DPS Academy is the third school from the highly regarded Delhi Public School Society in the UAE. The school is located in Academic City and follows the ICSE Curriculum. This new branch of the school says it focuses on giving children "21st Century Skills for academic and co-curricular excellence".
DPS Academy currently looks after 426 students, up from 360 students last year, itself a growth of 13% over 2014 which it attributes to "an influx of new expats taking up residents in the UAE". It is not results based - the school currently has an Acceptable rating from the KHDA - it needs to do better.
As a result of the increase in student numbers there has also been an increase in the number of teachers to 44 - however that is just an addition 4 staff than last year. The school actually has a very healthy teacher to student ratio of 1:9 in Kindergarten; 1:15 Primary; 1:7 in Middle, and average classroom sizes of 20. However, the largest classroom size is 29, well above the KHDA recommended 25, although this is a number rarely achieved in Indian curriculum schools.
Of most concern is the stratospheric teacher turnover recorded in the school's last KHDA report. It is currently running at 57% - even for Dubai standards this is very high. Given the newness of the school, and the instability in staffing, it is perhaps unsurprising the quality of teaching varies across the school. According to the KHDA, "a number of teachers planned interesting lessons. However, some teachers did not have sufficiently high expectations, particularly for the most able students. The schools' assessment systems for tracking students' attainment and progress were underdeveloped and not well linked to the curriculum standards. In each phase, teachers did not consistently use assessment knowledge to provide more effective learning for all students..."
Particular areas of weakness are in Science and Arabic as a second language.
Teachers at the school are recruited from India, the UAE, Syria, Egypt, and Sudan. The school says it adheres to KHDA rules, requiring teaching staff to be qualified "in NTT, Diploma in Early years and Montessori training; as well as a Bachelors in Education, or an MCA in Computer Science". The school also claims to put 20% of its budget into teacher career development each year which should, in theory, help with teacher retention issues.
DPSA is not a typical Indian curriculum school in either student numbers or price point. Indian schools in the UAE are normally much larger in terms of the size of the student body (usually measured in the 1000s), and with considerably lower fees than the Academy. Fees at DPSA start at 21,000 at KG, and rise to 34,000 AED by Year 8. These fees and the current rating are unlikely to sit well with the school's parents. We are at a loss to explain why the KHDA's approved fees drop to 6,000 for Years 9 and 10.
Students are predominantly of Indian origin families (95%), with an Indian Subcontinent mix. Boys slightly outnumber girls, 41: 33. The school is not selective, but says it handles different abilities through streaming.
The school's medium of instruction is English, while Arabic is a mandatory second language. Students may then choose between French and Hindi as a third language.
The school says it incorporates the best practices of ICSE, providing equal weight to languages along with maths and science, while integrating the "STEM" teaching methodology (Science-Engineering-Technology and Maths).
The school says it encourages budding talents by giving a child "full creative freedom". If that sound highly liberal and modern, DPS Academy also says it believes in "revisiting our ancient wisdoms and inculcating respect for family values, heritage and culture... We prepare our children to respect local culture and traditions [while embracing] internationalism." The liberalism comes in the style of teaching. The school does not believe in learning by rote. "Children learn through enquiry, exploration, questioning, debate, application, collaboration, challenge and not merely listening to what is taught on the black board..."
The school's facilities are described as Acceptable by the KHDA. Classrooms are modern, as you would expect from a new school, with well-equipped STEM Centers, Math, Science and Computer Laboratories, a well-equipped and furnished Library, an auditorium and an amphitheatre "which provide ample opportunities for experiential learning and enhanced academic skills".
The school has sports facilities for cricket, basketball, football, table tennis, Judo et al. An international standard indoor swimming pool lies at the centre of its sports arena.
The school has an in-house counsellor who assesses new entrants for any special needs requirements, and provides feedback to parents and class teachers. Individual Development Plans are structured and monitored. Provision of shadow teachers is available, although their remuneration is borne by the parent (as is standard practice in most UAE schools).
The school offers Sports, Dance & Art extra curricular activities - although it is not clear if these are an additional cost, or are part of the school fee. The school's activities on Thursday's are compulsory where the students choose any one activity from sports, art or dance and prepare for competitions, external contests and skill improving tactics.
DPS Academy is undoubtedly something a little different within the Indian curriculum school space in the UAE, which is to be welcomed. Given the majority of investment into new schools has gone into UK and IB based schools, a mid-tier new offering for Indian families is also something to be welcomed. So far however DPSA is not showcasing what considerably higher fees can do - very much a missed opportunity. The school is still "new", but not so new for this to be of no concern.
NOTE: DPS Academy is closing permanently in March 2017
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