Dubai International School Al Quoz is a branch, and younger sister of Dubai International School Garhoud, and currently looks just under 2,200 students male and female, of whom around two thirds come from the local, Emirati population. Almost all students come from Arabic families. The school employs 132 mainly Lebanese teachers, together with a further 21 teaching assistants.
Located on the edge of the Al Quoz Industrial area and close to the Al Khail Road, Dubai International School Al Quoz opened in 1998 and is well placed to provide schooling from a wide area, including the traditional areas of Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim, as well as for those students coming from further afield. The school is owned by its Board of Directors, Dr. Juma Belhoul, Mr. Salem Bou Adeil, Mr. Sami Obeid, Mr. Shehadi Maalouf, and Mr. Khalil Zakhem. A Director General is responsible for the oversight and coordination between the two school sites at Garhoud (the original branch) and Al Quoz and the Principal at DIS Al Quoz has been with the school since 2000.
The majority of families whose children attend the school are Emirati (some two-thirds), whilst the majority of teachers are Lebanese. Staff turnover at the school was 22% - on the high end of average for Dubai schools. The staff:student ratio of 1:16 should allow for a personalised approach to students.
The vision of the school states that "DIS, in partnership with parents and community, will strive to prepare every student to be a lifelong learner and a productive citizen". Its mission is "DIS is committed to provide education following international standards yet adhering to local values and traditions". Whilst DIS offers a US curriculum, this is a school that is very much aimed at a predominantly Arabic population.
English is the medium of instruction at DIS Al Quoz in all classes for all subjects except for those prescribed by the Ministry of Education. An emphasis is also placed on the teaching of French which starts at the Kindergarten stage and continues until Grade 9. Students are prepared for and are ready to take the American Examinations, SAT and TOEFL, by the end of Grade 11. In Grade 12 they can sit the SAT II examinations.
DIS Al Quoz follows a US curriculum and has recently moved to the US Common Core State Standards for English and Mathematics, and the Next Generation Standards for Science. In 2012, the school gained Accreditation from AdvancED (The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement). The school's US curriculum is now based on the California State Standards, and it has recently applied for accreditation through NEASC - a requirement for all US curriculum schools in Dubai - and it intends to adopt the AERO standards for other subjects. This will ensure that High School Diplomas issued by DIS Al Quoz will be fully recognised by US universities and colleges.
Core subjects in High School included Arabic Language, Islamic Education and English Language. In addition, students at this stage have a variety of elective courses that they may choose according to their interests. In Grade 10 options include Sociology or Economics or Visual Arts, Drama, or Music. In Grade 11 options include Chemistry, Marketing, or French and Physics, ICT, or Business. Grade 12 students may choose between four subject groups which offer Advanced Physics, French II, or Finance, Advanced Biology, Media, or ICT II, Calculus & Trigonometry, Advertising or Robotics and a final group for Advanced Chemistry, Accounting or Statistics. Students are encouraged to try new electives that provide opportunities outside of the required curriculum to ‘try’ a topic or subject area.
What about facilities?
Dubai International School Al Quoz (DIS) stands on a large corner plot, with a clear divide between the KG section (which is essentially separate) and the remainder of the school. The buildings themselves are traditional-looking cream with a green roof and extend upwards for the main part of the school.
The campus itself is compact with the KG and Lower Elementary sections located at the front of the plot (facing towards the Meydan Street and city skyline), the Upper Elementary and Intermediate sections (split between Girls and Boys) at the centre of the campus, and to the rear, connected by a bridge, is the Secondary section. The KG and Lower Elementary sections have separate sand play areas. Each section has its own gender-separated canteen and outdoor space. The sports facilities - swimming pool, handball and basket ball court and gymnasium, together with the auditorium - are shared. Outdoor space is at something of a premium.
In addition to the usual KG- Grade 12 curriculum, DIS Al Quoz also offers Kids Academy - a pre-school section for children from 20 months to 4 years of age.
Over recent years Dubai International School Al Quoz says it has invested in its facilities, which include a 3D Room for students to watch and discuss documentary and scientific movies; Grade 8 through Grade 12 classes have been equipped with a multi-media projector and a computer; Kindergarten and Lower Elementary Sections have been provided with Audio-Visual Room facilities and outdoor play spaces; Grade 1 through Grade 7 have been provided with mobile trolleys to integrate technology across the curriculum. The school has also recently opened a new computer lab in addition to the other four computer laboratories.
What the inspectors say
After three years of an Acceptable ranking in 2011-12 the school achieved a Good rating, the Dubai education regulator's, the KHDA's, second highest rating at that time, which it managed to maintain for its 2012-13 and 2013-14 reports. Unfortunately, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, the rating slipped back to Acceptable. It has therefore been something of an achievement that DIS Al Quoz moved up to Good again in 2016-17 and has retained the rating for the current (2017-18) academic year. With the common UAE Inspection framework, Good is now the third highest rating (after Outstanding and Very Good) and the minimum that the KHDA has set as a target for all schools to achieve.
In the High school Arabic Language, Islamic Education and English Language are subjects are the core subjects. In addition, students at this stage have a variety of elective courses that they may choose according to their interests. These include, in Grade 10, Sociology or Economics, and Visual Arts, Drama, or Music. In Grade 11, students may choose from Chemistry, Marketing, or French, and Physics, ICT, or Business. Grade 12 students may choose from four groups offering Advanced Physics, French II, or Finance, Advanced Biology, Media, or ICT, Calculus & Trigonometry, Advertising or Robotics, and Advanced Chemistry, Accounting or Statistics. Electives provide opportunities outside of the required curriculum to ‘try’ a topic or subject area.
Whilst the leadership of DIS Al Quoz was praised by the inspection team, who found that "Senior leaders, including the principal, promote a clear vision that is shared by the school community. The school is successful in engaging parents as partners, and relationships are strong", they were criticised for failing to use external assessment data effectively to determine self-evaluation and improvement plans for the school. Governors were found to "only adequately hold school leaders to account for school performance", and the inspection team determined that accountability processes need to be more clearly defined.
The inspection team identified the overall strengths of DIS Al Quoz as:
Students' achievement was very variable with a wide range of Good and Acceptable evaluations across all subjects and all school sections. Whilst there had been some improvement in English attainment in KG and Maths progress in the Middle school, most indicators had remained static as per the previous inspection. More worrying was the decline in Elementary Islamic Studies, Middle school first language Arabic and English attainment and Elementary Learning Skills to Acceptable from Good, reflecting a fall in improvement effort and results.
This downward trend in Elementary performance in particular was reflected in the Inspectors' evaluation of Teaching for Effective Learning (downgraded to Acceptable in Elementary) and for Assessment - which was downgraded to Acceptable across all sections except KG. Inspectors reported that "In the elementary school, the quality of teaching is variable due to a teacher-centered approach and too little emphasis on the use of assessment information to personalize learning. [Although] the quality of teaching in the other phases remains good, assessment processes are not effectively linked to curriculum standards, in the elementary, middle and high schools". Without adequate assessment processes and planning to meet the needs of individual students, teachers cannot hope to effectively adapt their teaching and challenge students' learning.
In terms of the design and implementation of the curriculum and its adaptation, the report is more positive with Good ratings across the board for these two key indicators. Provision for students of determination (with SEN requirements) was found to be Good. However, whilst the curriculum was found to be broad, balanced and to provide for continuity and progression between grade levels and between phases, curricular choices available to students were found to be limited. Inspectors determined that there is not enough focus on offering a wide range of elective courses, which is a hallmark of US curriculum schools. Cross-curricular links are not consistent features of lessons, although real-life applications are regularly included. Given the digital age students are living in, it must be a concern that the use of technology by students was not evident across all subjects, and a consistent approach to promote digital literacy skills is not in place.
Where DIS Al Quoz does score highly is in relation to the Personal and Social Development and the innovation skills of its students. These are rated Very Good in the High school and Very Good and Outstanding in KG. Elementary and Middle school students were found to have Good or Very Good skills. "Students’ personal and social development are especially strong in the KG and the high school. Students demonstrate very high levels of respect for Islam and show a strong appreciation of the Emirati culture. The school provides more opportunities to develop students’ social responsibilities in the KG and high school than in the elementary and middle schools".
Overall the leadership and management of DIS Al Quoz was deemed to be broadly Acceptable to Good. Whilst the effectiveness of leadership was found to be Good, inspectors noted that "Most leaders demonstrate good understanding of best practices in teaching and learning but have not improved the monitoring of teachers’ practices by focusing more effectively on students' achievements". A significant concern for the school's leadership must be the inspection team's finding that "The school's self-evaluation process reflects an inaccurate picture of students’ performance, due to an inconsistent use of internal and external assessment information. The school has no (sic) sufficient systems in place to monitor the implementation and to measure the impact of the action plans to improve students' outcomes".
On a positive note, the relationship between the school, parents and the community was found to be Good - parents appreciate the school's open door policy and feedback on their children's progress. However, they are not able to influence the decision-making that contributes to school improvement, according to the inspectors. Inspectors noted that the school is planning to improve students’ technology-based learning skills and is improving their access to the internet to address some of the concerns expressed by the inspection team. They also found that most teachers "have adequate qualifications and access to relevant resources that enable them to deliver the curriculum well. The professional development programme in place is extensive but not evaluated for its impact on students' outcomes".
Inspectors detailed a comprehensive list of improvements that DIS Al Quoz needs to implement including the need to:
Parents, students and teachers are said to be broadly supportive of the school. The majority of the 246 parents (some 85%) believe that DIS Al Qouz provides a satisfactory quality of education. In the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey parents expressed some concern over academic performance, feedback and disciplinary measures at the school. It is evident from the inspection report that students' achievement is linked to the quality of teaching, planning and assessment at DIS Al Quoz, and these areas must be the main focus for the leaders and their staff. There appears to be a need for greater focus on what students need and the development of their learning skills, rather than what teachers feel they can deliver. This is a significant mindset change, but one that DIS Al Quoz must seek to achieve if it is not see its students' achievements and the teaching quality slip further backward.
School fees are relatively highly affordable, ranging from AED 14,112 at KG to AED 22,156 for Grade 12.
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