Dubai Scholars Private School is a private UK curriculum FS1- year 13 school located in Al Ghusais, Dubai, educating children from 3 to 18 years of age. It has consistently been rated Good by the KHDA over the past eight years.
The story so far...
Established in 1976, making it one of the oldest schools in the country, Dubai Scholars (DS) was the first of three schools founded by Scholars International Group under the leadership of Aparna Verma, each of which has been developed to meet a specific demand for excellent education at a moderate price. Scholars International Academy, Sharjah, also UK curriculum, and the most recent new school in the group, Clarion School, offering a progressive US curriculum, have all been developed through the single-minded commitment of Mrs. Verma. The most recent KHDA report notes that "leaders, with the support of governors, seek innovative and effective ways to pursue the school’s priorities". Innovation seems to be a hallmark of SIG and its the schools.
Starting from a villa in Deira, the school expanded as the demand for more classes grew. It moved to two villas and eventually to seven. By the early nineties, Dubai Scholars moved into the purpose-built facility at its current location. State of the art facilities were incorporated to create an environment that is conducive to dynamic learning.
The vision for Dubai Scholars School is "to provide a student centered learning environment where our children are authors of their own learning and become authors of their own futures".
Its Mission is "to prepare our students for the challenges of life, with the critical skills and communicative abilities to tackle those challenges that have yet to manifest, in this rapidly evolving society. Our goal is to lead students to be confident individuals who are comfortable in taking risks but have the values to act with thoughtfulness and humility.
As we guide our students on their education journey, our mission is to teach tolerance regardless of culture and beliefs, impart the importance of life long learning, inspire happiness combined with academic achievement to each child as he steps into his or her future".
The school has just over 1,750 students. It employs 106 full-time teachers, mainly from India (the predominant nationality of students) together with 28 teaching assistants, giving a mid range teacher to student ratio of 1:17. The popularity of the school has been marked by an increase in students numbers over the past two years of approximately 150 - a strong achievement, given the reduction in numbers at many schools. Staff numbers have remained largely the same, resulting in a marginal increase in the staff:student ratio from 1:15 to 1:17. Staff turnover, at 25% last year, is on the high side (the Dubai average is 20-22%), and more so in an Indian-staffed school.
What about the curriculum?
Dubai Scholars Private School follows the English National Curriculum with both IGCSE and A Level programmes available for senior students. The school offers a focused range of A Levels: Accounts, Business Studies, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. DS has more recently increased its options, with ICT at both IGCSE and A Level, together with Psychology (A Level).
In common with other UK curriculum schools catering largely for the expat Indian population, Dubai Scholars aims to ensure that students are qualified for the professions and for commerce. Having said this, students are offered the opportunity to participate in a range of creative and performing arts activities, in addition to the school's sports programme.
Clearly the school does not cater for students with a stronger predilection for the humanities. In fact, on its website, DS informs parents that "although English language or foreign languages are not offered at this time as A Level subjects, this has not hindered student achievement into acceptance to universities of their choice. The subjects offered are self-selected in surveys by the school to students and parents on a yearly basis and changes to the programme are made under the direction of the Head of School and Senior Leadership Team".
DS offers a somewhat limited range of After School Clubs which include Dance, Chess, Fitness, Video Gaming Club, Music/Guitar, Art & Design, Cookery and STEAM, together with Sports Clubs that included Basketball, Hockey, Cricket and Football. One student, Ahmed Salman, Head Boy of the primary phase, and Captain for the U12 boys Football team, was recently selected for the DU LaLiga HPC Team in Dubai. He was scouted for a selection trial during the DU Football Championship U12 category, held in March 2018, where the DS team played.
In addition to academics and after-school activities, as a part of community service, Sixth Form students teach English to labourers at a labour camp and also conduct entertainment programmes at the labour camps, including a cultural night and a cricket match. In school, Sixth Form students support and teach the younger year groups through the Math PALS and Buddy Tutoring Programme. Sixth Form students also lead story reading in the Foundation Stage and the lower Primary. The focus is not solely on the academic, but on providing a well-rounded education - but one that clearly meets the aspirations of students' parents too.
What about academic achievement?
Unfortunately, Dubai Scholars does not routinely publish its exam results. However, in 2016, the following results were achieved at IGCSE by 66 students who sat the examinations:
71% students scored A*-A’s in Math
64% students scored A*-A’s in Economics
56% students scored A*-A’s in Physics
50% students scored A*-A’s in Chemistry
33% students scored A*-A’s in Biology
24% students scored A*-A’s in English
This data does not reveal the number of students who passed the exams, nor those who achieved 5 A*- C grade passes, which is used as the norm for comparison across many UK curriculum schools. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com hopes that Dubai Scholars will provide further details in the future.
The school did not reveal its A Level results, but provides a comprehensive list of universities attended by DS Alumni. These include Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Dartmouth College, Georgetown University, Imperial College, Indian University of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Kings College London, London School of Economics, McGill University, New York University, Oxford University, University College London, University of Cambridge, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto and University of Wollongong.
What about facilities?
Situated on a 200,000 sq. ft. site in the Al Qusais area, Dubai Scholars was specifically designed to ensure that students had access to appropriate facilities, whether in class, on the sports fields or in arts studios. Sections of the campus are zoned for Early Years, Primary and Secondary students in order to provide the optimal setting for learning at each year and key stage. Facilities include a Swimming Pool, Multi-sports field, Basketball Courts, zoned playgrounds for Foundation Stage and Primary, a Junior Science Lab, Senior Science Labs including Physics, Chemistry and Biology, a Junior Library, a Senior Library, two ICT Labs and an Auditorium.
Find out more about the campus and facilities by reading: What is the Dubai Scholars experience?
What the inspectors say
Dubai Scholars is a school that is clearly "on the up" from the information contained in the 2017-18 inspection report. Dubai Scholars currently holds an inspection rating of Good from the KHDA, Dubai's education regulator, which notes its strong performance in external examinations. The school has now held the Good rating from the KHDA for eight consecutive years.
Dubai Scholars has also been accepted for membership of British Schools in the Middle East, (BSME) an accrediting association for British Schools in the region which organises inspections and aims to ensure that schools follow specific codes of professional conduct and growth.
The school's strengths include:
In terms of student achievement, with the exception of Arabic as a second language which remained Acceptable for progress and attainment in Secondary school and for progress in Primary (this down from Good last year), all other measures across all other subjects are rated Good or Very Good. Four of the six measures (for progress and attainment in English, Maths and Science) in Foundation have been upgraded to Good in the most recent inspection. Primary school English and Science and Sixth Form Science are now rated Very Good, whilst Secondary Science is rated Outstanding - the highest achievable. These are excellent improvements.
Unfortunately, there have been slides for Secondary English (rated Very Good, instead of the previous Outstanding), and Maths progress in Sixth Form (down to Good) together with Sixth Form learning skills. However, overall, students are clearly achieving at a predominantly Very Good level. In common with many schools in Dubai, progress and achievement in Arabic-based subjects are not as strong - a mix of Good and Acceptable - and this must continue to be an area of focus.
A clear strength of Dubai Scholars is the Personal and Social Development and the innovation skills of its students. Secondary and Sixth Form students are rated Outstanding across all three key measures, whilst both Foundation and Primary are rated Outstanding for personal development and Very Good for the other measures. Inspectors commented that "students’ personal development is excellent. Students behave extremely well and make a significant contribution to the harmonious relationships pervading the school. Students have an excellent understanding of how Islamic values underpin life in the UAE. They are aware of their own heritage and appreciate and respect other cultures. Students are increasingly developing skills of innovation through a variety of entrepreneurial and environmental projects". This is praise indeed.
The inspectors also commented positively on Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment, finding that "effective teaching across the school promotes students’ learning skills well. Increasingly, teachers use assessment information to establish students’ starting points and ensure that they are appropriately challenged. Teachers successfully encourage students to collaborate, and their skilful use of questions prompts students to think deeply and critically". These key measures were rated Good across all sections of the school.
Similarly, the measures for the Curriculum and its adaptation were largely rated Good, though these were upgraded to Very Good in the Foundation section. Inspectors noted that "the curriculum is enhanced following robust reviews of its effectiveness. While opportunities to develop students' critical thinking skills are clearly identified, they are not implemented consistently, particularly in the secondary phase". In addition, inspectors commented that there is no formal programme for Arabic in the Foundation Stage; "learning takes place informally through teachers using their basic knowledge of the language to support children's understanding". Given the focus by the KHDA and the National Agenda targets, many schools are increasingly formalising teaching of Arabic in the Foundation and KG stages, even though this is not currently a statutory requirement. This may well be an addition to the curriculum that DS would do well to consider.
The protection, care, guidance and support is another key indicator which has improved considerably at DS over the past year, with both sets of measures across all sections of the school upgraded to Very Good. In terms of care and support, improvements in relation to the support of students with Gifts and Talents and with SEN requirements, together with Career Guidance for senior students were singled as areas of particular merit.
In the five key performance areas related to Leadership and Management, three were upgraded to Very Good in the latest inspection round. The effectiveness of leadership, the relationship with parents and the community and governance were all praised. The other two key indicators of School self-evaluation and planning, and Management, staffing, facilities and resources retained their Good ratings.
Areas the school has been recommended to focus on for further improvement by the KHDA are to:
Unsurprisingly, the school is very popular, especially in the Asian community for parents who want a British education for their children. There have even in the past newspaper reports of queues forming overnight to get children into the school. This will no doubt be helped by its tight knit group of parents who clearly value the school and what it offers.
We were also very touched to read a comment posted by a current student of the school recently who, in response to our Student Survey question "What are the key things you want prospective students thinking about joining to know about your school?" replied "It's not the most flashy and eccentric school out there, but what you will get coming here is a quality education". We think that this is not inconsiderable praise!
Our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com does add a strong caveat that this will not be a school for all children, in particular those with a tendency to rely on the right (creative) side of the brain. However, one can argue that Scholars is merely giving its stakeholders - ambitious Indian parents and children - what they want: A strong focus on science and business over the arts and humanities in general.
Fees are very accessible for a UK curriculum based school, ranging from between AED 14,857 per year for FS1 students to AED 30,562 for A-level students. However they are not necessarily accessible for its largest demographic.
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