Canadian International School (CIS), located in Khalfa A, Abu Dhabi, offers an Alberta based curriculum to its now over 70 different nationalities of around 1,000 students.
Canadian International School, founded in 2007, offers the Province of Alberta-based curriculum, which is attractive for many parents with its very child centered approach to learning.
The school is one of three Canadian curriculum schools in the capital that largely compete with US curriculum schools for the affections of parents and students. All three Canadian schools - Abu Dhabi Grammar School and Maplewood Canadian International are, in terms of fees, generally more competitive than the majority of the US curriculum-based alternatives.
CIS currently has approximately 1,000 students of whom Canadians represent the highest contingent, followed by Emirati students (20%), US nationals and Egyptians. Close to 5% of students have SEN requirements. Students are supported by approximately 70 teachers, predominantly Canadian, teachers and a further 20 teaching assistants, providing a teacher:student ratio of 1:13 - a number that allows staff to provide individualised attention and curriculum adaptation to students.
The school was rated Very Good by ADEK for the first time in the first post-Covid inspections of 2021-22. Standards and achievement in English, Maths and Science are Very Good across the school - and the Alberta based curriculum is praised for its encouragement of independent thinking.
What about the curriculum?
The Alberta curriculum is focused on student-centered inquiry learning, which teaches students to be independent, be critical thinkers and possess skills to cope and adapt in different situations. In many aspects, it is similar in pedagogy to the International Baccalaurate programmes.
Core subjects include English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, English Social Studies, Physical Education, Art and Music, Health, Drama, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and French.
Early Childhood Education is focused on “Purposeful Play” as a means of developing children’s love for life long learning. Given the opportunity to explore their environment through purposeful play, children acquire important life skills that meet their social, physical, intellectual, cultural, creative and emotional needs. Kindergarten is a transition period as children move from the home to the “outside world.” CIS is committed to providing a caring, nurturing environment that assists children in developing the confidence and skills necessary to become independent learners.
The Elementary curriculum is taught by class teachers through Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL). The emphasis is on teaching students the process of learning so that they gain not only knowledge but also an understanding of the process as well as their own individual learning style.
Class teachers cover the core subject areas of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. In addition to increasing students’ self-confidence and rapport with their teacher, the class teacher facilitates the IBL approach. By spending more time with one group of students, the class teacher knows their strengths and weaknesses and can build on their knowledge base more easily as they incorporate cross-curricular objectives.
CIS also recognises the interrelationship between positive self-esteem, academic success, and physical fitness. Accordingly, Physical Education promotes daily physical activity as well as teaching basic knowledge of nutrition and healthy lifestyles. All students also participate in Art and Music and may join the School's Band from Grade 6.
The school provides extremely detailed curriculum handbooks for Grades 7-10 and Grades 11 and 12. Core subjects cover the same areas as the Elementary School, with a range of options that include subject areas such as Career and Technology Studies, Fine Arts, Languages, Environmental and Outdoor Education, and Ethics, as well as the Ministry of Education required Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies.
Interestingly, to enable students to potentially the US college and university system more easily, CIS also offers a limited number of Advance Placement courses - AP Drawing, AP Calculus AB, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP French, and AP Microeconomics.
The Alberta high school diploma is based on a credit system, similar to that of the US. To obtain the diploma senior students must be awarded 100 credits. Students are awarded credits for each course they pass. In addition, Grade 12 students must write and pass diploma examinations in core subject areas to graduate. Diploma examinations are provincially administered and account for 50 percent of the students’ final grade in the course. The Alberta Diploma is recognised by universities around the world.
The school says it puts emphasis on producing well rounded individuals through both its curriculum and its extracurricular activities. These "can" include: Football, Basketball, Swimming, Tae Kwon Do, Mad Science, Chess Club, Art Club, Photography Club, Drama Club, Golf, Music Lessons, Language Lessons, Experiential Field Trips, School-Wide Celebrations and Student Council.
The school does not publish results on their own, but, has in the past, uploaded a results review. The most recent is from 2021-22 and can be found here.
What about the facilities?
The school's modern purpose built compound in Khalifa City A, 30 km from the denser Abu Dhabi city centre itself, affords it a relatively high level of facilities - praised in large part by students and their parents.
Its main building has four wings: one for KG, one for grades 1 and 2, one for grades 3 to 6 and one for the Secondary school. It also holds a library, science labs, a computer lab, and an elementary art room. Most classrooms come equipped with interactive smart boards. Classroom design incorporates day lightening and warm colours for a positive learning atmosphere. KG Indoor and outdoor play areas allow for a balance of quiet and loud play spaces; for games, sand, water, and pretend fun. CIS also features a large indoor air-conditioned hall for purposeful play. A cafeteria is available for older students.
The school's annex houses a gymnasium, a 25-foot indoor swimming pool, a music room, a dance studio and "an enormous art studio" where students have the space to" create amazing works of art". The campus also includes a grass soccer field, a central turf playing field, a separate elementary school playground and an indoor, air-conditioned KG playground.
Having been rated Very Good for two inspections in 2013 and 2014, CIS has been rated one grade lower at Good for the past three ADEK inspections with the 2019-20 rating have again achieved a Good rating.
The first post-Covid 19 ADEK inspection process, which took place in March 2022, returned the school to the earlier Very Good rating - a considerable stride forward given that it is certainly more demanding for schools to achieve this rating today compared with 2013.
For reasons that have not been explained (we assume to enable inspections to take place at all schools that had not been inspected in 2019 and 2020), the inspection team reviewed only four of the six key performance standards and issued abbreviated reports without commentary.
However, there was little doubt that CIS had been substantial progress, being rated Very Good across all four key performance standards.
If you would like to read the abbreviated inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to see the detailed breakdown of the ratings - you will find it here.
Whilst ADEK rates the relationship between parents and the school highly - a Very Good rating was given to this key performance measure - parents who have responded to the WhichSchoolAdvisor. com survey have not been so effusive.
To be fair, we have only received a very limited number of responses to our Survey, and those parents who have given their views have been decidedly mixed in their responses. Whilst two thirds of respondents have considered moving their child to another school, one third have not. The percentage of parents satisfied and dissatisfied with the academic performance of the school is equal, and this is similarly so in relation to the school's disciplinary policy and its implementation. Communication is also an issue, with a greater proportion dissatisfied than satisfied.
The one question that did receive a marginally more positive response was with respect to the value for money that the school fees offer. Whilst those that agree in full, or partially agree that this was the case was equal (at 37%), those who totally disagreed with our statement was a much lower 27%. It seems that fees, which are often among the most contentious issues for parents, would appear to be a lesser factor at CIS.
Given the weighting of the comments, it is perhaps no surprise that the percentage of parents who would recommend Canadian International School to others is 55%, whilst only 36% would recommend it and 9% are undecided.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Canadian International School, please help us to ensure a representative view that will benefit other potential members of your community. Please share your opinions and experience and complete our Survey.
Fees for the school are mid-range, starting from AED 37,250 for KG1 up to AED 49,450 for Grade 12, which does not include transportation, uniform, field trips and special student activities, but does included books. Fees include an annual registration fee which is deducted from the first term fees.
Fees increase by an increment of approximately AED 2,000-3,000 between KG to Grade 5, to Grades 6 to 9 and to Grades 10-12 - so parents need not fear substantial additional fees as children move from one grade to the next, but only from one section to the next (i.e. KG to Elementary, Elementary to Secondary, and Secondary to High School).
There is also a non-refundable AED 500 application fee. Note, the school admission starts with a test to check ability to succeed at the school.
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