International School of Arts and Sciences (ISAS) Dubai is a private co-educational K-12 school located in Al Warqa, Dubai, taking students from four to 18 years of age. The school was first established in September 2007 by Academia Management Solutions International.
The International School of Arts and Sciences has been rated Good for the third year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
The school was first established in September 2007 by Academia Management Solutions International. AMSI also manages the three Al Mawakeb Schools in Dubai (in Deira, Al Barsha and most recently in Al Khawaneej) as well as the International School of Al Khoura, Lebanon. AMSI schools have graduated over 6000 students and have been home to over 200,000 students over the 30 years that the group has been established.
The school's mission on its website states "We are committed to motivating our students to succeed in an academic environment that inspires character development, leadership, and global citizenship. We aim to create an atmosphere of continuous improvement where each student's individuality is respected and appreciated. We aspire to a standard of excellence that spurs students to create and innovate for a future we can be proud of".
ISAS currently has approximately 700 students on its roll - a reduction of around 100+ since the previous inspection of the school by the KHDA in 2016-17. Students come from a variety of countries, but the majority are Arab expatriates and approximately one-third of the students are Emiratis. Some 10% of students have been identified with SEND requirements. Students are taught by a team of 85 teachers and a small additional number of assistants. The reduction in student numbers, whilst the school appears to have retained staff, means a very healthy staff:student ratio of 1:8. The largest nationality group of the staff is Lebanese. Staff turnover at 13% is relatively low by Dubai standards (where the average is 20-22%) and seems to be fairly consistent (2% lower than the previous year). This is good for stability within the school.
What about facilities?
The school is also well resourced with 48 classrooms equipped with up to date audio visual equipment such as multimedia projectors and interactive whiteboards connected to the school's network. There are also four state of the art science laboratories, two computer laboratories, a main library with internet and multimedia facilities, plus a smaller facility for younger students, two workshops, a wood and metal shop, a large music and choir room and a recording studio.
The science facilities in particular are substantial and include a Physics lab where, after constructing a virtual experiment or running a simulated experiment on their notebook computer, students are able to perform the actual hands-on experiment and send a digital lab report to their teacher. Similarly, the Chemistry Lab is setup with custom-made furniture that supports the simultaneous use of laptops and equipment. It includes a dark room for chemical storage in addition to a workspace for the lab instructor.
There are also further General Science labs which have been customised based on a subdivision for Grades 1 to 4 and Grades 5 to 8. In the Primary Lab, learning is enhanced by interactive software, 3D models charts and science kits. Middle School students are able to work freely on experiments with access to glassware software and reagents, thus giving the instructor more time for individualised instruction. There are also five technology rooms on campus where students are exposed to processes in engineering, and experience first-hand the conceptual applications that they would not have been able otherwise to visualize. Two further specialist labs are provided for students studying pre-college bridging courses in Engineering and Medical Sciences.
The school states "that art instruction, as a discipline, provides students with a unique and distinctive mode of learning and perceiving which is not taught by other subject areas of the school curriculum". With this in mind, and to support the pre-college mass communication course and a pre-college design course, the school has created an art programme that enables students to take their planned concepts and turn them into reality. The arts workshop is strategically placed between all the outdoor playgrounds to give the students easy access during their free time. There is also a Visual Arts & Science Centre equipped with two computer-controlled deep space telescopes, multimedia computers with advanced graphic design applications and film editing suites,
The school is also equipped with sporting and recreation facilities for both co and extra-curricular activities, including an indoor swimming pool, three indoor playgrounds, and shaded outdoors areas. There are many shaded and landscaped areas that allow for walking and outside interaction.
What about the curriculum?
The International School of Arts and Sciences follows the US curriculum and is fully aligned with the California standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and enriched with Music and Art. The school is, as per the KHDA requirement, fully accredited with NEASC (the New England Schools and Colleges Association), meaning that its High School Diploma is recognised at US colleges and universities. The school also offers a range of Advanced Placement programmes. Electives in the high school offer a variety to meet students’ goals and talents. Elements of choice are provided in each phase, and extra-curricular activities, including STEM, add variety. Extra-curricular activities include around 30 clubs from Astronomy to Robotics via MUN, and a host of arts and sports options.
The school has a strong focus on "bridging the gap" between senior school and university, This includes college preparation courses such as pre-Arts, pre-Engineering, pre-Medical, pre-Business and pre-ICT studies. The school also has a full-time staffed University Guidance Counseling Centre which students can utilise.
What the inspectors say
The KHDA 2015-2016 report identified a number of significant key improvements by the school since its previous inspection, although in the previous Acceptable rating remains unchanged. In 2016-17, after eight years of Acceptable ratings, the school broke through the barrier and achieved a Good rating for the first time. This rating was retained in the 2017-18 inspection which took place in March 2018. The latest report notes that there have been "notable improvements" in Maths and Science in the past two years. Inspectors commented that "The school leadership has a clear vision for the school as a happy place of active learning where students are supported to reach their potential. This caring ethos has a positive effect on students' personal development in an inclusive learning environment".
ISAS has continued to make improvements in the past year. Student achievement is rated Good across almost all phases of the school and core subjects, including improvements particularly in Elementary and Middle school Maths and Science. Where less progress has been made is in relation to attainment in Middle and High school core Arabic subjects - Islamic Studies, and Arabic as a first and second language, which remain largely Acceptable. For a school with a heavily Arab-biased population, this is an area where improvement will be expected.
Importantly, there have been further improvements in Teaching and Assessment (the latter a key focus on the inspection teams), which have been upgraded to Good across the school with particular improvements in Middle School teaching and assessment across all phases.
The curriculum design and its implementation, together with its adaptation to meet the needs of all students, remains Good across the school. Inspectors noted that "The curriculum is adapted increasingly well to meet the needs of the different groups of students". However, they also noted that "Innovation in learning is variable, and the use of technology for learning is inconsistent... Involvement in innovation is in the early stages and is mostly focused on the application of science and engineering concepts in projects across and outside the subject areas".
Students' personal and social development and their understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures, are clearly strengths of ISAS. All are rated Very Good across the entire school. Social responsibility and innovation skills remained rated Good, with the inspection team wishing to see a more active engagement by students in relation to Environmental sustainability in particular.
A further strength of ISAS is the care, protection, guidance and support of its students. Inspectors again rated Health and Safety including Child Protection as Outstanding, whilst care and support remained Very Good in KG and Good in the other sections of the school. The main focus for improvement is in relation to the provision of support for students with additional needs. Inspectors noted that whilst students with SEND "are identified accurately and supported well by specialist teachers, the quality of instruction by classroom teachers is more variable".
In the final key performance area of Leadership and Management, all measures are now rated Good with an improvement in the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning. Inspectors found that "Improvement planning addresses key priorities but does not include a sufficiently-sharp focus on longterm professional development". The inspection team also found that parents are very supportive of the school, but they and the wider school community, including teachers and students, are not represented on a formal Governing board. Also of concern is the inspection team's findings that although "most teachers are adequately qualified and have opportunities for professional development...some teachers are not sufficiently proficient in English, and there is no full-time member of the senior leadership team with appropriate experience in the curriculum". The latter must be a concern in terms of ensuring the school's compliance with curriculum and accreditation requirements.
The main recommendations made by the Inspection team are that ISAS should
It seems clear that the International School of Arts and Sciences has made real progress on its improvement path over the past two years. However, there is still much to be done to ensure that those areas currently rated Good continue to be improved. The risk is, that after so many years at Acceptable, and now having achieved the Good rating which is the minimum target from the KHDA for all schools in Dubai, ISAS will revert back to a slow process of incremental improvement. Whilst this will serve its students well enough, it will not provide them with further substantial improved achievement which must be at the heart of the school's aims.
Fees for International School of Arts and Sciences Dubai as of 2017-2018 range from AED 23,063 for KG to AED 32,290 for Grade 12. These are moderate fees for a US curriculum school.
Information on how to apply may be found here. Note: Prospective students sit an entrance exam.
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