Founded in 2002 as the first school in the BEAM group, the International School of Creative Science (ISCS) occupies a large site in the Muwaileh district of Sharjah. ISCS is an all-through school for students aged 4 to 18 years, which models its curriculum on the National Curriculum for England and the UAE Ministry of Education curriculum for Arabic and Islamic Studies.
The International School of Creative Science (ISCS) offers an international curriculum with a very clear focus and ethos aimed at embedding and preserving students' Islamic roots in their behaviours and educational experience. The school’s vision is one of “excellence rooted in faith”, in order to cultivate “life-long learners and global citizens equipped with a moral compass”; this has clearly been enthusiastically welcomed in the UAE, having proved successful enough that ISCS and its sister school, the American School of Creative Science (ASCS), expanded to one further school under the ASCS brand in Al Layyah, Sharjah, and subsequently into Dubai, where one of each brand opened in 2016.
All of this has happened under the umbrella of the Bukhatir Education Advancement & Management (BEAM) group, a “holistic education entity with longstanding experience in developing successful educational institutions”. All of the BEAM schools in the UAE offer “a combination international curriculum with strong Arabic language programmes in a faith-based learning environment, all designed to instil traditional moral values, ethos and academic excellence”, and ISCS is no different.
It describes its ethos as one of ‘East meets West’, and ISCS’s mission is to “ignite a passion for learning, by creating an inclusive community which fosters virtues, innovation, and best practice focused on achieving successful outcomes for all our students”. To this end, the school prizes and encourages the values of Integrity, Tolerance, Collaboration, Courage, and Compassion.
But how exactly does a school nurture these things in its students?
It starts with school leadership. Salah A. Bukhatir, CEO & Vice Chairman of the Bukhatir Group, offers his vision for all BEAM schools, centred on a promise to “nurture and develop ambitious, committed young boys and girls, men and women, who upon graduation will have preserved their cultural identities and become confident intellectuals, serving as role models in the modern world today and tomorrow”.
This sentiment is echoed at the day-to-day school level by Principal Samar Khalid Murad, a university graduate with an MA in Applied Linguistics. She explains that at “the core of our learning process, we aim to help our students to think in terms of the ‘big picture’ idea, encouraging our students to apply their knowledge to a real life context and to appreciate the various connections between their subjects”.
Of course, none of these promises can be delivered without the teaching staff at the heart of it all. The school employs over 500 teachers, recruited from all over the world, and says it has "staff that have been with the school for over 10 years, many whose tenure is about five years or over, and a lot more who have just completed two years”. According to the school, all staff are “carefully selected from the international educational community for their experience and dedication to the vision and mission of the school”, holding an international teaching degree or relevant university qualification.
On-going professional development, particularly for younger, less experienced staff, is a cornerstone of the school's provision. All management and teaching staff are required to participate in the school’s Continuing Professional Development programme, which is developed with the in-house training and development centre. This ensures that staff stay up-to-date with the latest developments in education and teaching techniques.
Class sizes are generally around 25 students, with a maximum of 30. This puts the teacher/student ratio at approximately 1:9; classes in the primary school are also supported by teaching assistants, while the secondary school has specialist subject staff.
While class sizes are quite large, teachers still seem to be well-positioned to provide the needed one-on-one experience with their students. This is especially important in the primary school, which has over 20 classes in KG1, KG2, and Grade 1, and takes into account the fact that classes separate for boys and girls from Grade 4 onward. While the upper years have far fewer classes, the need for a staff of qualified, diverse teachers is evident, and is sure to grow as the school does.
And support doesn’t just come from within the school, but from outside of it as well. ISCS encourages all parents and community members to join the School Governing Body, to “help shape the School’s future direction and ensure a strong connection and sense of community between the School’s leadership and parents”. This approach ensures that students experience first-hand the collaborative environment that the school wants them to generate themselves in the future.
In terms of the student body itself, ISCS “welcomes prospective parents and students from all nationalities”, and represents some 69 nationalities within a student body split pretty evenly between girls (48%) and boys (52%).
The majority of students are UAE Nationals (25%), with a further 18% from Pakistan, 13% from Egypt, 11% from India, and a further 15% made up of students from Jordan and Syria.
And yet for the number of students that fill the school, there is no sense that it is overcrowded; quite the reverse. Classrooms are busy, corridors are colourful, and though students do move around in large groups, there is no sense that the school is overwhelming in size, since students remain within their own dedicated building other than for sports activities. Altogether this creates a vibrant atmosphere where students have their own space but also get to enjoy the benefits of a large cohort.
ISCS models its curriculum on the National Curriculum for England, blending this with UAE Ministry of Education requirements to provide sufficient Arabic and Islamic Studies. The curriculum is carried out within an environment of “healthy and balanced emphasis on discipline and fostering respect by all, for all”, nurturing the development of the ‘total child’. This approach ensures that student awareness and appreciation of different cultures is enhanced, and that all students ultimately develop confidence, aesthetic awareness, sense of fair-play, sound moral values, and self-esteem.
In order to achieve this, ISCS focuses strongly on cross-curricular teaching, an approach that Principal Samar Khalid Murad speaks about in her Welcome Message:
“By facilitating and promoting cross-curricular learning, we actively encourage the development of critical thinking skills needed for independent research, learning and problem solving.”
This approach ensures that students develop a broad range of skills which can be applied in a variety of situations, rather than simply being spoon-fed information for individual subjects to then repeat back. To facilitate this further, children are taught as a whole class, individually, or in groups (depending on the type of work being covered, these groups may be linked by ability, personality, or other criteria). As a result, students learn to work collaboratively with a wide variety of other students, and have the chance to pursue their own approaches to problems or areas of interest.
This cross-curricular focus is something that can be lacking in many schools, and is a particular problem for Arabic departments – National Curriculum for England schools aren’t naturally structured to include the required focus on Arabic and Islamic Studies, and so Arabic instruction often feels tacked on and under-developed. ISCS, however, specifically mentions its own English and Arabic departments on the school website, explaining how they adopt a common approach to ensure that links are established:
“In the KG department for instance, both departments adopt an area-of-learning based curriculum and story books used in the English classes are translated in Arabic so that children can listen and interact with the same story in both languages.”
We see evidence of the integrated nature of all school subjects right from the earliest years at ISCS. As with all schools based on the National Curriculum for England, the focus in the early years of the school is on learning through play. To achieve this, classrooms are set up to allow free flow movement, so that children can participate in the activities that appeal to them, whatever the subject may be.
As children move into the main Primary Section of the school, there is a greater emphasis on structured learning – ISCS focuses on an Applied Learning approach, whereby children gain practical experience though use of laboratories and specialist rooms. At this stage of their education, all students study Maths, English, Science, Islamic Studies, Arabic, Social Studies, and Quran, ensuring a strong foundational knowledge that can then blend with cross-curricular skills.
This practical, integrated approach to teaching prepares students to take the IGCSEs at KS4 (age 16) and A-Levels at KS5 (age 18). Core subjects for IGCSEs include Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and ICT, alongside the MOE curriculum for Arabic, Islamic, and Social studies. Students choose between English Language & Literature or English Language only (or even English as a Second Language if necessary), and elective subjects include Psychology, Business Studies, Geography, and Art & Design – this is a fairly limited selection compared to other schools. ISCS also offers Quran memorization, a "unique subject that enables our students to have better memory power and recalling skills". The school also organises Umrah for its secondary school students.
In Grade 12, the first year of A-Level Studies, students can take up to 4 subjects with a choice from Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Applied ICT, and Business Studies – again, as with the IGCSE electives, this is a small offering compared to what you may find in other schools (note the lack of arts options for example).
Parents are made aware early on that the choice of ISCS does bring certain additional obligations; there is a significant workload for Grades 12 and 13, where students are not only expected to undertake the rigorous A-Level curriculum, but also continue with the compulsory subjects of Arabic, Islamic, and Social studies. This results in a longer and more rigorous Secondary school day than may be found at many other schools: classes start at 7am and finish at 2.20pm (extra-curricular activities and homework then need to be added to this day).
However, for students willing to make this commitment, ISCS offers a lot in return. The school has a Bring Your Own Device policy for Grades 1 to 13, and the Creative Science Schools are currently the only Promethean Innovation Hubs in the world, and the only Promethean UK Centres of Excellence in the UAE and the Middle East. The school has adapted its own Digital Learning curriculum, so that children are trained and encouraged to use IT skills in a variety of contexts, and also offers a rich and diverse extra-curricular programme where children have ample opportunities to express their creativity and develop their talent.
ISCS calls itself an inclusive school, which is committed to developing inclusive cultures, policies, and practices. It has its own Special Educational Needs (SEN) department, run by an SEN Coordinator, which provides support for children with additional learning needs, including English and Arabic as Additional Languages for non-native speakers). The school states:
“We firmly believe that all children have an entitlement to be educated alongside their peers as much as possible, and very few exceptions are made . . . We actively seek to remove the barriers to learning and participation that can hinder or exclude individual students or groups of students by finding the voices of all within the school community.”
All staff members are expected to share the responsibility and ownership to remove barriers to learning for all students, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, special needs, attainment, and background. Not only this, but ISCS also seeks to identify gifted and talented students, so the school can provide them with opportunities to hone further and develop their talents.
ISCS produces an Inclusion Newsletter, The Support Club, which is available online. This newsletter includes content like SEN-related articles, responses from students on topics such as bullying, input from the school counsellor, and a message from the Head of Inclusion.
While ISCS has not published any recent results, they have in the past made their IGCSE results available to the public (which is unusual for a Sharjah-based school). In June 2017, for example, the IGCSE A* – C pass rate was 91.6%, and the A – C pass rate for AS-Levels was 75.1%. The most recent results, from 2018, indicate not only an improving range of marks, but also pass rate standards that are higher than the UK average by a considerable margin at the A* – A and A* – C level.
|iGCSE June 2015||iGCSE June 2016||iGCSE June 2017|
|A*-A =43.9% (23.20%)||A*-A =51.69% (20.50%)||A*- A = 56.3% (20%)|
|A*-C = 88.07% (69%)||A*-C = 89.14% (66.90%)||A*- C= 91.6% (66.3%)|
|A*-G = 99.31% (98.60%)||A*-G = 98.88% (98.70%)||A*- G = 100% (94.8%)|
|(UK figures in brackets)||(UK figures in brackets)||(UK figures in brackets)|
|Note: In the UK, Maths statistics are for %age at grade 9-4|
The 2018 IGCSE results indicated that 81% of students obtained an A* – B grade, with 55% obtaining an A* – A grade; Year 11 students specifically achieved 78% at A* – B grade, with 55% obtaining an A* – A grade. Year 12 students (AS-Level) appear to have obtained good results as well, with 57% obtaining an A – B grade. Unfortunately, since the school reported student performance rather than the number of exam papers passed at these grades, it is difficult to judge how well students performed overall.
Although there have been no results published in more recent years, ISCS does keep a record of school achievement on their website. For example, we know that ISCS has received the 2011 accreditation of “Highly Effective with Distinction” by the UAE Ministry of Education, and was recognised in the 2019 Sharjah Award for Excellence in Education with accolades for Distinguished School in UAE and Distinguished Teacher in Sharjah. Students from ISCS have also been ranked among the top achievers for the Outstanding Pearson Learner Awards in the UAE and the World; the top accolades were achieved in IGCSE Mathematics, Human Biology, Classical Arabic, Arabic First Language, Physics, and A-Level Business Studies.
The school has also offered public feedback on the results of recent TIMSS and PISA assessments. For the TIMSS, the school reports that “students achieved outstanding results exceeding the UAE National target of 510 points as per the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE National Agenda. The scores were not only above the average UAE score, but also above the average score of other British curriculum schools within the UAE and above the international standards”. And in the PISA assessment, “students proved that they are able to compete in an international setting as they scored above the UAE National Target of 510 in Mathematics, Science and English Reading”. Of course, given the lack of dates and details, it’s difficult to measure the exact achievement of students, but it may be reassuring to prospective parents to see students performing above national averages.
The school has also had students take part in a number of prestigious competitions and awards. Of 600 participants in the 4th Treasures of the UAE painting competition, a Year 8 ISCS student was named one of the 24 prize-winners. Grade 9 students placed second in Short Film category at the Pillars Initiative, while other ISCS students came in at third place at the 2018 Think Science Competition. And at the Sharjah Entreprennovation Competition, Business Studies students from Grade 10 achieved second place and won a cash prize worth AED 15,000 – most impressively, ISCS was the only school that placed in the top four, with the other three places being filled by university students.
So, with all of these achievements, what does this mean for ISCS students in the future?
Well, the vast majority of students remain in the Middle East for Further Education and University, and are not therefore required to stay for Grade 13. However, many do go on to complete higher education overseas, and have most recently secured places at universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Holland, Czech Republic, and Pakistan.
Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis; while there were a few instances of inspections being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, schools did not generally publish the outcomes. With the initiation of SPEA (Sharjah Private Education Authority), the intention is that schools will be inspected using the common framework already in place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
However, SPEA has decided to seek a collaborative approach with the schools for this process, and although we understand that initial inspections did take place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, results of these inspections have not been published.
As a result of the pandemic, Sharjah schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations, implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). In its most recent Distance Learning Review Report (2020), ISCS’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Developed.
Inspectors noted that ISCS “successfully encourages students’ attendance and participation in distance learning lessons, and this supports equality of access to learning for most students”. They also mentioned that students were still experiencing a suitable range of learning methods and approaches, ensuring that the momentum and continuity in their learning was being maintained while learning from home.
In terms of staff evaluation, inspectors were satisfied that teachers were using a balanced range of activities, all of which cater effectively to the needs of different students. The evaluation mentioned that all lessons have clear learning outcomes, which are fully understood by both students and parents, with helpful feedback to support further development.
Finally, the report commended both short-term and long-term planning at ISCS. Inspectors felt that short-term plans sufficiently addressed ongoing specific issues, with adjustments being made to continuously develop distance learning approaches. They were confident that long-term planning incorporated clear information about different future scenarios.
However, the inspectors did note a couple of areas where ISCS could improve, most of which centred on student welfare.
The report suggested that the school review and improve students’ understanding of online safeguarding, to ensure that every student would know who to contact if they had any concerns. To further improve student life, the report also suggested the school focus more on helping students manage their workload; for example, the evaluation suggested the school pay close attention to the balance of academic and non-academic activities. Finally, while feedback to students was considered strong, inspectors felt that parents should receive more updates about their children’s learning.
If you would like to read the full inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.
ISCS has a large, well-equipped campus that is continuing to expand. There is a purpose-built KG section with lots of light, bright and colourful classrooms, and an enormous indoor play space where children can run around during break times. The primary classrooms have been designed to support optimal movement, and have activity stations with immediate outdoor access to an engineered garden.
The main school includes the following facilities: a well-resourced library for all ages; ICT Labs; an Innovation Kitchen Lab; indoor and outdoor playgrounds; a gym; a multi-purpose hall; a 25m swimming pool; an all-weather field; a school canteen; and an onsite clinic, which is well-equipped and fully-staffed by qualified and experienced health care professionals.
An extra building was added to the campus to enable the expansion into the Secondary school, and to create additional space for the Primary school. The school is mostly divided into Girls’ and Boys’ sections, although these are all exact mirrors of each other. There is a strong working relationship between staff of both the Boys’ and Girls’ sections to ensure that teaching is parallel; this includes boys taking part in Food Technology lessons for instance, and girls having equal opportunities to participate in more traditionally male lessons.
While the library, laboratories, multi-purpose hall, and swimming pool are shared, all other facilities are separated by gender.
Technology is a big part of the school, and ISCS makes significant use of interactive Promethean White Boards, which are found in every classroom. All classrooms are fitted with the latest computers and Interactive White Boards, to “encourage creativity with the integration of technology so that the students internalise the concept of ‘thinking out of the box’”. ISCS also employs other cutting-edge technologies, including a wireless campus, tablets, e-Resources, digital projectors, digital visualizers, ActiVotes, and ActivExpressions. Digital displays around the school show student work and provide information to parents, while the fully equipped Learning Resource Centre has multimedia facilities available to help students enhance their learning outside of classrooms.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a total of 8 reviews for ISCS, and responses seem to lean towards the positive in virtually all areas.
In terms of student welfare at the school, the majority of responders felt that their child was enjoying a tremendous sense of belonging at ISCS (62%) and that their child enjoyed going to school (37%). In particular, improving the confidence of students seems to be a strong area, with 50% of reviews noting ‘a great deal’ of improvement, and another 25% noticing ‘a lot’. And while 100% of responses recorded that school sport was considered competitive, a further 100% of responses also said that it was inclusive, allowing everyone to take part.
One area perhaps for concern is the 38% of responses that were ‘extremely concerned’ about bullying; however, 37% were only ‘slightly concerned’, so this may be referring to a few isolated incidents whether than a school-wide issue. Indeed, 75% of all responses were satisfied with the feedback from the school and with the implementation of the disciplinary policy.
When it comes to academic achievement at the school, reviewers also seem mostly positive. 50% of responders were satisfied with academic performance, while only 13% were unsatisfied. And the majority of responders (37%) felt quite confident in school’s ability to meet the specific learning needs of their child. 60% of responders did feel the need to provide additional tutoring to supplement their child’s learning outside of school, but this could be parent preference, rather than a failing of curriculum delivery within school hours.
Overall, the ISCS community looks to have strong support for its school and the educational experience it provides.
63% of reviewers partially agree that the fees they pay represent good value for money, given the quality of the school, while 25% totally agree and only 12% disagree. While there is an even 50/50 split between those who have thought above moving their child from the school and those have not, 63% of responders would recommend ISCS to other parents.
It is also important to remember that it is difficult to accurately judge a school from only a small sample of survey responses – the popular opinion of parents may vary from what has been recorded.
If you are a parent, teacher or senior student at ISCS, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by taking part in our survey.
Fees at ISCS range from AED 21,000 for KG years to AED 39,7000 for Grade 12, and are paid in three instalments. Books, uniform, transportation, medical, and canteen fees are not included in tuition fees, and deposits for these should be paid in with the first instalment. Book fees range from AED 700 to AED 2,300 (the cost of uniforms, medical, and canteen fees are not stated on the school website).
ISCS offers both one-way and two-way transportation for Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman. The costs are as stated:
Dubai – AED 4,800 one-way and AED 5,800 two-way.
Sharjah – AED 4,500 one-way and AED 5,500 two-way.
Ajman – AED 4,600 one-way and AED 5,600 two-way.
ISCS is academically selective, particularly for students entering the Secondary school – they are assessed in English, Maths, and Arabic prior to acceptance. Admissions are conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis, and based on assessment test results and on behaviour in an interview.
International School of Creative Science, Muwaileh is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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