United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Mirdif / Dar Al Marefa

Dar Al Marefa Review

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.
Parents' Rating
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4.0 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 54,000
Annual fees
AED 36,000 - 75,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2008
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
24%
Principal
Mrs Naira Hamdy
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates

Nearby nurseries

1.2km • EYFS curriculum
1.2km • EYFS curriculum
1.6km • EYFS curriculum
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Dar Al Marefa
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 54,000
Annual fees
AED 36,000 - 75,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2008
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
24%
Principal
Mrs Naira Hamdy
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates
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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.

The story so far...

Dar Al Marefa School has been open since 2008 and at the time of the last KHDA inspection in 2018-19 had a student roster of 780 students.  Of this number, close to 80% - 616 students - were Emirati.  The remaining students come from a further 34 countries.

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."

Teachers are a mix of British, Irish, Syrian, and Lebanese nationals with a total of 17 different nationalities.  The school had 86 teachers (majority British) and a further 23 teaching assistants plus two Student Counsellors - providing a staff:student ratio of 1:17.  This should enable good levels of individual support for students. Teacher turnover, at 22%, was around the average for Dubai at between 20-22%, but this level of turnover on a sustained basis 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.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has had limited feedback from parents at Dar Al Marefa School. However, recent remarks from April 2021 include:

"The strong sense of community is a very positive aspect of Dar Al Marefa. The school environment is generally safe and the children are taught good values..."

"Fully bilingual, strong cultural values, Ib learner profiles are woven into everything they do, small class sizes..."

Read more about parent and KHDA feedback in The Buzz

What about the curriculum?

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, Ms. Naira Hamdy, who previously served as PYP and MYP Deputy Head at the school, together with Mr. Ian Thurston (ex Head of Secondary at JESS Arabian Ranches), are clearing pressing forward with the curriculum and academic developments at the school - reflected in the 2020-21 IB Diploma results released in early July.

Ms. Hamdy has more than 20 years as PYP Head and a PYP Coordinator. She’s graduated from Cairo University, Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences in 1990. She has a master degree in Educational leadership and Children’s psychology from Lille University in France 2002. Mr. Thurston was a member of the JESS team for 12 years, prior to joining Dar Al Marefa as Head of Secondary in September 2019.

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.

What about Academic achievement?

Dar Al Marefa had its first small cohort of IB Diploma students take part in the final exams in May 2018, and although data was not provided for 2019, the school revealed its results again in 2020. The school has again shared its results for 2021 as follows: 

IB results 2021 2020 2018
No. of candidates registered in the session 28 16 3
No. of diploma and retake candidates registered 28 16 3
No. of subject entries in the session np np 9
No. of candidates who passed the diploma 100 100 3
% of candidates who achieved 40+ points 44 np 0
% of candidates who achieved 35+ points 67 np 2
% of candidates who achieved 30+ points 94 78 3
Highest Diploma points awarded to a candidate     36
Average points obtained at the school by candidates who passed the diploma 37.2   35

An average of 37.2 points puts the school among the leaders in Dubai; and with the number of candidates having grown significantly (almost double that of 2020), this is a very positive indicator of future students' results.  Most Dar al Marefa graduates embarked on the IB Diploma Programme in two languages with 83% of students achieving a Bilingual Diploma!

What about the Facilities?

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.

What the inspectors say

The school has been ranked Good for the past six years, before that, it was a mixture of Acceptable and Good.  With the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic, no inspection took place in 2019-20 or 2020-21

However, in common with all UAE schools, Dar Al Marefa did participate in Distance Learning Evaluations in both years and was rated Developed.  The latest published report can be found here.

In the most recent inspection, which took place in February 2019, inspectors noted the following strengths of the school:

  • Students' good progress in most disciplines in each phase
  • Students’ personal development and their awareness of Emirati culture
  • The very strong relationship with parents and the support provided to them as partners in their children's development
  • The owners' and governors' commitment to creating a state-of-the-art learning facility to meet the 21st Century needs of the UAE and its student population.

The latest report shows that the school is making progress some progress with student attainment and progress with most measures rated Good for both the Arabic and non-Arabic core subjects.  Islamic Education at the DP level has fallen to Acceptable across both measures, but progress in Arabic as a second language in the PYP programme, which had fallen back to Acceptable in the prior year, has now achieved a Good rating. Almost all ratings for Arabic as both a first and second language, and Islamic Studies are Good. 

In terms of the English-based core subject of English, Mathematics and  Science, the majority of ratings are Good, and Science appears to be a particular strength with measures for attainment and progress in all phases rated Good.  Only MYP Mathematics is rated Acceptable across both measures.

Students personal and social development and their Innovation skills is a clear strength of the school, with ratings Very Good across all sections for Students' Personal Development and their understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures rated Outstanding in KG and Very Good across the other three sections of the school.  Students' innovation skills are rated Good.

Teaching and assessment and the design and adaptation of the curriculum are also strengths of the school with all measures were again rated Good across all phases. 

The indicator for protection, care, guidance and support of students retained its Very Good ratings in relation to Health and Safety and saw an improvement to Very Good in MYP in relation to Care and Support.

Leadership and Management were  rated Good with the exception of the relationship between the school, parents and the community which has improved again to Outstanding. 

Areas for improvement for the school were identified as the need to:

Improve attainment by:

  • using assessment data effectively to address the needs of individuals and groups of students;
  • increasing opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, problem-solving and independent research;
  • ensuring that learning experiences provide appropriate levels of challenge for all students, including those with Gifts and Talents.

Increase the accuracy of self-evaluation processes by focusing on individual students' progress when measuring outcomes.

If you would like to read the latest inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received only very limited feedback from members of the Dar Al Marefa community - perhaps not surprising given the mainly Arabic and Emirati families who children attend the school. However, the small number of Surveys that we have received from parents show high levels of satisfaction. 

With an average score of 3.8/5, this is a positivity rating of 76%.   Parents believe that their children enjoy going to school and have a sense of belonging.  They are generally satisfied with feedback from the school and its disciplinary policy. 

Where there is some disagreement is in regard to the level of academic performance.  Whilst 40% of respondents are satisfied, 60% are only partially so and 50% of respondents said that their child required additional tuition outside school. Perhaps it is for this reason that whilst 40% of parents believe that school fees represent good value for money, and a further 40% believe that they are partially so, 20% believe that fees do not represent value for money!  40% of parents had also considered moving their child to another school at some stage.  Despite these comments, every parent who has responded to the survey would recommend the school to others

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Dar Al Marefa School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey.

A relatively small sample of 80 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey. Parents were overwhelmingly positive about the school, recognising that that their children are safe and cared for, that the school staff listen to them, act on their views and keep them informed of their children's performance and how to support them at home.

178 senior school students responded to the KHDA's Wellbeing Survey. Two thirds of students who responded felt that there are adults who are important to them at school, with almost all students suggesting that they get on well with their teachers. A large majority believe than can learn and do well.  Whilst just over half of respondents felt that there might be some verbal or social bullying at school, none was concerned about cyber-bullying.  The KHDA inspectors specifically commented on the positive teacher:student relationships at Dar Al Marefa.

Our View

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 slower 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. 

Having said this, with changes at the top, and no new KHDA inspection since February 2019, it is clear from the 2021 IB Diploma results that real progress has been made.  We would hope that the next inspection report - which may appear in 2021-22, though no confirmation has been received in this respect - will allow the school to finally show just what it has achieved in the intervening period.

What about the fees?

The school's fees range from AED 36,000 for pre-KG to AED 75,000 for Grades 11 and 12 - towards the premium end of fees for Dubai schools. 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Dar Al Marefa 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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