Dar Al Marefa School is a bilingual Arabic/ English school located in Mirdiff that teaches students from pre-KG through to Grade 12. Students follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
Dar Al Marefa School has been open since 2008 and currently has a student roster of 710 students. The school has a majority Emirati student population (75%) together with students from a further 34 countries. Teachers are a mix of British, Irish, Syrian, and Lebanese nationals with a total of 17 different nationalities. The school has 77 teachers and a further 23 teaching assistants - providing a staff:student ratio of 1:9. This should enable good levels of individual support for students. Teacher turnover, at 24%, is on the high side - the average for Dubai is between 20-22% - which may have implications for stability.
The school aims to create a community that enriches the development of children and equips them to be lifelong learners. They believe that teaching is about instilling knowledge, confidence, and positive thinking in children at the school and enabling them to be positive citizens for the communities in which they live.
The school’s vision is:
"to create a community that fosters lifelong learning, is rooted in its values and beliefs, is open minded, tolerant and appreciates diversity."
The school’s mission is:
"to build a consistent, challenging and safe learning environment that supports each child in exploring their capabilities, encourages them to respect other cultures and embrace the world with open-mindedness, tolerance and confidence."
The school states that as part of its school philosophy, which it shares with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, it believes in students being bilingual, and offers Arabic and English as Language A. The purpose of Arabic is to keep students close to their roots and culture, and that of English is to enable students to be fluent and functional in another language. This has some impact on the curriculum in so far as some subjects (notably Individuals and Societies in the MYP programme, which consists of elements of History, Geography, Political Science & Economics) are offered in both Arabic and English until year 4 and then taught in English during year 5 and beyond.
The KG Department at Dar al Marefa prides itself on the bilingual approach which is says works extremely well for students. "The students are exposed to Arabic and English equally throughout the week. Through units of inquiry students, make links with the community, visiting local businesses and cultural attractions to make their learning real-life and fun!
The curriculum is designed to reflect respect for local and regional cultures while preparing students for an increasingly complex and interconnected world".
The Primary Islamic Studies Curriculum is designed to develop Islamic awareness and culture among students. In MYP, the curriculum is based on the Ministry of Education Islamic Studies curriculum, in addition to lessons dedicated to teaching the rules of reading the Holy Qur’an. The lessons are planned as units according to the IB Middle Years planning methodology.
The school's Principal, Mr. Dahi Sohi, holds a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, an M.Ed. the University of San Diego, and an Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership from Argosy University. He recently worked with the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) to review and revise curriculum.
The extra-curricular activities at Dar Al Marefa are evidently a focus of the school. Various clubs are offered across all age groups throughout the year. The activities are typically spread out across three sessions and may include sports (tennis, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, karate), arts (craft, pottery, model making, woodcraft), academics (science, math, robotics) as well as less usual activities (3D printing, digital, photography) and linguistics (French, Spanish). One of the most sought-after activities is the Islamic programme, which features Holy Quran studies, ethics and values in a structured manner.
Dar Al Marefa had its first small cohort of IB Diploma students take part in the final exams in May 2018. The school has shared its results as follows:
|No. of candidates registered in the session||3|
|No. of diploma and retake candidates registered||3|
|No. of subject entries in the session||9|
|No. of candidates who passed the diploma||3|
|% of candidates who achieved 40+ points||0|
|% of candidates who achieved 35+ points||2|
|% of candidates who achieved 30+ points||3|
|Highest Diploma points awarded to a candidate||36|
|Average points obtained at the school by candidates who passed the diploma||35|
|Total number of candidates excluded from the statistics||0|
An average of 35 points puts the school among the leaders in Dubai; however, with such a small and highly selected cohort, this is not necessarily an indicator of future students' results. However, we very much welcome the fact that Dar Al Marefa is open about its results and its staff and students can certainly be proud of its first success.
Dar Al Marefa School is housed in a modern, purpose-built building offering purpose designed classrooms, three State-of-the-art science labs, three fully-equipped libraries, soft, child-friendly playgrounds, a multi-purpose gym and multi-sports outdoor fields.
The school has been ranked Good for the passed five years, before that, it was a mixture of Acceptable and Good.
In the current (2017-18) inspection which took place in February 2018, inspectors noted the following strengths of the school:
The latest report shows that the school is making progress with student attainment and progress with most measures rated Good for both the Arabic and non-Arabic core subjects. Only progress in Arabic as a second language in the PYP programme has fallen back to Acceptable. Science appears to be a particular strength with measures for attainment and progress in all phases rated Good.
This year's report finds that the students personal and social development has improved to Very Good in the MYP phase (in line with other phases), noting that students across all grades have very positive attitudes towards school. Students' understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures is rated Outstanding in KG and Very Good across the other three sections of the school.
Futhermore, the report finds that:
"Student responsibility, their participation in community services and their implementation of innovative ideas is developing throughout the school."
Teaching and assessment and the design and adaptation of the curriculum are also strengths of the school with all measures being rated Good across all phases. There has been a notable improvement in regard to adaptation which has been upgraded to Good across PYP, MYP and DP, in line with the KG. The report finds that "Teaching in all phases of the school is consistently good."
The indicator for protection, care, guidance and support of students retained its Very Good ratings in relation to Health and Safety and saw improvements to Good in PYP and MYP, and Very Good in KG, in relation to Care and Support. Leadership and Management were largely rated Good with the exception of the relationship between the school, parents and the community which has improved to Very Good. The report notes that "The school leadership team (SLT) provides a clear vision for the school. Leaders are supported by an effective governing body who together with the SLT have acted positively to address recommendations in the previous inspection report. Relationships and partnership with parents are very good."
Areas for improvement for the school were identified as the need to:
Dar Al Marefa is a school which is clearly offering a good quality of education with which parents and students are satisfied. However, it is a school that, in terms of its student attainment, appears to be making slow progress. The issue of the use of assessment data is one that seems to be on-going. Until the school can make progress in this respect, and show some evident improvement in attainment, it is hard to see how it can move beyond the Good rating.
The school has just started publishing the performance of its students at IBDP - something WhichSchoolAdvisor.com encourages all schools to do. It is to its credit it has started this process. The inspection report notes that "the students in the Diploma Programme (DP) have a limited range of subjects to choose from, but choices have been increased through the use of blended online learning." Class sizes are also said to be very small for Maths at DP level due to the small number of students.
The school's fees range from AED 32,670 for pre-KG and KG to AED 74,118 for Grades 11 and 12.
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