The German School Dubai (also known as German International School Dubai) is a private K-12 school formerly located in Al Quoz, Dubai, and now (since 2015) in purpose built premises in Academic City. As would be expected, the majority of students are native German speakers.
The German School Dubai (Deutsche Internationale Schule Dubai - DISD) was established in September 2008 by Al Jafla as a school for international students and German expatriates.
The school follows a German curriculum (based on the curriculum of the German Federal State of Thüringen) with certain subjects taught in Arabic and English, as per Ministry of Education guidelines. As of Grade 9 subjects are split into two streams one of which is called Realschule and the other Gymnasium. Note: In the German secondary school system, the Realschule is ranked between Hauptschule (lowest) and Gymnasium (highest). For a UK equivalent, the Gymnasium would approximate closest to an English Grammar School with a greater emphasis on the Arts. The Realschule would be a more technically focused school.
Since 2011 German International Dubai has had the approval of the Kultusministerkonferenz to prepare students for the internationally recognised German school-leaving examination (Deutsche Internationale Abiturprüfung). At the beginning of the secondary phase students wishing to pursue more academic careers are prepared for the Deutsche Internationale Abiturprüfung whilst the remaining students are prepared for the German secondary school certificate (Realschulabschluss or Hauptschulabschluss) and they graduate at the end of Grade 10. Core subjects across the school include Mathematics, German, English, Social Studies, Islamic Studies and Arabic.
The school is currently host to just over 750 students (an increase of over 10% compared with a year ago), split almost equally across the three school sections. Children who attend DISD come from different cultural groups and speak different languages. Currently, there are 31 different nationalities represented in the school, although children with German nationality are given clear preference, particularly for Kindergarten places. Around every second child in the Kindergarten grows up in a multi-lingual environment and German is not always the first language in the parental home. Children who are not fluent in the German language are given special support through a German as a foreign language programme.
The Kindergarten takes children between the ages of 3 and 5 years and includes the Vorschule for 5 year olds, which prepares children for their move to Grundschule (Primary school) in line with the German national mandatory requirement for children to attend school from the age of six. The school also offers a half day option for children from age 3 years, prior to them joining the school on a full time basis. All children study German, English and Arabic from Grade 1 of Grundschule, with the option of adding French in Grade 6 at the start of Secondary school.
With the increase in student numbers has come a small increase in staff to 66, the major proportion of whom are German nationals. The current teacher turnover ratio is running at 23% (as per the latest KHDA report), a considerable improvement on the 31% at the end of the 2016-17 academic year, which was high by Dubai standards of around 20-22%. The increase in student numbers has had a somewhat negative impact on the staff:student ratio which has grown from 1:7 two years ago, to 1:11 in the last academic year. Having said this, however, this is still a very low ratio compared with many other schools in Dubai and should ensure considerable individual attention for students.
What about facilities?
DISD moved from its original building in the Al Qouz Industrial area to its purpose-built premises in Dubai Academic City three years ago. The new school, aside from being considerably more spacious and modern, has also enabled a much wider range of specialist facilities to be offered, and in particular, now provides vastly more outdoor space.
The school is organised into Kindergarten, which has its own separate building away from the older students on the campus, Primary and Secondary school. The adjacent main building of the school separates Secondary students, sports facilities and specialist music, art and other rooms to the left of the campus, whilst a large canteen/assembly room at the centre of the school acts as the division with the Primary school. Further details can be found in our Experience report.
Read our WSA Experience Report here
What the inspectors say
For the seventh year running the school received the KHDA inspection rating of Good. Key strengths highlighted by the KHDA include children’s outstanding personal and social development in the KG; students’ outstanding achievement in English in the secondary 2 phase (Grades 11 and 12), and the outstanding progress made by primary students in Arabic as an additional language. In addition, the report notes the positive work ethic and very high quality of personal and social responsibility across all phases and the very good quality of care and support for students including those with special educational needs and disabilities.
The majority of ratings across the six key performance indicators were rated Good or Very Good (the latter particularly in the KG and Upper Secondary levels of the school).
The report's key recommendations focus on the following actions:
Inspectors note that in terms of academic attainment and progress, in English, students’ achievement in the secondary 2 phase is now Outstanding and is Very Good across the other sections of the school. Across the remaining key subjects, the school has maintained achievement at good to very good levels. The exceptions to this are in secondary 2 phase Science (an on-going area of relative weakness), and in Arabic as a first language in the primary phase which have both declined. German, as the language of instruction, remains consistently good across all phases.
The quality of teaching was found to be very good in the Kindergarten (KG) and the upper secondary phase. However, Primary teaching was assessed to be less secure because teachers’ expectations and levels of challenge are not always matched to the range of students’ abilities and needs. Assessment processes require greater rigour in order to provide more accurate data and reliable feedback to parents - this is a key area of focus for all schools in Dubai and one on which the inspectors are placing considerable emphasis.
Inspectors praised the curriculum, noting that it is effectively planned, balanced and compliant. The Thuringen curriculum is complemented by a strong, school-specific approach, whilst the level of coordination in the secondary 2 phase ensures a reliable preparation for the international Abiturprüfung. The protection, care, guidance and support of students was rated Very Good across the school.
However, a range of concerns from the most senior levels to classroom staffing are noted by the inspection team, and these will clearly need to be addressed. Inspectors noted that "the principal has a strategic and clear vision for the school. Middle leaders are less secure and to date, are not demonstrating the essential qualities necessary to ensure best practice in teaching, learning and assessment. There is a particular need for a model of long-term, visionary, shared-leadership in order to ensure stability within the school. The premises are of the highest quality and an extensive range of resources has been made available. [However,] these well-matched resources are not fully employed by teachers for technology, science and research purposes".
In addition, issues were raised by parents about poor communication with school leaders, lack of feedback on students’ progress and inconsistent teaching in some phases of the school. Parents suggested that they would like a far greater input into school improvement matters and other priorities. Inspectors also raised concerns about the school's self-evaluation process which they described as "neither precise nor useful in the school’s journey towards improved outcomes for all students. Plans are not sufficiently coherent, detailed or based on accurate analysis. Recommendations from previous reports continue to appear. Leaders are not fully held to account for ensuring a better education for all students. The current system of teacher appraisal is weak and requires urgent review".
These comments are very strong by inspection report standards and there is little chance of DISD improving its inspection rating until the KHDA inspection team sees clear evidence of steps to address its concerns.
There is no doubt that the German International School (DISD) will appeal to German-speaking families who anticipate a return to their Home Country for further education at some stage. It will be interesting to see whether the school is able to attract the numbers of students for which it has capacity over the next few years, or whether internationally mobile German speakers will be more inclined towards a more international school curriculum (the IB). Most of the schools offering IB are located in more appealing geographic/residential locations around the city. Certainly for students at the German International School, they do at last have state of the art facilities to enjoy over the coming years. Whether the concerns raised by the KHDA inspectors in relation to staffing and management will be sufficient to deter parents from placing or keeping their children at DISD remains to be seen.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has not yet had enough response to its School Survey to comment on parent attitudes towards the school, although on our inspection visit to their premises we found the primary stakeholders, its children, looking happy enough.
Fees at DISD range from AED 36,868 for half days in KG to AED 40,751 for full days. Fees for Grades 1-4 in the Grundschule are AED 43,498, Grade 5 is AED 55.030, Grades 6-10 at AED 59,597 and Grades 11-12 at AED 69,652. German as a Foreign Language support is charged additionally at AED 4,800 in KG and AED 5,500 in the Primary School. All children participate in an assessment process prior to acceptance at the school.
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