Australian International School (also known as AIS) is a K-12 private school located in Muweileh, Sharjah. It was the first Australian school established in the Middle East and says it is the first example of the State Government of Queensland entering into a partnership to provide the Queensland curriculum ‘off shore’.
And, given the curriculum’s focus on pastoral care and well-being, active and enquiry based learning, sport, technology and the arts, it’s not hard to see why the emirate likes it so much.
The Australian International School was the first Australian school to open in 2005. Based on the Queensland curriculum of Australia it remains the only learning institution in the Middle East recognised as an ‘Australian school outside Australia.’
Owned by Al Sharif Investment Trading Group, the aim was to provide a quality international and intercultural education which prepared students for their futures in the global economy.
Al Sharif’s plan was to incorporate Arabic, Islamic and Australian cultures and create a truly international school with a local context, by teaching both the Queensland Certificate of Education and the IB Diploma.
Clearly AIS has achieved all of this and more for its 1,400 strong student body, the majority of which are Emirati. In fact, to such a degree, that the group now plans to launch a new Dubai school in the same model, though the date is not yet confirmed.
In October 2018, longstanding executive principal Annette Wilson stood down and Australian Steve McLuckie was appointed for the position.
Before his career in education, Steve was a professional Australian rules footballer playing for Southport and the Brisbane Bears.
McLuckie then went on to teach and eventual leadership positions at two Queensland schools, before joining Varsity College, Australia’s largest independent school.
He says of his time teaching in Australia, “I have been recognised as an influential leader in education in Australia, being invited to: join the Principals Congress Board for Queensland; attend the World Class International Study Tour of Shanghai and Singapore; mentor new Principals within the education system; and present as the key note speaker for national conferences in best practice teaching, learning, innovation and leadership. “
The teaching staff at AIS is international with a focus on experienced native speakers. The school says of the staff, “our teachers are highly trained and highly skilled. Students though value their teachers care for them. I hear wonderful stories every day of teachers who ‘go the extra mile’ for students, providing extra assistance wherever this is needed to ensure that students succeed.”
AIS is a 'Recognised School' as under the Queensland Education Act and is affiliated with: Queensland Department of Education and Training, Education Queensland International, the International Baccalaureate Association, the Middle East IB Association, Australian International Schools Association, Australian International Nursery and the Knowledge Workx Foundation.
Although AIS does not publish its IB Diploma results, during the previous (2013/14) Sharjah Education Zone inspection, inspectors noted, “students in Grade 12 attained high standards across a wide range of external tests and examinations. Students who sat the IB performed well and gained an average score of 5.3 which was at least in line with students from other high attaining countries."
The report goes on, "in the most recent set of assessments in the Australian ‘National Assessment Programme for Literacy and Numeracy’ (NAPLAN) for 2013 students were judged to be broadly in line with students who attended Australian schools. Almost all of the students who completed the QCE were successful and eligible for direct entry into internationally respected universities. Only a very few were required to complete a Foundation year. Anecdotal feedback from a few of those universities indicated that the standard of students’ work was at least in line with other first year university students."
The school has; a 19,000 book library with online loaning system, an indoor 25 metre pool, newly revamped canteen with healthy food choices, large indoor multipurpose hall with double indoor basketball courts, three large grass outdoor pitches, specialist science labs and is a 'Google School' utilising the Google Apps for Education (G-Suite/GAFE).
According to the AIS website, “our pedagogical model is inquiry. Students are encouraged to ask complex questions and then work out how they might find the answers to these questions. Technology is playing an increasing role in this. Our students have access to as much information as they could ever need. The real skill is in learning how to sort through this vast array of data and apply this information to creating novel solutions.”
The AIS Early Learning Centre follows the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’ EYLF and ‘Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines’ QKLG based within a Reggio Emilia philosophy. It claims excellent facilities and resources.
In Grade 10, students study, English, maths, science, business, history, PE, French, media, drama, Arabic and Islamic based on the Australian curriculum.
In Grades 11 and 12 students can choose between the IB Diploma or the QCE program which allows students to pursue the Queensland senior school curriculum moderated by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA).
Those choosing the QCAA also study the following courses from the Murdoch University in Dubai Foundation Program: introduction to ICT, critical thinking and research skills, foundation mathematics and University entrance.
The PE program encompasses a wide range of sports and places firm emphasis on skill development. Students from Grade 4 are offered the opportunity to participate in inter-school events including netball, basketball and football in tournaments and organised leagues.
Interschool swimming galas are a common event along with the annual cross country long distance run and the athletics carnival where students compete in track and field events against all the EISSA affiliated schools in Sharjah.
Extra Curricular Activities are held every Wednesday afternoon at no cost.
Students in the early years rotate around a variety of fun activities throughout each term. These include; play dough creations, construction, group games, dance and fine motor activities.
Students in Grades 3, 4 and 5 select an activities such as; rugby skills, drumming, origami, cartooning, Arabic reading and speed stacks, while students in Middle and Senior School have a wide range of activities to choose from.
Additional paid ECAs also run each term. These range from; arts and cooking through to basketball and fun games like soapy soccer, plus the more regular swimming and football.
The school also runs the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme and works in partnership with KnowledgeWorkxED to provide the Global Leadership Program to students.
The AIS Journalist Club is available for Grades 7 to 9, with select Grade 6 students offered mentorship.
The school offers instrument tuition via the Juli Music Centre, an external specialist music lesson provider. Instruments available include; piano, violin, guitar and drums.
Juli tutors are selected from around the world to provide expert tuition to students. All teachers are qualified to a minimum of degree level, with many holding Master’s Degrees and Doctorates in their specialist instrument.
Fees range from between 36,700 AED for Grade 1 students to 66,300 AED for Grade 12 students. There is an additional fee of 200 AED for medical support and an 30+ depending on the grade for textbooks. From Grade 2 to Grade 12 students need to sit an assessment.
Australian International School Sharjah is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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