Founded in 2014, Al Saad Indian School (SIS) is part of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan network of schools in the Middle East. Al Saad Indian School or SIS was the second school of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to be established in the UAE after the campus at Abu Dhabi.
The story so far...
The second school in the UAE to be established by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan network, Al Saad Indian School Al Ain is a relative new-comer to the Al Ain education scene, moving into its fifth year of operation in April 2019. All schools of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in the Middle East follow the Indian CBSE Curriculum.
Founded in 1938 by Dr. K.M. Munshi, today the network consists of 400 schools in India as well as ten international centres spread from the US to Portugal and the UK to Australia, as well as schools in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.
The ownership and governors of the school underline the school's commitment to the provision of a "World Class Education, which prepares Global Citizens who will provide leadership in the future".
The school states that it aims, in short, "to turn out students who are well-educated, well informed and who are mentally developed, physically strong, socially adjusted, emotionally balanced and technically talented and who are ready to take a full, active and positive rôle in their life and in their country and world".
Open from Lower KG to Grade XII, SIS currently has some 800 children who study at the school and has expanded at a rapid rate (some 20% per year) since opening. 95% of students are Indian, with a small number of other nationalities making up the balance. The mix of boys to girls is slightly in favour of boys. On average, there are five classes per grade and an average class size of 22 – definitely on the low side for an Indian curriculum school.
With some 62 teachers, predominantly of Indian nationality, and Arabic staff who are from Egypt, the staff to student ratio is 1:13 – again a low level that should ensure significant individual support for students. Teachers seem happy with their employment with a very low 4% annual turnover, compared with a UAE average of between 20-22%. Such staff stability is generally a positive sign.
The school says that it provides a training ground for experienced as well as qualified teachers, who have recently joined the school. A minimum Bachelors’ degree in the relevant subject is required for staff teaching up to Grade 5 and a post-graduate qualification is required for Grades 6 and above. A degree in Teaching is mandatory. All teachers are qualified, without exception.
An SEN coordinator is available in the school looking after the educational needs of children with Mild Learning Disabilities. Frequent meetings are done with parents of children who have Individualized Education Plans to ensure that these children, sooner rather than later, are able to cope up with the requirements of the main stream curriculum. There is no additional fee for this provision.
What about the curriculum?
Students in KG follow the Montessori curriculum with certain elements of EYFS, whilst from Grades 1 to 5 they follow the CBSE curriculum and from Grades 6 to 12, the CBSE with requirements of NCERT as may be specified by CBSE. Core subjects to Grade X include English, Language, Arabic, Mathematics, Science, Social Science (from Grade 6 and above), Art, Music, Physical Education and Life Skills. Science and Commerce options are offered in Grade XI and XII. In addition to English and Arabic, electives such as Hindi, French and Malayalam are offered.
We lament the fact that the range of options for Senior students is so limited - with the focus on Science and Commerce streams only. There are so many opportunities for students to expand their horizons in a more creative direction today - and indeed, many future careers will rely on a combination of these skills, together with the more traditional technical ones.
In addition, the school offers a range of extra-curricular activities including various sports and music clubs, Gavel Club and Debating clubs.
What about academic achievement?
The school does not publish details of its students' academic achievements. This is something that we hope will be rectified in the coming years. Whilst results are not the be-all and end-all of education, they are an important factor in parental choice, and we strongly encourage transparency by schools so that they and their students are able to share and celebrate their achievements.
The school does participate in International Benchmarking tests (a requirement for schools in the UAE) and informs us that it achieved Good results in recent Science and Mathematics tests, although the last ADEK report notes that "IBT results indicate that most students are attaining standards below age-related expectations in English, mathematics and science".
What about facilities?
The school is located in a modern centrally air-conditioned building with laboratory facilities, art and crafts room, music and dance rooms, and an indoor play area for the younger students. The school says that a unique feature is the existence of a class library and class magazine. Lockers are provided for all the students in their respective class rooms. In addition to this, the school has a well-stocked central library which has a reference section.
SIS also has a well-equipped Science laboratory with modern amenities and features. It has an extensive range of scientific models, specimens, slides, charts, instruments, equipment and apparatus that cater to the scientific needs of all levels of classes right from the primary to the secondary level. Students experience the real sense of concepts by carrying out hands-on practicals here. The Science laboratory also provides a platform for the budding scientists of the senior secondary section to carry out their projects.
The school has also included a large outdoor soccer field which is apparently very popular with its students.
What the inspectors say
Although SIS has recently been inspected by ADEK's inspection team (in January 2019), we do not yet have access to this report. The previous inspection took place in May 2017. The inspection took place prior to the opening of Grades XI and XII. At that stage, SIS was rated Acceptable with Good features.
The inspection team found many positive aspects to report. In particular, they commented on the improvements in the school that they had identified, driven by "the result of improving leadership and the dedication of senior leaders and staff. Students make acceptable progress because teachers provide greater structure in lessons and a wider range of learning opportunities, resulting in improved standards in most core subjects. Effective support for students’ personal and social development is balanced appropriately with academic progress. Students respect the heritage and culture of the UAE and their understanding of Islamic values is an important strength. The school runs in a positive and effective way each day. This enables staff and students to enjoy friendly relationships and work together in a purposeful learning environment in which students are confident and happy".
The strengths of the school were identified as:
Students' achievement across the majority of subjects was rated Acceptable, with the exception of Arabic as a Second language, Science (with the exception of KG attainment which was rated Acceptable) and progress in Social Studies, all of which were rated Good. Other subjects such as Art, Music and PE were rated largely Acceptable with the exception of the Middle school which was rated Good. Learning skills were also Acceptable. The report also noted that Enterprise and Innovation skills were not addressed in most lessons, although students were found to be innovative in initiating and contributing to community work. The use of ICT in lessons was also found to be underdeveloped, particularly in KG.
At its heart, the inspection report indicates the need for both teaching and assessment (largely rated Acceptable) and adaptation of the curriculum to meet individual learning needs to be significantly improved. The report notes that "higher achieving students are not always challenged effectively, and lower achievers may have difficulty in learning as they do not receive sufficient support".
Inspectors identified the following as key areas for improvement:
It is evident from the inspection report that SIS has some way to go before it can feel satisfied with the level of provision for and attainment of its students. With the most recent ADEK inspection having taken place in January 2019, it will be interesting to see what progress has been made.
Fees at Al Saad Indian School fall into the Very Low category according to ADEK. They start at AED 8,000 in Lower KG and progress in increments of AED 500 per grade group to AED 12,000 in Grades XI to XII.
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