Al Maaref Private School is a long-established US curriculum school located in the Al Qusais area of Dubai, close to the international airport and to the border with Sharjah. The majority of students are of Arabic backgrounds with the highest proportion of teachers coming from Egypt.
The story so far...
Al Maaref Private School (AMPS) was established in 1987 and is located in the heart of Deira, close to the international airport and a short distance from the border with Sharjah. AMPS educates children from KG to Grade 12 offering an accredited US curriculum.
The school states that "At Al Maaref Private School, there is a belief that every student can achieve excellence in an atmosphere that is both encouraging and challenging. The school offer students the best resources and facilities along with the efficiency and vibrancy of an experienced teaching staff".
The school's Vision states that "AMPS seeks to holistically develop positive, optimistic and resilient global citizens that are socially conscious and prepared to meet life’s challenges. Its Mission states that "AMPS strives to make a positive difference in every child’s life so they are empowered to flourish and be the very best they can be".
The school has approximately 1,500 students, of whom just over a quarter are Emirati, and the balance predominantly from other Arab nations. The largest nationality group of the 101 teachers employed by the school is Egyptian. A teacher:student ratio of 1:20 is on the high side, making it harder for all but the most competent teachers to provide individualised learning to students.
There has been significant staff turnover in the past two years, with 60% of teachers having left the school in 2016-17 and a further 54% in 2017-18. This level of churn in staff - the average for the UAE is 20-22% in international schools - should be a major concern. However, given that the school's KHDA rating in 2016-17 was Acceptable, and in the year prior was Weak, we can only assume that the arrival of the school's new Principal/Director, Mr. John DeLice in September 2017, has contributed in large measure to this situation, aimed - we would hope - at securing significant improvements in performance from his teaching team.
One thing is very evident. Not only has Mr. DeLice has put in place a very clear set of actions based on the KHDA report from 2017-18, but these are published on the school's website for all to see - a level of transparency towards parents and other members of the school community that we have seldom seen in the UAE. They can be found here.
What about the curriculum?
AMPS offers the US curriculum, based on the New York State Common Core Standards for English and Maths, and the Next Generation Science Standards for Science subjects. The school is accredited by AdvancED, a US accreditation agency that predominantly serves international schools offering a US curriculum. We would expect that the school will also seek accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), in line with KHDA requirements.
In the KG section, the curriculum is based on the New York State Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core, which is organised into five broad developmental and inter-related domains. These include Approaches to Learning; Physical Development and Health; Social and Emotional Development; Communication, Language, and Literacy; and Cognition and Knowledge of the World. There is a strong focus on supporting children with limited English Proficiency (LEP) or English Language Learners (ELL) as well as identifying any specific additional learning needs in Students of Determination or those with Gifts and Talents.
The Elementary curriculum is based on New York Common Core States Standards for English and Maths, and the Next Generation Science Standards for Science (NGSS). The NGSS is aimed at enabling students to develop innovation and engineering learning habits. Learning experiences are based on collaboration, inquiry, and innovation with a specific emphasis on literacy within the curriculum to ensure better performance across all subjects and in international test such as CAT4, MAP, and TIMSS which are designed to enable teachers to more accurately assess children's abilities and to personalise teaching accordingly. Students' personal development is also a focus of the elementary section, where teachers design opportunities that build independence, resilience, growth mindset, and leadership inside and outside the classroom environment.
From Middle school onwards, children are split between Boys and Girls sections. In addition to the continuation of the core subjects of English, Maths, Science, Arabic, Islamic Studies, and Moral Education, students also have further options including PE, History, ICT, Art and Music and Business in High school. Senior students are assessed using standardized MAPS testing.
The school also offers a range of extracurricular activities which include a range of creative activities including Arts and Crafts, Graphic Design, Photography, Music, ICT - including Robotics and sports such as Touch Rugby, Karate, Football, Girls' basketball, and a unique Skills 21 programme - a research-backed programme that "immerses students in scenarios that require them to identify, develop and reflect on critical 21st Century skills".
What the inspectors say
As mentioned earlier in our review, Al Maaref Private School has had a somewhat chequered experience with regard to the KHDA inspection process in recent years. Having been rated Acceptable for six years from 2009 to 2014, in 2015-16 and the following year, it was rated Weak - below the level regarded as the minimum by the KHDA. In 2017-18 and in 2018-19, the school again achieved an Acceptable rating. There is, however, clearly a long way to go before AMPS can consider itself among "one of the leading schools in Dubai" - a goal to which the Director states the school is working and which is acknowledged in the latest inspection report.
The school's strengths were identified by the KHDA inspection team as:
In terms of the key recommendations for improvement, AMPS should:
We strongly recommend that you read the full KHDA report and detailed recommendations for improvement here.
It is clearly a case of wait and see at AMPS. Whilst the leadership appears to be saying the right things and beginning to see some improvements, there is still a very long way to go. The direct relationship between Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum, and their impact on Student Achievement cannot be underestimated. It takes a lot of investment in training, staffing and implementation of new practices to bring these three key elements together. We would not expect to see rapid progress at Al Maaref Private School just yet.
What about fees?
Fees for 2019-20 have not yet been updated by the school. KG fees in 2018-19 were AED 9,904, rising to AED 11,319 from Grades 1 to 3, AED 13,295 from Grades 4 to 6 and then rising steeply to AED 23,163 in Grade 11 and AED 28,479 in Grade 12. Additional book fees range from approx AED 400 in KG1 to close to AED 4,000 in Grade 12. These are still modest fees by Dubai standards and well below those of the highest ranked US curriculum schools where parents can expect to pay at least 3 times this amount.
Full details can be found under our Fees and Availability tab.
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