Dubai International Academy has a record of Firsts. It was the first IB World School authorised by the International Baccalaureate Organisation in the UAE to offer the full range of IB programmes. It was also the first IB curriculum school in the UAE to achieve an Outstanding rating (from the KHDA, the Dubai Education regulator), which it received in 2015-16 and retained in 2016-17 when no inspection took place. It has been rated Very Good for the past two years.
The Story so Far
Located in Emirates Hills alongside the Al Khail road, DIA opened on September 10, 2005 with more than 500 students from 55 countries and an equally diverse faculty of more than 50 members of 18 different nationalities. Today the school is home to 2,290 students from over 80 nationalities, looked after by 184 teachers and 34 teaching assistants. No one nationality dominates, but reflecting the UAE, the largest single nationality of students is Indian and the largest nationality group among teachers in British.
The school's teacher turnover is currently running at 18%, compared with 29% three years ago, which is slightly below the average (at 20-22%) for Dubai. None the less, a turnover of close to 20% means that almost one in five teachers will be new in September. The teacher to student ratio is 1:11 - a relatively low ratio which ensure that teachers are able to address individual students' needs.
Dubai International Academy was one of the first schools to be built in the then new Emirates Hills area, and was "thrown up", using pre-cast walls, in record time. The buildings themselves are, inevitably, not particularly striking, but are suited for purpose. The EY section is entirely separate, including a separate side entrance, whilst the Primary and Secondary sections are split across the two sides of the building.
What about the curriculum?
DIA was the first school in the UAE to offer the Geneva based International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes, all the way from the Primary Years Programme (PYP, KG 1 – Year 6), to the Middle Years Programme (MYP, years 7-11) and finally the Diploma Programme (DP, years 12-13) and IB Courses programme which is a narrower version of the full IBDP.
Across the programmes, provision is provided for students with special educational needs (SEND) and English as a second language (ESL) - the latter from year 2. Until this point, the school believes that separate ESL teaching is not required since children "soak up" English so quickly.
What about Academic Achievement?
According to the school its "IBDP results have been among the best in the region". The results are impressive, and, we believe, improving, although not at a spectacular rate. DIA also offers the IB Courses programme which is a "slimmed down" version of the full Diploma programme.
DIA published that in May 2017, its pass rate of 94% was well above the world average. Though initially reluctant to publish the average point scores for the school, DIA subsequently revealed that students achieved 33.7 points - which they are permitted to round up to 34. The top score of 44 was achieved by Rohan Goel with 10 further students securing between 40 to 42 points. In the MYP e-Assessments the top score of 54 (of 56) was achieved by Shreyas Raman with 9 further students achieving between 48-52 points. All graduates secured college placements across 17 countries, which included the world’s top universities: Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge, and London School of Economics. 80% of students received acceptances from their first choice university.
In 2018, following the May exam session, DIA revealed that the average points score for their IB Diploma students was 34 points - compared with 33.7 in 2017. However, given that the IBO permits schools to round up to the next figure if they score 0.5, it is not possible to know how close to 2017's figure the 2018 one is. However, irrespective of the accuracy of this number, we do know that compared with the average UAE score for 2018 of 31.41 points, and the global average of 29.78 (down from 29.9 in 2017), that the overall average at DIA was well above these comparative figures.
Although we also do not know the number of students who sat the exam, and nor do we know the overall pass rate, DIA informed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that 18% of students achieved 38 points or more, and over 75% scored more than 30 points. The highest achieving student, achieved 45 points - a perfect score - and will be studying Medicine at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
In 2019, DIA revealed that 154 students had taken examinations and completed their core subjects for the IBDP, and a further 10 students had taken the IB Courses examinations. 45 students achieved a score of 38 points or more, and 81% of the graduating class exceeded the world average of 30 points. 30% of students achieved a score of 38 and above and the overall average for the school was 34.5 points. In addition, 11 students gained a Bilingual Diploma in 8 different languages. Two students, Carl Vinter and Lilith Mayer achieved the coveted 45 points. Carl will be joining Copenhagen Business School to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics and Lilith will study Business Management at Warwick University, UK.
What About Facilities?
Facilities at DIA are good and they include:
The school has a very decent range of after school activities - which as an IB school you would expect. DIA offers the International Award (Duke of Edinburgh) and the Model United Nations, staples, it seems, of IB schools as the means to participating in the Creativity, Action and Service element of the programme. One of the school's students recently won the poetry recitation competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
What the Inspectors Say
DIA's 2015-2016 report rating of Outstanding carried over to the 2016-2017 year, granting the high achieving school a well-deserved break from the rigours of inspection. The downgrade from Outstanding to Very Good in 2017-18 will no doubt have come as an unwelcome result for Dubai International Academy. However, the school can console itself with the news that it was not alone in this results - two other Outstanding schools, Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches, (which has subsequently returned to Outstanding in 2018-19) and the Indian High School Dubai, also moved back to Very Good in the 2017-18 inspection round, albeit apparently for different reasons.
In 2018-19, DIA was again rated Very Good for the second year.
The report find the the strength of the school to be the "Outstanding attainment and progress in English in the MYP and DP phases; Outstanding maturity, independence and awareness of their own preferred modes of learning displayed by students throughout the school; Excellent after school activities enriching an outstanding curriculum provision; Outstanding arrangements for health, safety, care and support and for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND); and Highly supportive, engaged and involved parents and governors.
Students' achievement is also highly rated in many areas "Throughout the school, students demonstrate very good or outstanding attainment and progress in English and Mathematics. Students are highly motivated and engaged in their own learning. Diploma Programme (DP) students’ attainment in Arabic as a first language has improved. Students in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) achieve outstanding attainment and progress in science, but outstanding progress is not consistent across all subjects". This comment is reflected in the ratings in the Primary Years for Islamic Studies and Arabic as a Second language, where progress had dropped from Good to Acceptable, with similar reductions in English progress and in Science for both attainment and progress. A similar reduction in Science ratings was noted for Sixth Form (IB Diploma) students.
The students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills remained rated Outstanding. As the report notes, "Excellent personal development is a very strong feature across the school. In lessons, PYP students demonstrate the highest levels of self-discipline, even when lessons are not long enough. Almost all students have very positive and responsible attitudes and demonstrate strong self-reliance. They respond very well to others and have excellent relationships". Innovation was found to be systematic with DIA - "Leaders are enthusiastic in promoting a school wide culture of innovation. They provide extensive student leadership roles and activity groups to develop the skills of innovation".
The other key area of Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment were found generally to be of a high standard, both rated Outstanding across MYP and DP students, but appear to have fallen back in KG and Primary where teacher planning and "collaboration, critical thinking, and the development of innovation skills are less well promoted by teachers". Similarly, whilst assessment (a key focus of inspectors) has moved up to Outstanding in Primary and Middle Years) it had reverted to Very Good in KG.
The other two key indicators of Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students were rated Outstanding. However, Leadership and Management were adjusted to Very Good in respect of The effectiveness of leadership and School self-evaluation and improvement planning. Inspectors noted a "lack of rigour in monitoring result[ing] in some inconsistencies in the quality of teaching" and commented that "School self-evaluation is aspirational; some judgements are overly optimistic".
The areas which the school needs to focus on seem to have been clearly identified by the Inspection team. However, based on the overall indicator ratings across the school, the key would seem to be bringing the progress in the core subjects back up to their previous Outstanding levels and ensuring that progress is seen in Arabic and Islamic Studies (where no improvement was noted this year). The increasing emphasis on assessment will also need to be a focus for the school.
Despite the changes in ratings noted, so much of what Dubai International Academy is providing to its students is deemed outstanding, that it hard for us at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com to conclude that this is anything other than an outstanding school.
Feedback to WSA on DIA is generally positive. Most parents like the school's IB programme, and the fact that the school is required to maintain the Geneva based organisation's IB standards.
The school does well in the ongoing WSA School Survey. Most parents would recommend the school, all are happy with the academic performance of the school, and approximately half believe the school offers good value for money. Parents believe the school ranks well compared to international peers, with the majority thinking the offering is on a par with "the level of education offered in their home countries".
The school embraces and celebrates the diversity of its multinational student population, running mother tongue language programmes in several languages, such as Dutch, Spanish and several others. There is a small Dutch library amongst other things.
What About Fees?
The school was one of the first schools in Dubai to become an Eco Flag school.
Fees at DIA are premium - but relatively good value for an IB school, especially such a highly regarded one. They start at AED 40,157 for KG per annum and rise to just over AED 71,152 for Year 13.
There are additional fees on admissions. There is an entrance test fee of AED 500, AED 3,000 annual re-enrollment fee (adjusted against term one fees - actually quite reasonable compared to peers), a AED 7,000 enrollment fee for new students (again comparatively reasonable), and a AED 4,500 fee if the student is identified as needing English as a Second Language (ESL) support.
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