German International School Abu Dhabi is a private K-12 school located in the Zaab district of Abu Dhabi City. Established in 1976 as a school for German expatriates, the school is small, with under 500 students. It is rated Very Good by ADEK, the local education regulator, although the school was last inspected in 2015.
The story so far...
The German International School in Abu Dhabi was founded as the "German School Abu Dhabi" in 1976. It was founded by the Strabag company to support children of staff, opening with just 16 students and three teachers. Today the school has grown to approximately 450 students from KG through to Grade 12 and employs 44 teachers and 17 teaching assistants.
According to the Principal, Andreas Rothfritz, "At GISAD we learn and live in a culturally diverse environment and work together every day to realize our visions." The achievement of the school's Visions is supported by "four pillars" - Learning and Teaching, Cultural awareness, Attitudes and actions, and School development. GISAD's Mission is to provide the student "with the German language, German education content and a realistic picture of Germany and the diverse aspects which encompass the language and culture of the country. It enables him/her to meet other people of different cultures and transfers a cosmopolitanism sense of awareness. Further the student builds awareness as a global citizen, understanding an attitude of worldliness."
In 2008, an agreement was reached with the government of Abu Dhabi in which the school was given a high-quality school building free of charge. In return, the school committed itself to take in ten Emirati children free of charge. The entire school was able to move to the new, spacious school building at the beginning of the 2008/2009, academic year.
The school follows the State of Thüringen curriculum to ensure "the connection and compatibility with high German standards". This ensures from early childhood education to the universally recognized higher education entrance qualification: "Made in Germany" education with an international extra.
The school's Very Good rating awarded by Abu Dhabi schools' regulator, ADEK, in 2015-16, was a step up from the school's first inspection in 2013-14 which was not originally released to the public. In its first report the school was rated Good. GISAD expanded in 2010 and 2011 to include Grade 11 and 12 students.
Probably of greater significance for families seeking a place at GISAD is the information that in 2018-19 the school received the "Excellent German School Abroad" award from the Federal State inspection for the second time. GISAD is part of the "German Schools Abroad" network which includes 140 schools, all of which work to the same principles of International graduation profile, Individual advancement, Cultural awareness and Multilingualism
In common with many international schools, student numbers are heavily weighted towards the lower end of the school in KG and Primary, with numbers in Middle and High School significantly lower overall. The vast majority of students are German or from other German mother-tongue countries, although a surprising 10 or so per cent are from local Emirati families - higher than the minimum requirement agreed at the time of the donation of its building by the Abu Dhabi school authorities back in 2008.
Almost all teachers are highly qualified and all have a secure command of their subject. A teacher:student ratio of 1:10 is on the low side for a European curriculum international school in the UAE, and should provide very high individual support to student. The school itself operates under the jurisdiction of the German authority for schools outside Germany.
What about the Curriculum?
GISAD offers recognised German school awards at all levels including the Haupt- and Realschulabschluss, with a main focus on the German International Abitur. The Abitur is a university entry level qualification recognised worldwide and offers access to tertiary level studies in Germany and elsewhere.
The school aims to offer KG children a place where they can feel comfortable and qualified preparation for life and school and the KG works specifically with the principle of “Learning through Play.” The KG accepts German-speaking children between 3-5 years of age and non-German-speaking children from 3 years old. In addition to the development of German as their mother tongue, native speakers can also take part in an optional English language programme. Non-German speaking children are supported through an intensive German as a foreign language (DaF) programme focusing on the development of German language skills through teaching and systematic language immersion.
Pre-school children are offered a programme to prepare them for entry into primary school.
Admission to the primary school requires a good command of the German language as a pre-requisite for entry. Lessons are mostly taught in German, but from Grade 1 onwards English is taught - at different levels based on proficiency – as well as French and Arabic. Non-German native speakers continue to be offered additional German lessons up to grade 4.
Middle School education takes place from Grades 5 to 9 and is taught to Gymnasium level. Grade 5 serves as an orientation grade to determine at which level students should continue the Middle, Junior High or High school curriculum. For students who are classified at Real- or Hauptschuleinstufung, differentiated teaching material is offered. French is taught as a second foreign language from Grade 6 together with Arabic and Moral Education (and Islamic Studies for Muslim students).
In preparation for Abitur at the senior school level, students study German, English, French, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, History, Geography, Ethics, Islamic Education, Arts and Sport. Apart from sports, exams are written in all subjects. Art and Geography are taught in English as is Bilingual Biology.
The school offers a range of after-school activities on an optional basis which include sports to computers, STEAM sessions, robotics or music. Students also participate in regular educational trips within Abu Dhabi, the UAE and abroad.
What about academic achievement?
Although the school does not provide any details about the attainment of its students, the ADEK inspection from 2015-16 noted that results for the previous two years in the Abitur were high and that standards observed in the then current Grade 12 class were above international standards in most subjects, but especially English, Mathematics, Physics and Arabic for Arabs. Parents and students were said to value the final German qualification, which provides access to both German and international universities.
What about the facilities?
GISAD offers a 'Mediothek', providing a wide range of media, an art and music room, various science labs and large sports and event facilities. It also has a cafeteria with healthy food options.
KG and Pre-school children have access to a separate group room for each group, as well as several specialist rooms including a creative room, exercise room, and children's library.
Again, according to ADEK's inspectors, the school buildings and grounds are very impressive and provide a high quality environment that is conducive to learning. They are very safe, clean, and hygienic. The specialist facilities for science, physical education, art, handicraft, music and the library are of very high quality.
What the inspectors say
Such was the quality of student attainment and teaching at GISAD in 2015-16, that the school was one of a small number that ADEK proposed to postpone their next inspection (due in 2017-18 as part of the biennial inspection process in Abu Dhabi) to the 2019-20 academic year.
According to ADEK, children in KG make good progress in most basic skills. By the end of KG they are well prepared to learn reading, writing and arithmetic in the primary section of the school. Their attainment and progress in listening and speaking in English are very good. They can follow lessons conducted entirely in English and can express themselves confidently using simple, familiar language. Their information communication technology (ICT) skills are below international standards, however, because of lack of access to computers. Pupils are immersed in the German language. Children in KG develop well socially and become independent and confident learners.
Students continue to make rapid progress in the primary section. By the end of Grade 4, standards in reading and mathematics are good. Writing is less well developed, but generally in line with international standards. Most students’ progress in English is well above international standards. By the end of Grade 6, standards in most subjects are above age‐related expectations in core subjects.
Students continue to make good progress in the Middle and High school sections. Standards in most subjects are high with many students exceeding expectations. In English and physics, standards are well above international expectations.
If you would like to read the full details of the inspection, and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to find out the reasons behind the rating, you can find it here.
According to ADEK, parents are in general very supportive of the school and really appreciate the caring family atmosphere, the very positive teacher student relationships, and the school's high standards. Unfortunately, ADEK does not publish any formal survey information for students, teachers or parents.
If you are a student, parent or teacher at the German International School Abu Dhabi, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by completing our survey here.
What about the fees?
Annual school fees are AED 31,800 for KG (with a reduction of AED 2,000 for early pick up), AED 37,900 in Grades 1 to 4; AED 42,800 in Grades 5 to 10 and AED 47,900 in Grades 11 and 12. These fees cover textbooks, disposable resources and trips.
Additional fees include German as a foreign language in Kindergarten per school year of AED 5.000 and, similarly, German as a foreign language, of AED 3,150 per school year - these are compulsory payments if a child has been identified as in need of this support.
An optional English for German mother speakers class in Kindergarten is a further AED 5.000 per school year.
The fees are considered fair by parents and the school offers excellent value for money in view of the high outcomes.
Note: Admission to the primary school is determined by an assessment test of basic skills. Admission to other grades is based on reports and documents from the previous school.
Please note that the German International School in Abu Dhabi now has two 'live' websites - the first is http://www.gisad.ae; this has been replaced by https://www.gisad-school.com/ in 2019 and is considerably more up to date. However, the original site also has a great deal of additional information, particularly under its download section, which includes a Parent Handbook that is relatively current.
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