Indian International High School, Dubai is a private K-12 school located in Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai. It currently caters to more than 2,311 students. The school is rated Acceptable by the KHDA, a ranking it has held for eight years in a row. This puts it sharply at odds with its sister schools in Garhoud and Oud Metha, which have received Good and Very Good respectively.
Indian International School has been rated Acceptable for the eighth year in a row in the 2019-20 KHDA inspection process. The inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed in due course.
The story so far...
Indian International School Dubai Silicon Oasis is a sister school to the highly regarded Indian High School. The IHS website (which – somewhat confusingly – serves all 3 schools) states that IHS “has expanded itself with two campuses in the heart of Dubai and one campus in Dubai Silicon Oasis. Our resources, both human and material, are remarkably geared to prepare the students for the 21st century”.
The school opened in 2011 to meet the ongoing demand for affordable quality education for Indian families in Dubai. It is currently open from KG1 to Grade 10, adding a grade each year until it reaches completion in April 2019 with the opening of Grade 12. It has consistently been rated Acceptable by the KHDA inspectors – well below the previously Outstanding (now Very Good) rating of the Indian High School Senior branch and below the Good rating of the Junior branch.
In common with many Indian curriculum schools in the UAE, IIS is a large school, with over 2,300 students during the 2016-17 academic year. The KG section alone represents 20% of students at the school. The school employs 209 staff. Unlike its sister Indian High School branches, IIS is still expanding from KG2 upwards and actively encourages parents to “Kindly inform your relatives and friends regarding the KG2, Grade 1 to 9 admissions, in case they are interested in securing admission for their children during the academic year 2018 – 2019”.
Part of the reason that parents may initially consider IIS is in the hope that this may lead to transfer to either the Junior or Senior section of the Indian High School. However, there is no direct internal transfer of students between the two. The school also places restrictions on students trying to join IIS from outside the Indian system; they may apply and participate in the Admissions test, but their admission will not be confirmed until the month of June (meaning that they will miss the first two months of the Indian academic year).
The Vision of Indian International School is to “Create Proactive Global Citizens”.
IIS states in its Mission that it aims to “Unfold the inherent talents of all students and enable them to do their best; Nurture a cosmopolitan atmosphere by encouraging the appreciation of world culture; Instil appropriate and desirable ethical values to make the students productive and responsible members of society; Train the students to realise their educational potential and become independent, lifelong learners; Embody commitment to expectations of society by continually improving the quality management systems; Develop an environment that will enable the school to meet the objectives of the National Agenda and the Vision of the Rulers of UAE”.
IIS also has a series of stated Objectives aimed at specific provision and support within the school. These include to “Build an effective technology-based learning environment for the creation of global digital citizens; encourage the growth of an environment conscious generation by promoting eco-friendly practices in campus; support and guide students to alleviate learning difficulties and integrate them with the mainstream and to transform the infrastructure and supporting facilities into a centre of creativity & innovation". It is evident from the school’s inspection reports that a real effort has been made to achieve these objectives, albeit to varying degrees of success.
The school is permanently affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi, and the autonomous federal board, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) Government of India. The school is also recognised by the Ministry of Education, Dubai, UAE. IIS “adheres to a strict educational regimen and extra-curricular activities that inspire the highest levels of overall academic excellence among all students”. All students take Hindi from Grades 1 – 6. Students in secondary can additionally follow options in French or Hindi.
Interestingly, despite the close alignment and evident commitment to the CBSE Board, the KG curriculum is broadly based on the UK Early Years Foundation Stage framework. This section, according to the KHDA inspectors, is also the most effective in the school in terms of student attainment.
With a teacher-student ratio of 1:20 for Pre-Primary, Primary and the Middle Section and 1:15 for Secondary and Senior Secondary classes, class sizes at the lower end of the school are relatively high. However, according to IIS this does not detract from “building an excellent rapport between the educators and the ones being educated”.
As a relatively new school, IIS boasts a range of modern facilities including a well-equipped Science Laboratory which provides technical support in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, where scientific or technological research, experiments and measurements are performed. Staff at the Science Laboratory works closely with students to explain or demonstrate experiments, how to use equipment, as well as assist and support individual students on research projects.
The school also boasts a Mathematics Lab which provides a positive and professional environment for learning. It helps students grasp the concepts dealt with in class and promotes independence in learning. Facilities in the Mathematics Lab include Geoboards, Bingo cards, Puzzles and Coursework sheets.
The ICT lab is equipped with 25 PCs with Internet connection, a Projector and Robotic Kits. It provides students with software training and up- to- date knowledge in computer technology. It also serves as a platform for staff Continuous Professional Development (Assessment software and technology) as well as internal and external assessment. After school Graphic Design Classes are also held at the ICT Lab.
The most recent KHDA report notes that STEAM facilities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) “are particularly noteworthy and include a splash pool and a recycling area. Technology is commonplace in all classrooms with computers available”. With technology-driven innovation a key focus for the UAE Education Agenda, this is also a focus for inspectors.
They note that “Students confidently use tablets to support their research and learning. Students engage in themed assemblies and support community activities including projects on alternative sources of electricity and a salt water energy generator. Flexible learning spaces facilitate problem solving and independent learning particularly in the KG where it is stimulated through activities and play. The curriculum promotes innovation through activities such as the ‘Innovation week’, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEAM) agenda and the organic farming project. However, these are supplements to the curriculum rather than an integral part of it”. This is another area of focus for the school’s improvement.
The school features a Library which has over 8000 books in circulation. It provides an easy access to reference books, E-books, newspapers and magazines for students as well as staff and a fully air-conditioned Auditorium with a seating capacity of around 500. The Auditorium has a large screen projector with state of the art sound and lighting systems. A Wi-Fi facility is available in the Main auditorium, Green rooms, as well as the Canteen and Foyer areas.
The school’s curriculum is enhanced by a wide range of after-school clubs, field trips and thematic assemblies as well as a variety of sports and fitness programmes. Drama, dance and music ensure that students are provided with choices and opportunities to develop other interests.
PE and extra-curricular activities are clearly an important element of school life. The school’s resources include a full-sized swimming pool and ample resources for extra-curricular activities. Facilities include a KG Gym with trampolines, walkers, steps, cycling areas and balancing beams; a Grade 1 and 2 Activity Room containing trampolines, wall climbing features, football goal posts, basketball rings and a Yoga and Gymnastic room with soft mattresses and wall mirrors. There is a Table Tennis hall with 5 Table Tennis tables, Carom boards and Chess boards.
Unusually for Dubai, IIS boasts a Football field with natural grass, as well as a standard size Basketball court, a Mini Basketball court with adjustable pole, a standard size Tennis and Volleyball court with adjustable pole, Cricket nets and 2 concrete pitches. Besides regular Physical Education classes, the Physical Education Department also conducts Swimming classes, after school coaching classes, after school fitness classes and Friday and Saturday Sports Clubs.
The Eco Club appears to be a particular focus of IIS. It aims to create awareness about the environment and foster a commitment among the students to work individually and collectively towards environment related issues. There is an emphasis on recycling so that many materials are re-used and refurbished. The Club consists of about 100 members, “the Green Patrol”, from Grades 3 to 9. Students participate in the recycling of electronic waste through the E-waste campaign and are encouraged to exhibit their creativity, increase public awareness on the consequences of tobacco use by organising a ‘No Tobacco Day’ campaign, organise Earth Hour and create awareness about it.
The Club encourages students to take action to save the environment and to “go a step further to educate friends and family on the significance of the three P’s – Protect, Preserve and Promote Mother Earth by a variety of activities including Organic Farming, Paper Bag Campaign, Clean -Up Campaign etc.”.
Another area of focus for IIS seems to be the development of their SEND provision, in line with recent announcements by the KHDA that all schools should be able to support children of Determination. The school already operates a Learning Centre which undertakes the Identification and Assessment of support requirements and provides Skill training for 2 or 3 periods/week, reviewing progress on an on-going basis. The SEN team of 6 Counsellors and 2 Learning Support Assistants provides guidance and support in relation to a range of Special Education Needs (SEN) including Behavioural, Social, Emotional; Sensory and Physical; Medical Conditions or Health Related Disability; Communication and Interaction; Gifted and Talented; Disabled and Learning.
The team supports children with a wide range of diagnoses including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Nonverbal Learning Disability, Disorders of Speaking and Listening, Auditory Processing Disorder and Learning Disabilities including Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are some 150+ children who are registered as in need of SEND support. This is an area of development in the school which appears to be progressing, having been upgraded to Good in the most recent report.
Inspectors note that “The overall quality of provision for students who have SEND is good. School leaders increasingly understand how to meet the needs of students with SEND. They are continuing to develop a systematic and detailed approach to the identification and monitoring of SEND but further work is needed in classes to provide for these students. Students who experience difficulties in learning are identified early in their school careers, occasionally before starting, with a key focus on learning. Leaders are aware that no student should be missed and they are working hard to develop and improve the process of identification.”
Whilst support within the Learning Centres staffed by specialists is good, individual class teachers evidently have greater difficulty in adapting the curriculum to meet individual student needs and this is an area for improvement.
What the inspectors say
It is evident that the main area of improvement identified consistently by inspectors is in relation to the quality of teaching. “Teachers across the school understand the importance of developing critical thinking, problem solving, innovation and independent learning skills. Most teachers, however, lack the skills to do this effectively. Although questioning and dialogue are part of almost every lesson, this is often done at a superficial level, with opportunities missed to probe, extend and strengthen learning. The challenge and support [teachers] provide for students does not take sufficient account of each student’s knowledge, understanding and skills”.
Providing further detail of their concerns, the inspectors note that “In most lessons enquiry and research skills are still developing. Students are able to use some technologies to find answers to their questions but their ability to be innovative in solving problems and to extend their learning is not improving. The development of critical thinking skills is not always apparent due to the closed questions posed in lessons”.
Recommendations over a number of inspections have focused on the need for improvement in teaching and learning including the use of assessment data to more effectively match tasks and activities to meet the needs of all of students noting that assessment procedures are inconsistent and that information is used to inform the curriculum but not teaching.
Whilst the Principal evidently demonstrates a strong commitment to the school and to the community, inspectors note that leadership is limited as there is insufficient cooperation and focus on the quality of teaching. Interestingly, the Principal of IIS has been with the school since it opened, and staff turnover is a very low 5%. This may also be impacting the ability of the school to develop with little in the way of new blood or experience potentially joining the faculty.
Previous reports have also asked leaders to give a high priority to the development of teaching skills. This evidently has not happened, with the inspectors bluntly noting that “The governing body offers timely support for school leaders, but this support has been too little and too late. Recommendations from previous inspection reports have not been addressed and weaknesses remain in terms of the leadership and management of teaching, especially in Primary”.
Most critically, the inspectors note that “The governing body regularly monitors the school’s actions but does not sufficiently hold the school to account for the quality of its performance. Areas for improvement offered over time are not being sufficiently addressed. Governors have failed to ensure that the school improves”.
Having said this, there are strong points at IIS. Links with parents and the community have always been strong. Most parents are satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school, feel that the school is well led and many add positive comments about supportive staff and the efforts they make in order to support students. However, a minority of parents feel (in line with the views of the inspectors) that the school does not do enough to develop students’ skills to learn independently or to use learning technologies confidently.
Inspection reports have also acknowledged strengths in students’ personal and social development as well as their protection and care. This latest report acknowledges strengths in the KG in terms of the curriculum, assessment and leadership. The Middle and Senior School students also appear to be have largely Acceptable or Good learning skills, but the concerns in relation to teaching skills are also echoed here – notably in relation to research, independent learning and critical thinking.
The KHDA inspection report again contains a long list of recommendations for Indian International School – requesting teachers to focus on “ensuring that work is challenging and well matched to students’ individual needs, developing students’ critical thinking, problem-solving and independent learning skills, [and] using assessment information to help students improve and set work at the right level".
Staff need to ensure that they are “making accurate evaluations of the quality of teaching and the impact that this is having on learning, developing a better understanding among middle leaders of how to work more efficiently and collaboratively to improve teaching and learning, identifying and sharing the very best practice seen across the school and increasing the impact of training on classroom practices”.
The responsibility has been firmly placed on the Management and Governors of the school to “ensure that [they] are influential on the overall performance of the school by holding school leaders accountable, supporting the school in addressing weaknesses in the quality of teaching and raising the performance of the school”. Given that this school is so closely allied to the Outstanding Indian High School, it is to be hoped that some of the practices there can be transferred to its smaller sibling.
Indian International High School, Dubai is relatively affordable, with fees starting at AED 8,700 AED per annum and rising to a maximum of AED 14,000 at Grade 10. The school will be constrained in putting up its fees by its Acceptable rating.
The school seems to have won over many students who attend who record high satisfaction levels, parents too are warming up. However there is quite a lot of work to do to win over inspectors, and a long way to go to reach the levels of its sister schools.
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