Future International Academy, the newer, more highly rated sister to Future International School, is a US curriculum school located in Al Ain.
The story so far...
Future International Academy was founded in 2010, some six years after its sister school, also in Al Ain and also - somewhat confusingly - called Future International School. Both schools follow a US common core curriculum, accredited by international agency AdvancED. Unfortunately, the Academy's website, although helpful, is not complete, and there is very little information about its history, ownership, or indeed, a message from the Principal. However, one fundamental difference between the sisters is that whilst FIS was rated Acceptable by ADEK in 2018, the younger FIA achieved a Good rating in the inspection in the prior year. A new inspection report for FIA for 2018-19 should be available shortly.
The school is overseen by a Board of Trustees which includes members of the local community as well as Dr. Mohammad Khasawneh, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry, at United Arab Emirates University, who is the President, the Vice President, Mr. David Muir, who is a School Consultant for Future International Academy, Mrs. Ahlam Ali, a Parents' Council Member, and Ms. Rejab Rajab, Head of Education | ME, at Apple Middle East. It is always encouraging to see that a school is drawing on individuals with experience who can genuinely contribute towards the school's direction.
What the website does tell us is that the school's Vision is:
"To be a leading private school in Al Ain which provides an exemplary learning environment in line with the vision of ADEK", whilst its Mission is "To provide an exemplary learning environment which develops student abilities needed to be self-confident, world-class learners capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century becoming productive, responsible and contributing members of society".
We very much like its rather more snappy Motto: Preserving the Past… Shaping the Future…
In 2017, when the Academy was last inspected, some 2,000 students attended the school which was then open from KG1 to Grade 11. In between, the first Grade 12 cohort has graduated from FIA. Classes are mixed gender from KG to Grade 4 inclusive, and then divided into separate boys and girls sections from Grade 5. Something over 55% of students are Emirati, followed by Egyptian nationals (10%), Syrians (7%), and an unusually high percentage of Filipino students (8%), whose presence in the school is acknowledged through the provision of a Filipino language programme.
Students are supported by some 173 teachers and a further 40+ teaching assistants, enabling the school to offer a relatively low teacher:student ratio of 1:15 in KG and 1:11 in the remainder of the school. This should ensure individual attention and personalised curriculum delivery for students. There is no information about the nationalities of the teaching staff, but we think it is safe to assume that they are most likely from various Arab countries, where the US curriculum is popular. Teachers appear to be happy with their employment, with a low 10% staff turnover rate, ensuring a stable environment.
What about the curriculum?
FIA states that its staff believes that it is important to create a program that "is balanced and rich in core academic and extra-curricular activities. We strive to provide students an inspiring education in which they may excel in activities that involve leadership and global understanding. We create amazing opportunities for students and collaborate effectively with parents, who are our most valued partners. This helps us continually build on what we are doing and often takes us into new territory. We strongly promote a culture that fosters positive self-esteem and a sense of belonging by celebrating the achievement and success of each student".
Core subjects include Arabic A and B, Islamic Studies, Social Studies (Arabic), Life Skills (Moral Ed), English, Science, Maths, ICT, and PE. In addition, students study Visual Arts, and have the option of either French as an additional language or Filipino. The curriculum is aligned with the US Common Core standards and expectations for English Language, Arts and Mathematics. Internal assessments for other subjects are aligned with the California Common Core curriculum standards and expectations or AERO standards.
There appears to be rigorous testing against international standards with students from Grade 1 to Grade 11 taking standardised MAPS tests three times per year. Grade 11 and Grade 12 students sit for SAT (College Entry) and IELTS/TOEFL (English as a Foreign Language) exams. Grade 12 students sit for the MSAT (Arabic, English, Maths, Physics, and Chemistry standardised tests).
Graduation Requirements for students include the award of the accredited High School Diploma, a SAT Math/English combined score of 440, minimum scores for IELTS 5.5 / TOEFL 173 CBT Or 61 IBT, and the EMSAT Certificate. A cumulative minimum of 24 credits across High School (Grades 9 to 12) are required to obtain the High School Diploma.
The school has growing provision for students of Determination. The Special Education department with a full-time SENCO and team of three further specialist staff is working to establish a well-developed system to cater to all students’ needs whether it is academic, behavioral, or social. It aims also to differentiate between students who are low achievers, and those with a learning disability that hinders his/ her academic performance. A wide range of methods and procedures have led to the identification of SEN students.
FIA aims to provide students with a balance between education and learning, and fun intellectual activities that will allow the school to further enrich the students’ schooling experience. ECAs generally take place on Tuesdays and include a range of creative, sports, social and recreational activities such as PE, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, STEM, Zumba, Cooking, Healthy Food, Photography, Handicrafts, Recycling, Chess, and Holy Quran.
What about the facilities?
FIA consists of two multi-purpose buildings. The Main Building includes the Main Admin office, classrooms for Grades 1- 4, and Grades 5-12 (Boys Section). The second building is home to the KG Section and classrooms for Grades 5-12 (Girls Section). Classrooms are described as spacious and well ventilated. There are two libraries, two Science Laboratories, four ICT Laboratories, Art Rooms, and a Maker Space Room, as well as canteens in each section, two Gymnasia (one in each building) and a Certified School clinic. Outdoor facilities include a spacious green playing field and play areas.
What the inspectors say
The achievement of a Good rating in the last ADEK inspection which took place in 2016-17 was a significant milestone for FIA on its improvement journey. Good is the targeted rating for all Abu Dhabi schools, and to reach this standard is a real achievement. FIA achieved the Good rating across all six key performance standards - suggesting a very solid achievement.
ADEK's summary of the school's achievement is strongly positive noting that "One of the school’s particular strengths is the way it promotes students’ appreciation of Emirati culture, heritage, and the values of Islam. Most students make good progress and attain well. Boys and girls perform equally well because teaching is good overall. The curriculum is well balanced with extra activities to foster students’ enjoyment of school. Achievement in Arabic and English is good overall although reading and writing is not always as strong as speaking. The principal provides effective leadership and a clear vision for the school. She is well supported by other senior leaders and there is a strong focus on improving the quality of teaching and raising standards".
In addition, inspectors singled out progress that has been made in developing innovation skills, noting that "several new approaches are promoting the development of innovation skills. Students are regularly involved in school innovation competitions such as designing models and board games. They contribute to innovation days in different ways including, for example, through producing independent projects using their technology skills, of example in modelling UAE artefacts".
The inspection team defined the school's strengths as:
In terms of key areas for improvement, these were identified as the need to:
Whilst this may seem to be a long (and detailed) list of recommendations, FIA has shown itself up to the task in previous inspections, and we have no doubt that they will have made the implementation of the recommendations a priority.
In terms of academic achievement, the report notes that "Achievement in English is good overall. Children enter the school with little or no English. External examinations show that, by Grade 11 most students’ attain above international standards. Achievement in mathematics is generally weak at the primary phase but good or very good at the KG, middle and high phases. External examinations show that, by Grade 11, the majority of students’ attainment is above international standards".
In addition, "Achievement in science is good overall although attainment at the primary and middle phases is acceptable. External examinations show that by Grade 11 the majority of students’ attainment is above international standards. Students’ research and critical-thinking skills are generally good, especially across the high phase". These are really very positive outcomes and suggest a level of value-add for students attending the school which it would be interesting to measure.
With the latest ADEK inspection due to have taken place in the current academic year, and the reports due to be published soon, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are interested to see how far FIA has progressed over the past two years. US curriculum schools for a long time have seemed to be perceived as "the easy option", by parents, students (and some school owners), due to the lack of public (and therefore comparable) examinations compared with the other international curricula. FIA clearly takes its responsibilities as a US curriculum school seriously - a very positive situation in our opinion.
Fees at Future International Academy are low to average based on ADEK's table. Starting at AED 12,350 in KG1 and rising to AED 30,350 in Grade 12, these do not include book fees, and an i-Pad fee from Grade 1 of AED 500 annually. If FIA can continue to deliver a good or better standard of education, we believe these fees represent value for money.
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