation amongst its students, encouraging them to make the fullest use of all the opportunities open to them. We seek to extend students to the limits of their capabilities whether through core subjects, sport, the arts, social and extra-curricular provisions. We set high expectations for your child and work actively with you to monitor their progress and share their success".
The school is led by a Board of Governors who are also the co-owners of the school. They include Mr. Arshad Ahmed Sharief, Chairman, who is one of the founding members and the primary investor in the AJ Group. Originally from Bangalore, India, he moved to the UAE in 1981 and worked for about 30 years initially in the Water & Electricity Dept, (WED) and later in TRANSCO, Al Ain, The local partner and owner of the group is Mr. Khamis Obaid Al Dhaheri, a post graduate from U.S.A, who also served in WED for many years before becoming an entrepreneur. The third of five governors is Mrs. Tanveer Arshad, who was the founder of Al Ain Juniors Nursery and the founding Principal of AJ for 25 years. She now fulfills the role of Managing Director of the group.
The schools states as its Vision that "At Al Ain Juniors we aim to nurture our young people to be achievers of extraordinary determination, who set right goals in areas of education, morality, attitude, ethics and values."
"We seek to provide a comprehensive educational program of study for students of all abilities and backgrounds. At each stage of their development and in each pathway of study, students are being shaped into critical thinkers, effective communicators, good citizens and lifelong learners. As such they are each encouraged to articulate and pursue a personal and professional vision for their own future. AJ's educational community is committed to helping its students realise this vision".
The school's mission is:
To focus on establishing high educational standards
To enable our students to reach their dreams, identifying their skill and challenges
To foster a lifelong love for learning and create a learning atmosphere
To build and sustain self-confidence, humility and love for self and others
To be the premiere education establishment by building a strong faculty and in-school community
To create and develop an innovative, creative and highly stimulates school atmosphere
To reward our team for commitment and quality performance
The school is host to some 25 nationalities, but children from subcontinent families are by far the largest group, with 43% of students from India and 24% from Pakistan, though a further 23% of students are Egyptians. The proportion of Egyptian students has increased significantly since 2016.
Students are supported by some 187 teachers and six teaching assistants of a wide range of nationalities, but predominantly from India and the UK. With a teacher:student ratio of 1:23 in KG and 1:10 in the remainder of the school, there does appear to be considerable disparity in the level of individual support and curriculum adaptation to meet student needs. And whilst staff turnover in the Indian section of the school is low at 5%, it is very much on the high side in the British curriculum section at 25%. On average UAE international schools have a turnover of between 20-22%. The most recent ADEK report notes that the Senior Leadership of the school has changed since 2016, and this may account to some degree for the level of turnover.
Al Ain Juniors is considered an improving school, rated B4 (Acceptable) by the Abu Dhabi Department of Knowledge (ADEK) in 2014 and again, under the new ratings system, Acceptable in both 2016 and 2018. According to the most recent ADEK report, whilst Student Achievement is Acceptable overall, "The level of challenge across the school is not yet consistently strong enough to move the school up to the next grade of ‘good’".
What about the curriculum?
Unusually, the school is dual curriculum, and is affiliated both to the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and to the University of Cambridge International Examinations Board for IGCSE, AS and A Level external examinations.
The school follows the traditional Indian approach to subject choice, with a focus on Science or Commerce streams in both sections of the school. Subjects also include information and communication technology, (ICT) and computer science, Accountancy, Economics and Marketing. Students are also offered additional languages such as Hindi and Malayalam, whilst younger children also participate in Art and Music.
The school says it "strives to help students achieve excellence at all levels and by individually motivating and encouraging them to make the most of opportunities open to them" and "provides opportunities for students by extending their education through the arts, sport, social and extra curricular activities". Details of any extra-curricular activities are not provided on the school's web site.
What about academic achievement?
Unfortunately, AJ does not publish its exam results in detail, including only toppers' information for the Indian curriculum Science and Commerce streams. This is not sufficient for parents to obtain a real understanding of the performance of the majority of students, as opposed to the minority at the top. No data is provided for UK curriculum students.
The most recent inspection report notes that "IGCSE results indicate that students’ attainment is good in English and Mathematics and is acceptable overall in Sciences. AS/A-level results show that the large majority of students are attaining above age-related levels and international standards in Mathematics and in line in Sciences. In Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) examinations, students’ attainment is at least good in English, Mathematics and Sciences. These levels of achievement are only partially supported by inspection evidence [our emphasis] ".
What about the facilities?
In terms of facilities, the school is said to be "adequately resourced" by ADEK. The school started constructing its own building in the city’s school zone in 2003, with the first phase completed for the British school. A year later the second phase was completed and the Indian system of AJ moved in 2004.
Two separate wings house all requirements separately - from the reception areas to the science labs, computer labs, libraries, multi-purpose halls. Facilities include hard play areas, soft, multi-purpose shaded areas, a grassy playing field and open playgrounds. The school has three well-lit large stages used for assemblies and school programmes. The school itself describes its classrooms as "spacious and airy", with "well-equipped specialist rooms for the teaching of art, design and information technology" and "many well-equipped science labs and a state-of-the-art computer labs providing computers for individual students in class." The school has two libraries.
What the inspectors say
Al Ain Juniors was again rated Acceptable in the most recent 2017-18 inspection. In fact, four of the six Key Performance Standards were rated Acceptable, whilst two - Students' Personal and Social Development, and their Innovation Skills, and The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - were rated Good.
As is so often the case, Student Achievement mirrors Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum - all three rated Acceptable. Interestingly, teachers clearly have good subject knowledge and the school has good systems to enable staff to assess and monitor students, but it seems that most teachers do not necessarily use this data to plan activities to meet the needs of individual students. In addition, opportunities to develop innovation in lessons, critical thinking, enterprise and investigation are limited.
The strength of the school lies within the KG section which is rated Good in terms of Student Achievement across all four core subjects. English is rated Good across the school. Levels of achievement across both curriculum sections of the school do not appear to differ greatly.
The ADEK inspection team identified the strengths of Al Ain Juniors as:
In terms of key improvements identified, Al Ain Juniors needs to:
Al Ain Juniors is a popular school, heavily oversubscribed, and parents in general believe the school is well managed and run, and offers a good education for their children.
ADEK also notes that the school offers good value for money. That reference was made in 2013, but fees have not grown substantially since, and if anything, given the school's slow and steady improvement, it is an even more attractive in 2019 that it was in 2013/14.
As noted, the school offers both a British (IGCSE, AS and A level) and Indian (CBSE) education. There are different fee structures for the two curricula, but fees are low. For the UK curriculum students pay AED 6,750 in KG1 up to AED 15,200 by Grade 12, with a further AED 700 re-enrolment fee, a fraction of the fees charged elsewhere. The Indian curriculum fees run from AED 5,900 in KG and top out at AED 10,200, together with an annual re-enrolment fee of AED 500. Note, this is for tuition fees only. Full details for the Indian curriculum here, and the UK curriculum here.
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