United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Meydan / International Concept for Education

International Concept for Education Review

International Concept for Education (ICE), which opened in September 2013, is located directly next to the Meydan Hotel in a building that is horse-shoe shaped and surrounds the Tennis Academy.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 64,500
Annual fees
AED 45,000–77,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2013
School year
Aug to Jul
Teacher turnover help
20%
Principal
Ms Abir Alaywan
Owner
Mir Hashem Khoory LLC
Community
Main teacher nationality
France
Main student nationality
France

Nearby nurseries

1.4km
2.7km • Blended Early Years curriculum
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International Concept for Education
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 64,500
Annual fees
AED 45,000–77,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2013
School year
Aug to Jul
Teacher turnover help
20%
Principal
Ms Abir Alaywan
Owner
Mir Hashem Khoory LLC
Community
Main teacher nationality
France
Main student nationality
France
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International Concept for Education (ICE), which opened in September 2013, is located directly next to the Meydan Hotel in a building that is horse-shoe shaped and surrounds the Tennis Academy.

The story so far...

ICE was founded in 2013 with a vision for a different multilingual education, one which would allow children to continue to learn in their mother tongue, whilst enabling them to become truly bilingual. The school was set up to fill a gap for a French speaking school offering a teaching methodology aligned to the international IB teaching framework in the Primary and Senior High school sections for Francophone families who were unable to access places at the existing two French curriculum schools.  The original and current owners of the school are linked strongly to the Lebanese community and there is a tie between ICE and AFLEC, the French-Lebanese Association with members represented on the Board of ICE.

The school is accredited by the French Ministry of National Education and its partnership with the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), and by International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) for the Primary Years Programme.  It will also seek accreditation for the IB Diploma Programme.

Since 2013, the market has changed somewhat, with the expansion of both the Lycée Francais International Georges Pompidou and AFLEC, and in 2017, the addition of a further French school, the Lycée Jean Mermoz.  Plans to expand ICE beyond the Primary school stalled for a period, and student numbers have clearly been impacted by the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and the opening up of other options at the remaining French curriculum schools. 

The school remained open to Grade 6 only for several years, but now finally seems to be in a position to expand through the grades, having opened Grades 7 (cinquieme) and 8 (quatrieme) and will open Grade 9, (troisieme) in August 2022. 

With KHDA inspections having been put on hold from the second term of 2020 until late 2021 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, ICE had not been inspected since 2018-19, when it achieved an Acceptable rating.

In June 2022, the KHDA's DSIB inspection team issued the Inspection report for the 2021-22 academic year for International Concept for Education.  ICE has achieved a Good rating in the latest inspection round. This was a vital step to ensuring that the school can continue to expand through to Terminale.

At the time of the inspection in May 2022, the majority of the 372 students who were on the school roll were French passport holders, but the school has a mix of largely french-speaking families from Lebanon and North African countries also. This student roll, although at first sight a low number, represents an increase of almost 50% compared with 2019.

Curiously, although the school provides plentiful information about its Governors and, indeed, its teachers and administrative staff, it provides no information about its Principal, Ms. Abir Alaywan. However, the KHDA inspection team certainly do not hold back in making their views of the new Principal (she joined the school in July 2021) known, stating that; "The ambitious and visionary principal is focused on school improvement. She is supported in her work by a steering committee that has a sound knowledge of the French curriculum. School improvement planning is a working document for leadership and management." This is praise indeed.

The majority of the 37 teachers are also French, and they, together with a small number of nine teaching assistants, provide very personalised attention to children with a teacher:student ratio of 1:10.  Staff turnover at an average level of 20% suggests that teachers are generally content with their employment.  

What about the curriculum?

There have been a number of iterations to the curriculum at ICE since it opened, but they seem now to have settled on a combination of options which makes a great deal of sense for a school operating in such an international environment.  In the primary section of the school, the delivery of the programme is based on the International Baccalaurate Primary Years Programme, whilst the content is from the official French curriculum

The official French curriculum offers internationally-oriented schools the opportunity to create an “Option Internationale du Baccalauréat (OIB) International Section”. This is an enhanced version of the French programme, defined by the French Ministry of Education for each of seventeen international sections. Of these, ICE, has chosen to follow the American international section.

The American option offers an in-depth English language instruction and a bilingual history-geography programme taught by French and American teachers (College Board). It is not a separate degree, but a specialisation within the French baccalauréat.  

This mastery of both languages will allow students at ICE to choose, in Première, between the two tracks that the school plans to offer: the International Option of the French Baccalaureate (OIB – American section) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP).

Students pursuing the French track may prepare for the French Baccalaureate with or without its International Option (OIB), which is taken by approximately 1% of French Baccalaureate candidates worldwide. The OIB is not only bilingual, but also expects candidates to be bi-cultural. Two educational cultures come into contact, two ways of teaching and assessing students, two ways of approaching subjects, and no doubt, two perspectives on education and representations of the world.

This is a smart move, with the other French-speaking schools offering distinctly less choice, although a bi-lingual programme within the IB curriculum is offered at the Swiss International School in Dubai. 

All the teachers teach in their own native language in the two streams.  All French-speaking teachers have been employed directly from France, whilst English-speakers are from the UK, US and Ireland. There is also a strong focus on Arabic – particularly since many children are from native Arabic speaking backgrounds.

In addition to the academic focus, ICE also offers a variety of after-school activities. Some are managed by the school and some by external providers. All activities are planned by term. Maternelle activities run between 2:25 pm and 3:25 pm. Primaire and College activities run between 3:40pm and 4:40pm. All after-school activities are stopped during school breaks and the holy month of Ramadan.

What about facilities?

ICE is located on an unusual site that allows its pupils to participate in a large number of activities, including extra-curricular activities that are offered for their personal development. The school has an on-site swimming pool and access to the golf and outdoor facilities of Meydan.

The school is located in a single level building elevated above the ground level car parking and is light, modern and new, in keeping with the Meydan Hotel and Racecourse located directly by the school.  The classrooms are open and are very spacious with views out towards the greenery surrounding the area.  Each classroom is about 90 m2 in size, accommodates a maximum of 20 students, and includes state-of-the-art teaching equipment, especially audio and digital equipment. A new library was under construction at the time of the KHDA inspection in May 2022.

The school offers a canteen which serves only organic food, and there are plentiful outdoor spaces for play and socialising. 

What the inspectors say

The school received an acceptable rating from the KHDA during its first inspection in 2015/16, but has subsequently achieved two Good ratings - the last in 2017/18. Unfortunately, on its subsequent inspection in 2018-19, the ratings slipped back to Acceptable, and therefore the team at ICE were no doubt delighted to learn of the overall Good rating received in 2021-22.  The newest French school in the city, the Lycée Jean Mernoz also achieved a Good rating on its first inspection, whilst the other French schools in the UAE are rated between Very Good and Outstanding. With their established history behind them, ICE will need to be able to convince parents that it too can deliver on academic achievement.  

The KHDA inspection team defined the strengths of the school as:

  • The good quality provision for children in Maternelle
  • The good or very good progress across most subjects, and in all phases
  • The good teaching and learning in all phases
  • The very good arrangements for health, safety and safeguarding of the whole school community
  • The good leadership and governance.

In fact, academically, ICE performs reasonably well.  In terms of the core subjects of French, English, Maths and Science, both attainment and progress largely are rated Good across all three sections of the school. However, in common with many Dubai schools, the ratings for Arabic as a first and second language and for Islamic Studies are not as positive. In fact, in both Arabic and Islamic Studies in Primaire, attainment for each subject had declined from Good to Acceptable.  This is bound to be an area of focus for the inspection team going forward.

Students' personal development is rated Very Good across the school, whilst Social responsibility and innovation skills are largely rated Good.  Whilst Teaching for Effective Learning is now rated Good across the school, Assessment remained Acceptable in Primaire and College, although it improved to Good in Maternelle. 

This key performance standard, together with the Curriculum - rated Good across the school, - are the two standards upon which Student Achievement are built and therefore fundamentally important for any improvement in this latter regard.

Health and Safety, including provisions for Safeguarding and Child protection was rated Good, whilst Care and Support improved to a Good rating.  However, the provision and outcomes for Students of Determination was rated Acceptable.  The inspection team commented that "an experienced and qualified inclusion leader is in the school for two days each week. She has insufficient time to oversee and implement the changes needed to improve inclusion throughout the school."  This will clearly need to be an area of investment for the school going forward.

There were improvements to a number of the indicators under Leadership and Management, although that for Management, staffing, facilities and resources fell back to Good from Very Good on the last inspection.

Inspectors were particularly positive about the Leadership of the school, noting that "Senior leaders, and particularly the principal, are skilled practitioners. They display a high level of competence in developing and promoting bilingual education. The principal’s ambitious vision is focused on school improvement and is having a positive impact on students’ outcomes in all phases."

In terms of recommendations from the KHDA inspection team, ICE must  

  • In Islamic education and Arabic, ensure that schemes of work are reviewed effectively to improve the levels of challenge, questioning, inquiry and critical thinking, so as to meet the needs of all learners.
  • Strengthen internal and external validation processes in all key subjects to ensure that self-evaluation and internal assessment processes are robust and lead to accurate information on attainment.
  • Improve provision for students of determination by:
    o providing sufficient time for the leader to manage all aspects of inclusion
    o closely monitoring the quality of support for students in lessons to ensure a consistently higher standard
    o ensuring that all teachers fully understand the needs of students of determination and their own role in providing appropriate support.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings and the recommendations for improvements - you will find it here.

The Buzz

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has not received any feedback to our School Survey - something that we very much regret, since this is an opportunity for existing families to provide vital information for families who may be considering the school for their children.

If you are a parent, teacher or older student, please share your opinions and experience with potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.

No pre-inspection survey was carried by the KHDA in 2021-22, but the inspection report notes that; "Parents are involved in decisions as part of the school council and the ‘Conseil d’Etablissement’, through which important decisions are made. They receive regular informative reports on their children’s progress at least three times a year. In Maternelle and Primaire, teachers have meetings with parents and students, in which they outline specific objectives for progress."  They also commented that "Parents report positively on the high levels of communication and on being well informed about their children's progress."

Our View

Its location, close to the new Meydan housing area to which many international expats are being relocated, offers a potentially large market of families who may well be interested in the French or bi-lingual curriculum, as opposed to the UK curriculum which dominates schools in the area. There is a real opportunity for ICE to develop if it can attract new families and address the KHDA recommendations concurrently. 

One additional challenge that the school faces is the recent relocation of the Lycée Libanais Francophone to the Meydan area, but the decision to offer a truly bi-lingual programme may well be the deciding factor, together with a leadership team that is clearly ambitious and capable.  We will be very interested to see how the improvement programme at ICE continues.

What about the fees?

Fees range from AED 45,000 for pre-KG to AED 77,000 for Grade 7 and AED 82,000 in Grades 8 and 9. There is also a AED 1,000 registration/file-processing fee.  These are premium fees and considerably higher than those of other French schools.  The price point is more on a par with international, English language based IB schools, where salaries are generally higher due to the complexity of the IB programme.

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