Al Mawakeb School is a private, K-12 school (3 to 18 years of age) located in Al Garhoud, Dubai. The school is one of two campuses located in Dubai (the other based in Barsha) managed by the Academia Management Solution International (AMSI).
Al Mawakeb School Garhoud school was established in 1979 and currently has approximately 2,550 students from a range of backgrounds and nationalities, but one in seven come from local Emirati families. The school has students from some 60 nationalities, the majority of whom are from Arab countries.
The school follows a US curriculum which is structured to integrate the school core values, the UAE curricula (Arabic, Islamic Education, Social Studies, & Moral Education), as well as Islamic values and the UAE culture into the American curriculum. Science, Mathematics, and English curricula are based on California Next Generation Science Standards, California Maths Standards, and California English Standards respectively, while other subjects are aligned with other California State Standards.
For Middle and High School students, the curriculum delivery is supported with various learning resources including exposure to STEM labs and 3D printing. The lab is equipped with tools and technologies needed for students to answer complex questions, investigate global issues, and develop solutions for challenges and real world problems by integrating four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. However, despite these facilities, the KHDA inspection raises concerns about the level of support that the facilities offer.
Interestingly, the school teaches a mixed curriculum with students learning English, French and Arabic within kindergarten, whilst students in Grades 10 to 12 study a modified US curriculum (equivalent to a US grade 12 Diploma). The school's programme (with three languages from KG to Grade 12) enables the students to develop their language skills and reading literacy from an early age, as French is emphasised in KG and a strong foundation is laid, whilst from Grades 1 to 12, the curriculum is delivered in English as the language of instruction. Students receive differentiated Arabic and French lessons across the school.
The school (as now required for all US curriculum schools in Dubai) is a candidate for NEASC (New England Association of School and Colleges) accreditation - a means by which it is ensured that schools are genuinely delivering an accepted and quality-controlled US programme.
Although the KHDA notes that the curriculum is "generally aligned with U.S. requirements and expectations", some subjects are omitted, particularly arts, music and physical education from the core curriculum. It seems that the school endeavours to incorporate these and other activities through its range of extra-curricular clubs and activities which include Scouts, Student Council, Drama, Folklore, Art, Varsity Sports, Broadcast Station, Piano, Computer Club, Photography Club, Commité de Français, The Science Club, The Math Club, Astronomy Club, Earth Calling Out (Environment Club), Robotics, The Business Club and The Humanitarian Club among others. The school extends its sports activities to varsity teams for girls and boys including basketball, volleyball, track and field, table tennis and football. All clubs are under direct staff supervision and guidance by staff and teachers and generally take place after school hours.
Students are supported by some 158 teachers and 10 teaching assistants, the majority of whom are Lebanese nationals. This provides a staff:student ratio of 1:16 - around the average for many international schools in Dubai. Staff turnover, at 9%, is on the low side - a positive sign in terms of stability at the school. The Principal has been in post for just a year.
According to the school's website, the Vision of Al Mawakeb School Garhoud is "In a complex and rapidly changing world, we will steadfastly provide an excellent education in a caring and respectful environment dedicated to the wellbeing and happiness of all students." Its Vision includes the following statement "We are committed to developing [students] 21st century skills and building students to become well-rounded, goal-driven and holistic individuals who are advocates of multiculturalism and are capable of solving global, local, and environmental issues. We will challenge students to take personal responsibility for their own learning and to apply their learning to a diverse and changing world."
The school profile provides details of university destinations for its students, many of which are in the US, USA, Canada and across the Middle East.
What about facilities
Located in the busy Garhoud area of Dubai, facilities at Al Mawakeb include a library, science and computer labs, a STEM lab, art workshops and a school clinic. However, the most recent KHDA report notes that "the library, the science laboratories and the learning technology resources do not sufficiently support students’ research and inquiry-based learning." In addition, classrooms are also deemed to be "not conducive to personalised learning."
The school is located on a large, green site in single storey and low-rise buildings with extensive outdoor areas. The school also is a recognized SAT exam centre for students who wish to enter college.
What the inspectors say
The school was rated Good for the fourth year in a row in the 2017-18 KHDA inspection round.
Strengths of the school were identified as:
Bearing in mind that Good is the minimum rating which the KHDA expects schools to achieve, Al Mawakeb Garhoud, is clearly on track. The vast majority of judgements by the inspection team in relation to Student Achievement are rated Good, although Maths, English and Science in the High School are largely rated Very Good. Arabic as a first language in Middle school, together with Maths progress are also rated Very Good. However, of 46 judgements, only six have improved in the past year.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills are rated Very Good across the board, with personal development in Elementary School having improved to this rating in the current report. Inspectors commented that "Students exhibit excellent attitudes and behavior across all phases. They are very welcoming and helpful. Their understanding of Islamic values, Emirati society and world cultures is strong as a consequence of rich curriculum activities. The many environmental and community initiatives that students have led or participated in have improved their personal and social responsibility."
In line with Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment are rated Good, although again, the High School is more highly rated with a Very Good rating for Teaching for Effective Learning. The inspection report notes that "Planning is a strong aspect of teaching, but the quality of delivery is variable. Assessment results are analyzed, and information is used to modify the curriculum and instruction. However, there is still a significant gap between internal and external assessment information." This suggests that the accuracy of data held by teachers is not sufficiently accurate and the curriculum and instruction are therefore not adequately linked to students' progress and attainment. In addition, inspectors found that "Although teachers’ lesson plans include opportunities for critical thinking, problem solving, inquiry and investigation, the delivery of lessons is inconsistently focused on those aspects. Differentiation of instruction is evident in the better lessons but is not well embedded in all subjects."
More concerningly in some ways, the fact that "most staff hold appropriate university degrees, but only a minority of teachers possess teaching qualifications" must be an area upon which the school focuses moving forward, particularly given that inspectors commented that "good quality professional development is provided, but it is not individualized enough."
Curriculum design and adaptation to meet the needs of students were found also to be Good, with this measure having been upgraded in the High School. In addition to comments related to the lack of provision of arts, music and physical education within the core curriculum, inspectors expressed concern that "Although the curriculum is reviewed regularly, modifications have not led to improved outcomes for certain groups of students, such as students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those who are gifted and talented." The new Inclusive Education framework issued by the KHDA in 2017 has led to a much sharper focus on the provision and outcomes for students with SEND requirements, and Al Mawakeb Garhoud's rating for this key area has been downgraded to Acceptable in the current report. Inspectors commented that "Students with SEND are generally well supported socially and emotionally. However, the inconsistent classroom practice and the variability of the support they get hinder their progress. Consequently, they only make acceptable progress."
The protection, care, guidance and support of students at Al Mawakeb Garhoud is a strength of the school. Health and Safety measures, including Child Protection, were all upgraded to Very Good in the current inspection, whilst Care and Support remained Good.
The leadership and management of the school were also rated Good against the key measures. Comments from the inspection team included that "School leaders have set a clear direction for ongoing improvement. The high level of collaboration and professional communication between leaders and teachers has ensured the sustainability of effective provision and the steady improvement of students' outcomes. The leadership is committed to develop a fully inclusive ethos. However, support for students with SEND and those with gifts and talents is limited." In another area of key focus for the KHDA, the inspectors found that although the governing board ensures that different views are gathered and taken into consideration when making decisions, "the board lacks the representation of all stakeholders."
The KHDA inspection team produced a comprehensive list of recommendations to be implemented by the school including the need to:
Close to 440 students responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey. Most students who have responded to the survey indicate that they belong to a friendly and welcoming school community. Most of them believe that teachers and leaders support them well in their learning. However, almost one quarter of them do not think they can make a difference at school - potentially referencing to lack of wider involvement in all stakeholders in the governance of the school.
Parents are said to be largely pleased with the school, and satisfied with attainment. Some 300 parents responded to the survey and the majority reported that the school has helped their children develop independent learning skills. Teachers also expressed their satisfaction with the school and are happy to work there. They believe that the school community is characterised by trust, strong relationships and collegiality. This data is supported by the low teacher turnover figure at Al Mawakeb Garhoud.
Al Mawakeb Garhoud is a Good school that teachers, parents and students clearly like and trust. On its journey to school improvement, however, there are clearly issues to be addressed. After four years as a Good school, the challenge will be for the leadership to raise the quality of teaching and its impact on student outcomes to move up to the next level. Progress is being made, but it is at a steady rather than fast pace. It may be some time before the school is able to reach the next level.
Fees at the school are in the low to mid-range, but hide some substantial additional non-optional costs. Tuition fees in KG are AED 14,640, but with the addition of books and "other curricular activities" and an unexplained "other school gears including VAT", the total fees are AED 20,600. By grade 12, where tuition fees are a very reasonable AED 23,732, the addition of non-optional costs raises the total to AED 43,500.
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