The original International Community School is a private K-12 school located in Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi. The school was first established in 1990 and caters to approximately 1,600 students, almost exclusively of Arab origin, with UAE Nationals the largest single grouping, followed by Jordanians, Egyptians and Syrians.
Set up in 1990, ICS Mushrif is one of three schools currently operating in Abu Dhabi including branches at Al Najda and Khalidiya. Two further schools are due to open including one at Al Falah for the 2020-21 academic year.
In an introduction to the school, those behind it explain that ICS-Mushrif, a 21st Century school in Abu Dhabi, where everyone walks around with smiling faces feeling happy in a place where good friendships are made. The school lives its vision and mission each and every day: I-C-S... Inspire-Challenge-Succeed, is a practice that teachers and students embody in all areas of the campus.
Teachers inspire classes with expert-level knowledge and encourage each student to try harder, to be his/her "best self." Students are pushing boundaries, researching current events and holding intellectually stimulating conversations often leading to critical debates, each carefully forming his/her own opinion while challenging the status quo of what teens are capable of understanding.
We are one family at ICS-Mushrif. Parents, students, teachers, and Admin are all in this experience together, working to support one another ensuring our youth has the tools and skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing landscape. Our students graduate making the world even brighter."
International Community School Mushrif has gone through a period of change over the last few years, having moved from a school offering both a UK and US curriculum to an exclusively US curriculum more recently. There have also been significant changes in leadership and staffing, with notable improvements in the school's performance as a result, culminating in a Good rating for the first time from ADEK's inspectors during the last inspection held in the 2019-20 academic year.
The Principal's introduction to the school provides further information about the school's goals which include to:
The school had been growing significantly - over 400 new students joined the school between 2014 and 2016 - but numbers appear to have reduced somewhat - to just over 1,430 students in 2019-20.
Based on the most recent ADEK report - the inspection took place in November 2019 - ICS had some 200 children in KG, 530 in primary, and 400 in secondary and 250 in High School. The largest nationality group is Emirati (at 27%) followed by Jordanian at 25%, and Egyptians (17%) and Syrians (15%). Expat-Arabs make up the largest proportion of students at around 60%. Beyond these larger groups, there are a further 70+ nationalities represented at the school.
ICS offers mixed-gender classes from KG to Grade 4 and for students taking AP programs from Grades 9 to 12. Classes are single gender from Grades 5 to 12 (with the exception of AP students as above).
There are four classes per grade with an average class size of 26, though the school is permitted to offer up to 30 places per class. Boys outnumber girls by a ratio of 4:3.
The school currently employs 99 teachers, and 13 teaching assistants. Its teacher to student ratio is a good 1:14 across the school. Teacher turnover has declined from 20% to 11% - well below the average for the UAE of 20-22% - and an indication of the evident support of the teaching staff for the new leadership. The majority of teachers are recruited from North America and Ireland. Ex-pat Arab teachers are not recruited overseas, but hired from within the UAE.
The school has a mix of experience among its staff including two senior level, 22 mid-level and five junior level based on a clearly designated hierarchy system with appropriate delegation from the top-down. All teaching staff have a minimum of a Bachelors degree from an accredited college or university together with an ADEK teaching license in addition to their specialty degree or home country's license. Staff are provided with both in-house, school-led continuous Professional Development for all staff or off-campus training for specific course requirements. This investment is staff averages 3-5% of the school's annual budget.
Approximately 2% of students had been identified with Special Educational Needs at the time of the 2019 inspection. There are 24 SEN students (with a diagnosis), 15 students who have been identified as Gifted &Talented, whilst a large majority of the student population at ICS are English Language Learners. ICS has one SEN coordinator (SEN-Co) and three support staff who provide pull-out support in a designated room or visit some classes for in-class support and observation. All SEN students' IEPs are reviewed regularly and updated during meetings between the SEN-Co, the subject teachers and the parents. The school budget covers the cost of supplemental learning or assessment materials.
The school aims "to always Inspire, Challenge and Succeed". ICS Mushrif's road to improvement started in August 2019 when a new administration was appointed, taking a proactive approach to improvement from the outset. The most compelling evidence for this on paper is the improvement noted in the November 2019 ADEK inspection, when the school received the improved judgement of "Good."
ICS follows the California State Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) from KG to Grade 8, and offers an Advanced Placement program for Senior students wishing to apply to university. Advanced Placement (AP) courses were introduced in the 2018-2019 academic year. The first batch of AP students sat for the examinations in May 2019 at the end of Grade 12. AP is the main College-entry exam for US universities.
Interestingly, the school is in the process of receiving authorization to be able to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in 2021. Viewed as the "gold standard" by many universities around the globe, there has been an increasing tendency towards offering this demanding academic program in the UAE over recent years.
Students follow the Ministry of Education curriculum for Arabic, Islamic Studies and Arabic Social Studies, It has phased out the UK curriculum that was previously offered.
ICS is internationally accredited by AdvancEd (now known as Cognia), ensuring that its High School Diploma will be recognised by universities around the world. Subjects offered through the school include Science, Mathematics, English, English Social Studies, Arabic, Arabic Social Studies, Islamic, French (compulsory from Grade 4 to 8 and an elective in Grade 11 and 12), Computing, Business Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Art, Music, and Physical Education. This is quite restrictive in terms of a range of study options.
In keeping with UAE national priorities and the focus on STEAM subjects, students continue to study sciences through to Grade 10. ICS-Mushrif is a registered SAT exam site with many ICS students sitting for the exam.
AP programs are relatively limited, including English, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
Academic studies are supported by a wide variety of extra-curricular activities and clubs for students to participate in: Eco-Club, Student Council, Happiness Committee, Safety Team, Innovation Club, Think Science, Robotics, ICT Club, Book Club, Model United Nations, School Band and Chorus, Tournament of the Minds, Entrepreneurship, Physics, Math, Arts & Crafts, Heritage Club, Calligraphy, Qur'an Kareem, Arabic Reading & Poetry. Sports activities include Boys' & Girls' Swimming, Football, Basketball, & Volleyball which have play against other private schools.
A highlight for the school was when two ICS students and a teacher were the proud recipients of the Al Warden Scholarship Award to attend a week-long space camp program at the US Space and Rocket Center in the USA.
What about Academic Achievement?
ICS Mushrif has offered to share its SAT scores, with averages as per the below chart. A clear improvement can be seen year on year.
|Year 2014||Year 2015||Year 2016||Year 2017||Year 2018||Year 2019|
|English||Math||SAT I||English||Math||SAT I||English||Math||SAT I||English||Math||SAT I||English||Math||SAT I||English||Math||SAT I|
Once mandatory military service was introduced, many Emirati students, on reaching the age of 18 or above, were required to enlist in the military straight out of high school with the exception of those who achieved outstanding grades. These students were allowed the opportunity to postpone their military service until after they have completed their bachelor’s degree. Whilst this might have been expected to result in a reduction in the number of students going on to university, in reality, as a result of government scholarships offered to Emirati students, there has, in fact, been an increase.
An on-site school counselor hosts many university lecture visits both on ICS campus or at the university campus. The School counselor is available to international students and parents when selecting courses to satisfy graduation requirements for their home countries. Approximately 25% of students go on to Zayed University, 20% to the American University of Sharjah (Sharaka), 15% to Abu Dhabi University, 10% to the University of Sharjah, 5% to the Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, 2% to New York University Abu Dhabi and 2% to Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai. A further 21% of students join universities internationally including those located in Turkey, London, Canada, USA, Malaysia, Hungary, and Australia,
Facilities at the school include a library, two computer labs, a gymnasium (equipped for sports such as basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and badminton), a swimming pool, science labs, a music room, art room, cafeteria and medical clinic. Facilities are, in effect, satisfactory, but as the school continues to grow, its position in the centre of Abu Dhabi will put constraints on its ability to expand these offerings. The school is said to already be considering a move to a new location. Classroom sizes, as well as indoor/outdoor sport facilities are already an issue for the school.
Previous concerns raised by ADEK in relation to resources - and notably a lack of technology and interactive white boards in the classrooms - appear to have been addressed with the latest inspection report pronouncing the facilities and resources as Very Good.
The latest ADEK inspection report for 2019-20, rating ICS Mushrif Good for the first time, shows clear evidence of improvement and a positive step forward as a result of the new management team at the school. To achieve such a significant step up in a relatively short period should not be under-estimated. ICS was rated a "satisfactory" but also an "improving" school (now equivalent to Acceptable under the UAE's inspection model) by ADEK, for the third time in 2017-18.
In terms of the six key performance standards, ICS was rated Good in the key areas of Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum, Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, and the Leadership and Management of the school. ICS was rated Very Good in the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students. There were improvements in 4 of the six measures.
Commenting on the school's performance, inspectors noted that "The current principal and vice-principal joined the school in September 2019. The overall performance of the school is good. Progress has improved since the last inspection and achievement is now good in most subjects. External data indicates that attainment is improving over time. The new leadership inherited an effective school development plan (SDP) and, through thoughtful self-evaluation, has a clear vision for further school improvement. A new learning culture is developing, with improved quality of teaching and students’ learning skills."
Inspectors noted that the school had implemented most of the recommendations from the previous reports. They found the school's strengths to be:
Areas for improvement identified the need to:
There are clearly improvements being made at ICS. In particular, the establishment of the California State Curriculum, the widespread use of ICT and the growing culture of innovation within the school, both in lessons and extra-curricula activities, and the care and support provided to students are positive signs. There remains an overall requirement to raise standards across most subjects in most sections of the school, but the improvements in teaching and assessment, and the curriculum made so far are beginning to impact Students' Achievement.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Parental feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is limited. Feedback from the ADEK inspection report notes that "Partnerships with parents and the community are good. Communication with parents has improved through a digital programme, and the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) has been extended. The reporting system is now more rigorous to give parents specific guidance."
If you are a parent, teacher or student at ICS Mushrif and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please complete our survey here.
Fees range range from AED 21,050 in KG1, AED 23,800 in Grade 3, to AED 39,800 (though new students pay a higher rate from Grade 3 upwards (from AED 27,366 to AED 46,046 in Grade 12). There are also additional fees for books (ranging from AED 1,400 in KG1 to AED 4, 385 in Grade 12), transport (AED 4,100) and uniforms (AED 400). Admission is an open process with an entrance test to determine skills gaps.
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