Al Mizhar American Academy (formerly Al Mizhar American Academy for Girls), a Taaleem owned and run school, is located in Al Mizhar 1, near Mirdif in Dubai.
The story so far...
Al Mizhar American Academy (AAM) is one of only a small number of Girls only private schools appealing to expat as well as local families, for whom single gender education is more common. Almost 80% of students are Emirati, with the balance other native Arab speakers and other expatriate nationalities - the majority of whom have Arabic as a first language. The school is keen to reach out to Indian and Pakistani Muslim families seeking a quality US curriculum school offering an all-girl environment.
Al Mizhar American Academy is owned by Taaleem Education. It was previously known as the American Academy for Girls and is located in Al Mizhar, very close to the border with Sharjah. The “for Girls” was dropped from the name several years ago, when the school started to admit younger male siblings of older female students into KG1 for KG1 and KG2 only. This was offered as a service to existing parents. The boys move on, generally to other Taaleem schools, for Grade 1 onwards.
The school says it limits classrooms to one gender, so girls can grow and develop leadership skills and communication as well as feel comfortable to discover their own talents. A single sex environment, the school believes, allows its students to be more curious and inquisitive.
It has just under 640 students on its roster with 58 teachers and 19 teaching assistants. This provides a teacher:student ratio of 1:11, ensuring individual attention for the students. The school takes children from 3 to 18 years of age (pre-KG to Grade 12).
Al Mizhar American Academy's Vision is 'Inspiring young minds for future success'.
AAM's Mission is to promote intellectual curiosity, independent and critical thinking, communication and problem solving skills, a lifelong passion for learning, and an exposure to and a respect for cultural diversity. By expecting academic excellence, we inspire personal growth and develop intrinsically motivated global citizens who are committed to being leaders in community service and environmental responsibility.
Teacher turnover, at 31% in the last academic year, is significantly higher than the UAE average of 20-22% - always a concerning sign. The entire staff of the school is female and comes from the US, with the exception of Arabic and Islamic studies staff. This latter element of the curriculum is a particular strength of the school. The majority of graduates go on to universities in the US, whilst others attend university in Dubai and Sharjah.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows an American curriculum based on the Kansas State Common Core curriculum, using the United States Common Core Standards for English Language, Arts and Mathematics, the Next Generation Science Standards, the C3 (College, Career and Civic Life) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, and the National Core Arts Standards. The curriculum is modified to include the Ministry of Education requirements for Arabic and Islamic Education. Students receive a high school diploma upon completion of Grade 12 which is accredited by NEASC, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The School's Principal explains "A key reason for choosing the US curriculum was inspired by the American philosophy to educate the individual, who in-turn contributes to their community and beyond. The Common Core curriculum offers students multiple perspectives of life, both from the past and the 21st century, which they can draw upon as they move from childhood into their adult lives".
In terms of delivery, AAM uses the "Constructivist Approach Toward Learning". According to the school, "the faculty gives students regular opportunities to do far more than just memorize what they are told by teachers and books. Constructivism concentrates on learning how to think and understand. Constructivist learning is transferable, so in constructivist classrooms, students develop organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings. Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since learning is based on students’ questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well. Constructivist assessment engages the students’ initiatives and personal investments in their journals, research reports, physical models, and artistic representations. Engaging creative instincts develops students’ abilities to express knowledge through a variety of ways and also to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life".
As an Apple™ Light House School, AAM places a strong emphasis on integrating technology throughout the curriculum. Its Art is Life Fine Arts Program has as its mission to provide an environment that nurtures a life-long appreciation of the fine arts through the study of multicultural artistic perspectives.
External tests included the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Advanced Placement exams for Grade 12 students, Pre-SAT exams for Grade 11 and SAT exams for Grade 12. The school is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
In addition to the Academic curriculum, students are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities that are of interest to them, or at least one that particularly suits them. Extra-curricular and after-school activities offered include Student Council, Model United Nations (MUN), Book Club, Rugby, Film Studies, Band, Robotics, Painting, Writer's Workshop, Aqua Club, Public Speaking, Student Leadership, Drama Club, Advanced Gymnastics, Scrapbooking, Spanish Club, Qur’an Club, Cooking, Arabic Club, Educational Trips and others.
One particular extra-curricular activity programme that is held at the school, intended to enrich students with life skills and curiosity to explore new endeavours is CHIPS, which is an acronym for Creativity, Happiness, Innovation, Pioneering, and Spirited activities. AAM also offers an Early MBA Programme as an after-school activity.
The curriculum of this London based programme is built on real-life lessons of the Advisory Board who are senior leaders at the likes of Google, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson having studied at the highest ranked universities and business schools such as Harvard, Cambridge, and INSEAD. The programme was developed to empower teenagers with the skills and experiences necessary to stand out from the competition and overcome any challenge. The Early MBA Programme benefits students who are looking to improve their university applications, get work placements or discover the best career opportunities.
Community service is another vital part of AAM's environment. All students are expected to take part in charitable activities to encourage a sense of social responsibility and awareness of global issues. Students are offered a range of options for undertaking charity work, from initiatives within the school where older students read with younger ones; to volunteering locally with orphanages and organizations, such as Red Crescent; to international efforts, including volunteering in developing nations, such as Thailand and Mauritus.
What about facilities?
The school stands on a large plot and is well resourced and laid out in a modern building, very much in keeping with other Taaleem schools. While a smaller school, resources include a swimming pool, well-resourced library, computer labs, interactive white boards, art studios, music studios, science labs, mini auditorium, fitness room, gymnasium, sports field, dance studio, KG playroom, separate KG library, outdoor playground, and a canteen. The school is considered well-resourced by the KHDA.
What the inspectors say
Al Mizhar American Academy has been rated Good since its first inspection in 2008. In fact, prior to the introduction of a common inspection process some four years ago that is being implemented across the UAE, a rating of Good meant that the school was only one step away from the highest rating of Outstanding. The common inspection process has now added a further rating of Very Good in between, and this is the rating to which the school should now be aspiring. To remain at Good for 10 years in a row suggests that although the school is operating at the minimum level that the KHDA expects; it is some way from a step up to the next grade.
The most recent 2018-19 report which follows the KHDA inspection in November 2018, highlights the following strengths of Al Mizhar:
In our experience, any inspection report that focuses on health and safety (this is the second year where this key performance standard has been praised in the list of strengths), and student behaviour, is almost always an indicator that the three key inter-linked performance standards of Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum are likely to be the areas that require further significant improvement.
And so it seems to be the case...
Whilst in terms of Student Achievement, the vast majority of ratings are good, only 7 of the 46 measures were rated Very Good. Middle and High school section Arabic as a first language is rated only Acceptable for progress and attainment (bearing in mind that the vast majority of students at AAM are native speakers). The same is true for Mathematics attainment in the same sections which is also rated Acceptable.
Only one rating - for Mathematics progress in the Elementary section has improved - and that from Acceptable to Good. In fact, with the exception of Personal Development in the Middle and High school sections, which improved to Very Good, these were the only improvements across the school.
To be fair, given the demands from the KHDA and its DSIB inspection teams for constant improvement, it is not that AAM has stood still; it is keeping pace with the improvement demands, but not at a pace which is enabling it to make significant steps forward, and thus improve the overall rating of the school.
Students' personal, and social development and innovation skills are rated almost entirely Very Good. As anticipated, and reflected in Students' Achievement, Teaching and assessment and the Curriculum are both rated almost entirely Good (the exception being KG assessment which is Very Good). Even Care and Support are rated only Good, though Health and Safety, including safeguarding and child protection, is rated Outstanding.
Inevitably, the to-do list revolves around the three key performance standards, together with Leadership and Management which has to establish a more coherent structure that enables all concerned to understand and promote the school's vision.
Al Mizhar American Academy should:
Whilst the list is short, its demands should not be underestimated. Al Mizhar American Academy is without doubt a good school, but it deserves to be more.
If you would like to read the full KHDA Inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do in order to understand the reasoning behind the ratings and recommendations - you will find it here.
A relatively small group of parents (71) responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey and expressed mixed views in regard to their experience of Al Mizhar American Academy. Parents who are very involved in school matters have very positive experiences. A minority of parents would like closer links with teachers, a more stable work force, and new students to be made more welcome. Parents agree that their children are happy and make good progress.
Some 174 Grade 6 to 9 students completed the KHDA's 2017 Well-being Census which contained some insights into areas of personal concern for students and was reflected in negative commentary, particularly in relation to the volume of homework given. Students mention going to bed late and to being tired due to long journeys to the school. However, the majority feel safe and enjoy courteous and supportive relationships with their teachers.
If you are a parent, teacher or student and would like to share your experiences with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received very limited responses to its Parent Survey. Children enjoy going to school and parents are confident in AAM's ability to meet their children's needs. They are satisfied with the level of academic performance and the feedback they receive. They would unreservedly recommend the school to other parents and believe that the fees they pay represent value for money.
For parents seeking an English-language based school that is exclusively female, following an international curriculum, this is the only option in Dubai and the Northern Emirates and, in our opinion, has a great deal to recommend it.
What about the fees?
School fees after approval for discounts from the KHDA range from AED 39,886 at KG to AED 62,176 at Grade 12, putting the school top end mid range. Full details under the Fees and Admissions tab.
There is an application fee of AED 525, a registration fee payable on offer of a place which is offset against the first term's fees of AED 4,000 - payable within 10 days of the offer - and a re-registration fee for existing students of AED 2,000 to guarantee a place for the following academic year - also deductible from the first term's fees.
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