Japanese School in Dubai is an embassy run non-profit school located in Jumeirah, Dubai and currently provides education for children aged 4 to 15. The school was established in April 1980 by the Dubai Consulate of Japan.
Japanese School has been rated Good for the eleventh year running (since KHDA inspections began) in the 2018-19 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 Japanese School in Dubai was founded to meet the needs of Japanese expatriate families during their time in the UAE and is very much focused on delivering a traditional curriculum and cultural environment for its students. It states that the mission of the school is to:
"to provide our Japanese students who are residing in Dubai and UAE Northern regions with highest standard of academic excellence that helps them to be contributing members of a multi ethnic, multicultural and pluralistic society. Enable students to adapt with the Japanese education system when they return to Japan.
Since the foundation was laid, we are committed to developing an environment that fosters mutual respect among members of our learning community that includes students, teachers, parents and administrators. As a final aspect of development, our goal is to have a balanced growth of knowledge, virtue, and health and in the process to provide a conducive and enriched learning environment".
The Japanese School currently caters to around 120 students (a significant drop from 2016-17 of 20 students) with 22 teachers (an increase of 3 on the previous year), predominately from Japan. A staff to student ratio of a generous 1:6 must be among the best in Dubai. Staff turnover, at 25%, would usually be a cause for concern in Dubai - the average is 20-22%, but since staff are appointed from the Ministry of Education in Japan, it seems that there is a policy of regular rotation. The school, situated in Al Wasl, provides a private education for boys and girls from Primary to Junior High, aged six to 15 years.
What about facilities?
The Japanese School in Dubai is located on a large site close to Sheikh Zayed Road in the heart of traditional Jumeirah. It is noticeable for its pink, single storey exterior. Facilities at the school include the usual run of classrooms and specialist teaching areas including a gymnasium, swimming pool, science laboratories and ICT laboratories. The school opened its Kindergarten section for the first time in 2018, an updated facility which was viewed positively by the KHDA inspection team who visited the school in December 2017.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows the prescribed Japanese Ministry of Education curriculum. The Primary phase from Grade 1 to 6 is followed by the Junior High phase, from Grade 7 to 9. Almost all students return to Japan to complete High school. Japanese, Mathematics, Social Studies, Music, Fine Art, PE, Design Technology and Home Making, Moral Education and Science are taught in Japanese. English and Arabic are taught as additional languages. The focus in English is on conversation until the final three grades of Junior High school where more formal English lessons take place.
There is no doubt that the school tries to maintain the strong ties to the home country and students participate in activities - including cleaning the school themselves - to keep them in contact with home practice. However, it is also evident that a culture of innovation and the provision of technology is under-developed at the school, which given the reputation of Japan from an economic and industrial standpoint, is somewhat surprising.
The school uses a variety of externally generated tests to monitor students’ progress and draws comparisons on academic progress with other international Japanese schools. In the primary school students take standardized tests three times per year as well as school-based tests at the end of each term. In the Junior High School students sat the Japanese Nationwide Standard examination four times per year.
What the inspectors say
The Japanese School in Dubai is officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and in 2017-18 was rated Good by the KHDA for the tenth year running, the rating it has held since inspections began.
The KHDA inspection team found that students make very rapid progress in learning Japanese, Mathematics and Science in the Elementary and Junior High phases and good progress in learning English. The personal and social development of the students is strong and there is good leadership, and outstanding links with parents and the local community. The quality of teaching is good and the assessment of learning is almost always good, however, since the school does not assess students' capabilities at the outset, it is difficult to judge exactly what progress each student has achieved. Since external bench-marking and internal assessment are key focuses of the UAE National Agenda, this is an area where the inspectors will wish to see further progress.
Academically, students in the Elementary and Junior High phases show strong attainment, with Japanese rated Outstanding and Maths and Science both rated Very Good. English is rated Good in both phases. Arabic as a second language was found to be Acceptable, as was the attainment across all the KG section for all core subjects except Japanese which was rated Very Good.
Students' personal and social development was rated Very Good across the school, together with students' social skills in the two higher sections. Inspectors commented that "The students' personal and social development are a strength of the school. They are very respectful and hardworking and they cooperate very well. They show good awareness of the UAE and Islamic culture. They are innovative in their studies only rarely".
The quality of teaching and assessment was rated Good across the school with the exception of the KG assessment processes which were rated Acceptable due to inspectors finding that "the KG children's starting points in language and mathematics are not accurately assessed, and so their progress cannot be clearly measured". The report notes that "All teachers have good knowledge of their subjects and how students learn. Some are more skilled than others in promoting critical thinking".
The design and implementation of the curriculum and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students was largely rated only Acceptable - the exception being the curriculum design in the newly opened KG. This rating appears to be driven in part by the lack of time given to the teaching of Arabic, and also to concerns about the delivery of the curriculum. The inspection team commented that "The curriculum meets the needs of the large majority of students who will be returning to Japan and reflects their parents’ wishes to build identity as Japanese citizens. Although there is adequate progression in most key subjects, the focus is mainly on knowledge acquisition and learning activities are usually based upon the textbooks".
The school also has only one student with Special Educational Needs (SEND) and the provision and outcomes in this performance area was rated Weak. More concerningly perhaps, the differing needs of some students across the attainment spectrum are potentially also not being met - "Although the curriculum is effective in meeting the needs of most learners, teachers make few adjustments to match their students’ abilities. It does not effectively meet the needs of students who are gifted and talented or the lower attaining students".
The protection, care, guidance and support of students was also largely rated Acceptable. Concerns were raised about some safety aspects of the school where children potentially had access to hazardous materials. The lack of a School Counsellor for children to consult in relation to any personal issues they might have, and the weakness of the SEND provision also affected this rating.
The final key performance measure of Leadership and Management received a mix of ratings from Acceptable to Outstanding. The KHDA's highest rating was reserved for the relationship between the school, parents and the community. Irrespective of the views of the KHDA inspection team, parents are clearly satisfied with the quality of education provided by the Japanese School. Inspectors found that "The school very successfully engages parents in the life of the school. The Parent Teacher Association is active on a daily basis. Communication strategies are very effective at keeping parents informed". Both the effectiveness of leadership and the management, staffing, facilities and resources were rated Good. However, the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning and governance were rated Acceptable, focusing on the need for a wider involvement in the Board of Trustees through teacher and student representation and members with a better understanding of the inspection outcomes and the improvement requirements.
Overall, the KHDA's recommendations for the Japanese School in Dubai note that it should
The challenge for both the KHDA and the school will potentially be that whilst these recommendations may deliver improvements that the local regulator wishes to see, they may well not be seen as priorities by parents and governors at the Japanese School.
It is evident that the school's focus is on maintaining its educational and cultural links to the home country and whilst there is clearly some effort to include the local culture and the host country's expectations, this may be a difficult circle to square.
Fees at the Japanese School range from AED 25,200 in the KG section (reflective of the additional staffing, but also the optional nature of these grades), falling to AED 19,200 from Grade 1 onwards. They are among the most reasonable fees for an international school in the city!
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