GEMS Al Khaleej National School is a K-12 co-educational private school located in Al Garhoud, Dubai.
GEMS Al Khaleej National School has been rated Good for the second year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
GEMS Al Khaleej National School, established in July 1992, is popular with Emiratis who currently make up 57% of the student body. The school has some 2,103 students enrolled with separate sections allocated for boys and girls from Grade 5 upwards.
GEMS Al Khaleej National School (AKNS) follows the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language and Maths classes, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), California State standards for other subjects taught in the English language, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) (for Arabic, Islamic, and Social Studies) curricula, with graduating students receiving the US high school diploma. The school runs regular assessments using American standardised tests, including the Iowa tests, and MAPS test. The school is also a candidate for accreditation by NEASC (the New England Association of School and Colleges) which is now a requirement by the KHDA to ensure that US curriculum schools are adhering to the US Common Core curriculum and standards.
The school's website states that it is "committed to the achievement of academic excellence. Our aim is to provide our students with a high-quality education. AKNS family aims to be one of the finest US Curriculum schools in Dubai in terms of the quality of teaching and learning and students’ character."
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The high school offers a college-oriented programme and students are graded from A to F in each course. Prior to graduation, students are expected to take the MAP, PSAT, SAT, SAT 1, and the TOEFL and IELTS tests. The school is also an official SAT and TOEFL/IELTS computer testing centre with approved labs for these computer-based tests.
In addition to the academic, AKNS offers a wide range of co- and extra-curricular programmes which encourage students to explore and develop their personalities, creativity and skills. These include Languages and Culture (English Language Learners [ELL], Arabic B, Arabic Dance, French, Japanese, Turkish, Yola), Enhance Learning (Math Study Group, Environmental Club, English Study Group, Math Crash Course), Science and Digital Technology (Film Making, Robotics, CISCO-CCNA, ICDL, Science Club), Performing and Creative Arts (Art and Crafts, Henna, Drama, Fun Mask Making, Junior Choir, Origami), Leadership (Debating), Sports and Adventure (Swimming-Girls, Chess, Gymnastics, Basketball, Rugby, Table Tennis, Yoga, Zumba), Skills (Cooking, Research), and Community Service. A choice of music, craft, science, chess, photography, karate clubs and hobby groups allows each student to discover and develop his individual creativity and personality.
AKNS employs 143 teachers, all are qualified with either Diplomas or Bachelor degrees, and 40 teaching assistants. In the last year, approximately one quarter of the teachers were new to the school - staff turnover at 26% is slightly above the average for international schools in Dubai. Most teachers are Arab nationals (mainly from Jordan and Egypt, in equal numbers), although there has been recent efforts to recruit teachers from other countries in the Middle East, as well as teachers from the US. The school makes an effort to hire international teachers who are knowledgable about the region and local customs; they also offer an orientation and induction program for all new teachers at the start of each academic year.
In common with many GEMS school (unfortunately, in the view of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com), AKNS does not publish any information about results or university destinations - something we believe all schools should do to enable parents to have a clear view of students' academic success. However, we understand that although most students who graduate form Al Khaleej National School stay in the UAE for their tertiary study, there are students who go to the US, Lebanon and the UK.
What about facilities
AKNS has a wide range of facilities which have been upgraded in recent years, including a new Primary school section. However, the school makes no mention of the classrooms, in which students spend a large part of their day, on its website. This is probably due to the size of these rooms, based on KHDA inspectors' comments that although "facilities and resources are adequate. [However], the small classrooms are not conducive to collaborative and innovative learning." Indeed, they are described as overcrowded by the inspection team. This must be an issue of concern to the school and its community.
Facilities about which AKNS does comment include five science laboratories equipped for the purpose of enhancing practical applications, demonstrations and experimentation. The physics labs are provided with additional facilities and equipment to teach electronics and digital analysis. Two laboratories each are located in the boys section and the girls section of the school and one in the new Primary school. There are also three media rooms in the school, each equipped with equipment including computers and printers, Internet connection, promethean band multimedia projector and a variety of resources and additional equipment.
The school has two libraries containing learning and teaching resources that are available for all students. The school libraries provides variety of interactive teaching resources. In order to support boys in their reading, a comfortable reading area is located in the boys section that aims to provide a conducive atmosphere, encouraging development and practice of this essential skill. Five Information and Communication Technology laboratories, each with 25 computers are available for students.
In common with the holistic approach of the US curriculum, two rooms support music and singing. A selection of percussion instruments, drums, recorder and traditional instruments is complemented by a piano. A multi-purpose hall is equipped with sound, stage, lighting and equipment to support school events including music and and performing arts. In recognition of the largely local population, two mosques are conveniently located on campus, one for boys and one for girls, designed to enhance the school's preservation of traditional values.
The school canteen provides a food service during lunch and break times. It offers a range of healthy snacks and beverages.
Outdoor facilities include a Kindergarten Play Area, where the youngest students can play in a safe and secure environment, designed especially for the enjoyment and capabilities of young children. The area is equipped with a variety of outdoor play equipment. Despite being located in one of the busiest and most central areas of Dubai, the entire school is flanked with green ways and gardens that give it a pleasant atmosphere and plenty of space for students during break times. Among the less usual features of the school is its own weather station with a probe located on the surface of the building. Weather data is transferred through a wireless connection to the station controller for further study, analysis and to exchange recorded data.
Sports facilities are an important element of the school with a football pitch and grassed areas, two swimming pools, one for the Elementary School students and the other for the Middle and High School students and the gymnasium which is used for indoor activities and sports as required.
What the inspectors say
After being rated Acceptable by the KHDA's DSIB inspection teams for nine years, Al Khaleej National School was finally upgraded to Good in the most recent inspection round. It now joins the ranks of other schools owned by GEMS Education, that is rated either Good or Outstanding. GEMs Education, one of the UAE's biggest education providers, in general, does very well with the KHDA inspection process. Raising the progress and attainment of students at Al Khaleej is a priority for the school as well as GEMS, with GEMS investing additional financial resources into the school to raise teacher salaries and provide additional programs and opportunities for students.
The upgrade after so many years is evidently attributable in large part to the leadership and management of the school. KHDA inspectors noted that "The newly-structured leadership has a clear impact on raising students’ progress and ensuring continuous school development. Self-evaluation helps the school identify priorities and improve key aspects through good planning and concerted work with the governing board." Other key strengths include:
Whilst almost all key indicators within the Inspection report are now rated Good for Teaching and Assessment (now rated Good in Elementary, Middle and High School for the first time), Curriculum Design and its Adaptation (also rated Good across all sections of the school for the first time), the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students (with Care and Support rated Good across all sections for the first time) and Leadership and Management, it is in the area of Student Achievement that significant focus is still required. However, even here, 30 of the 46 judgements are now rated Good, with two rated Very Good (for English and Maths in KG), though 14 still remain at Acceptable. It should be noted that 16 judgements for this key indicator rose from Acceptable to Good in this current report, and two from Good to Very Good. This is impressive progress for one year.
Students' personal and social development and their Innovations skills are also improving significantly. Personal Development - now rated Very Good in KG and Good in the other phases - has all improved since the last inspection. Students have also maintained their Outstanding understanding of Islamic Values and an awareness of Emirati and world cultures. Social responsibility and innovations skills are now rated Very Good in the KG and High School phases, whilst remaining Good in the Elementary and Middle schools.
Despite the very clear improvements noted in this year's inspection report, and the upgrade to Good, it is evident from the inspection report that the school's staff and students alone cannot take all the necessary steps to improve to the next level. Further investment from the owners and stronger parental participation are also called for, as can be seen from the key recommendations. These include the need to:
It is evident that Al Khaleej National School is on the path to greater improvement - after so many years at Acceptable, its achievement, in finally making the step up to Good, cannot be under-estimated, particularly as the inspection programme has become more demanding and rigourous over the years. It is to be hoped that the investment from GEMS Education in facilities, staff and their development, as well as parental involvement will allow this path to continue.
Fees are at the affordable end, starting at just under AED 15,320 and rising to AED 29,316 by Grade 12.
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