Dunecrest American School, planned for opening in 2018, will be Esol Education group's flagship school in the UAE. Initially opening from Pre-KG through Grade 10, the school will organically grow, adding Grades 11 and 12 each subsequent year.
Dunecrest's stated mission is “to provide a holistic American education that inspires students to discover their talents, pursue their passions, and make a positive impact on their communities and the world beyond.” The school aims to do this by "living our principles every day and in every endeavor, by being active participants in our vision “to be a vibrant learning community that nurtures global leaders.”
Awesome, and yet the problem with a mission and goals like these is that while Dunecrest may have something specific and important in mind, these statements can mean almost anything, and be ascribed to almost any institution. When you're launching a new school, prospective parents looking to make a leap of faith need more tangible commitments and points of difference to hold onto.
The good news then is that there is an increasing amount you could actually hinge a decision to move to Dunecrest on.
Let's start with...
1. Leadership. We now know the Founding Head for Dunecrest American School will be Bill Delbrugge, someone our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com, described post-interview as "passionate" with real "conviction, and determination". As importantly, Mr Delbruge has hyper relevant experience as the former head of the American International School in Egypt. AISE, also a US curriculum school, also offering the option of IB Diploma study, doubled in size to educate some 3,100 students across two campuses during Delbruge's seven year tenure.
2. Ownership, which in the case of Dunecrest means ESOL Education. ESOL has over 40 years of experience, with nine international schools in Hong Kong, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Aley and Nicosia. Today the group delivers an education to over 10,000 students, a sizable number of which are in the UAE. Existing ESOL institutions in the emirates include Inspire Childrens Nursery, and the Festival City based Universal American School (rated Good by the KHDA). In 2018 these schools will be joined not only by Dunecrest but also by the IB and sustainable based Fairgreen International School. Simply, parents should be confident the school has an owner that is capable of delivering, and then running new schools.
3. A US/IB curriculum. This is a proven, popular curricula hybrid in Dubai, favoured parents of US and Arabic children looking to the United States for tertiary education. The school uses the Creative Curriculum for Pre-KG and KG1, and AERO Plus Common Core standards (the Common core developed for international schools) until Grade 10. The IB Diploma Programme is offered in Grades 11 and 12.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would very much like to see a third pathway, running parallel to the Diploma that provides a meaningful attestation of a student's ability should they not be suitable for the IB Diploma, a curriculum that does penalise students that are not all rounders.
In particular we would like to see a vocational element added as Dunecrest American School matures.
4. Accreditation - or a parent's guarantee that lessons and the curriculum will be delivered as they should. Dunecrest is currently seek accreditation from The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) and it should have no difficulty getting it. MSA already accredits eight ESOL schools. Dunecrest is also seeking the Council of International School accreditation, used for "defining educational standards and helping member schools access new international educational practices, gain recognition for accomplishments, attract qualified staff, facilitate student connections with leading universities around the world, and provide a quality international education experience to students and parents". CIS currently accredits six ESOL schools.
Finally Dunecrest is seeking IB authorisation for the Diploma which, again, after a 30-year relationship should not prove a major challenge. ESOL schools have already graduated more than 1,500 IB Diploma students.
5. Location. Clearly 'convenient location' is highly relative to where you're living, but the school's Al Barari / Living Legends location off the E311 puts it in the heart of the newer Dubai currently experiencing a frenetic rate of growth. For anyone in these (still growing) communities it will be the only game in town.
That it is located just off the E311 means the school is also accessible from the many larger and more established nearby communities. If you live in new Dubai's expanding suburban belt, getting to Dunecrest should not be a significant challenge.
6. Holisic. Clearly with Dunecrest ESOL are looking to do more than get children through exams. The school is promoting its fine and performing arts provision along with a focus on athletics. The school will also be a member of the Model United Nations, as well as the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Program. Most impressive of all - at least in terms of promise and numbers - are the school's After School Activities which include swimming, soccer, gymnastics, tennis, and martial arts. Dunecrest will offer clubs for Astronomy, Chess, Yoga, Art, Archery, Musical Instruments, Language Circles, Debating, Reading Coding, Zumba, STEM, Dance, Photography, Media, Dance, Community Service, Peer Tutoring, a Yearbook club, Environment club, Academic boosters - and more (!).
7. Facilities. It is difficult to stand out in Dubai when it comes to facilities, however Dunecrest should certainly not disappoint.
"Naturally lit classrooms and open spaces encourage collaboration, project-based learning and interactive teamwork, while state-of-the-art connectivity and seamless technology integration optimize our learning environment for modern teaching.... High quality sports facilities offer ample opportunities for students to develop their physical skills and adopt a lifelong love of wellness."
It helps that this is a smaller, community focused school. At its capacity Dunecrest will only be home to 1500 students, a fraction of the size of Dubai's largest schools.
8. Fees. Dunecrest fees are very much at the top end of premium - perhaps unsurprisingly if the school is to deliver on promises for staffing, facilities and the depth of programming beyond the core curriculum. KHDA approved fees start at 46,000 AED pre-KG and rise to 89,000 AED for Grade 12. The good news is that there are significant founding fee discounts that range from 9% up to 20%. The biggest discounts are offered in the school's lower years.
Adding all of this up, we believe gives Dunecrest already amounts to a proposition attractive enough to be a consideration for parents with children seeking a US/IB based education in 2018/19 - especially so if they live near the Al Barari community. Rightly parents will need to know more to make a decision as big as choosing a school, but Dunecrest is rising to that challenge. It offers parents the chance to meet its founding principal through special events such as 'The Director's Roundtable'. More importantly, it will, when construction reaches the final stages, open its doors for parents to come in and see the school for themselves. Given the journey so far, we are increasingly optimistic for this usually difficult last mile.
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