JSS International School is a private co-educational through school located in Jumeirah Village Circle (between the Al Khail Road and Hessa Street) to which it relocated from its nearby Al Barsha site in 2017. The school was first established on March 2009 by the JSS Education Foundation and provides education for students between KG to Grade 12, or ages four to 17 years.
The Story so Far
JSS International School is one of over 130 schools, including 122 State Board schools in India, one IGCSE and 12 CBSE schools, operated by the JSS Mahavidyapeetha (JSSMVP), a charitable trust that is dedicated to "the development of culture, literature and education for the prosperity of humanity". Education for All is the central teaching of this Trust which aims to improve the socio economic circumstances of those it touches. Established over some sixty years ago, JSSMVP aims to transcend boundaries and cultures. The standard of education in its schools is consistently above average, with excellent academic results in the All India Secondary School Examinations.
JSSI is one of two schools in Dubai that are part of the JSSMVP. The school, in common with many, has a Mission and Vision which is shares on its very comprehensive website, but it is the School Promise which seems, in relatively brief words, to provide an overview of its aims:
"Students.....We promise to help you become independent, responsible and reliable citizens with high standards of behaviour and exceptional character. Parents……We promise to provide your child an inspiring and engaging learning environment, with a sound programme in all areas of study, with honest feedback and transparency in all our student dealings. Teachers… …We promise to listen to your thoughts, encourage your creativity, believe in your efforts and ideas, value your strategic insight, input and experience and stand by you in your innovative approach to academic and non-academic endeavours".
The school encourages students to work hard and at the same time cultivate a habit of creative thinking and a desire to excel at every level "with an amalgamation of a rich culture with modern technology - knitted with 3 C's - Confidence, Creativity and Character which enables students to become critical thinkers and life-long learners".
The Principal's introduction to the school provides more details in terms of its aims for the students it educates. "The need of the day is to equip our children with critical thinking and practical skills so that they can be useful contributors to a global society in the 21st century. For this, educators have to be innovative and exploit all tools that Information Technology provides. Even social networking has to be adapted and linked to classroom learning".
Interestingly, she also notes that many studies about the academic success stories of Asian immigrants results in the need to "take a hard look at the Eastern Education system that does not rely much on technology". She comments that "Parental expectation and involvement, strong family values and the desire to succeed in life in a competitive environment is the Eastern contribution to successful education. If we can link the Western pedagogy and their best practices to the Eastern belief and value system, we would be on track to make our pupils global citizens in a continuously evolving world".
Currently JSS International School caters to 2,000 students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, but predominantly Indian, with 148 teachers and around 40 teaching assistants. With a staff to student ratio of 1:11, students are said to be highly motivated to learn and should have sufficient individual attention to support their goals. Students are taught in quite respectable classroom sizes of approximately 25.
A concern, if there is one in relation to staffing, would be the relatively high staff turnover of 30% at the end of 2017. This is on the high side for an Indian-staffed school and is also well above the UAE average of between 20-22%. Such a level of turnover almost inevitably brings with it concerns about stability and the impact of such high new staff numbers on the smooth running of the school (with the initial orientation and introduction to new people and processes).
What about the curriculum?
The JSS International School follows the curriculum laid down by Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). The school has designed an international curriculum that is built around a strong ethical component and sets considerable store on knowledge and respect for the cultures and values of different regions of the world.
The programme stresses experiential and collaborative learning through workshops, interactive sessions, role plays, project work, group discussions and games. Technology is an integral part of the curriculum from the Primary classes onwards and is used as a tool to enhance and accelerate the learning process. English is taught as the primary language from KG level with secondary languages being taught in Arabic, Hindi and French with Sanskrit also being offered from Grade 6. Arabic is a compulsory language for all grades.
Once students enter the Secondary phase in Grades 9 to 10, they are offered a range of subjects from which to choose in preparation for the ISC, with compulsory studies in English, Hindi or French, and Arabic, History, Civics and Geography. They are able to choose two subjects from Mathematics, Science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology), Economics and Commercial Studies, and one further subject from Computer Application, Commercial Application, Art, and Physical Education.
Senior Secondary subjects offered for Classes XI and XII, in addition to compulsory English, are selected from the three streams of study offered - Commerce, Humanities and Science. Students may select a minimum of four elective subjects from the chosen stream. The Commerce stream includes options of Commerce, Accounts, Mathematics, and Economics, Computer Science, or Art. The Humanities stream includes History, Sociology, Psychology, and Economics or Art. The options within the Science stream include Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, Psychology, Biology, Economics, Computer Science or Art. Students are required to achieve minimum grades of 65%, 60% and 55% of marks to enter the ISCE the Science, Commerce and Humanities streams respectively.
In addition, all students are evaluated internally by the school and must secure a pass grade in the compulsory Socially Useful Productive Work and Community Service programme. The school offers the Duke of Edinburgh International Award Scheme to provide a platform for this Work and Community Service programme.
JSS International School says that it has a very deep commitment to the Inclusion and pastoral support for all its families and students. This includes support for students who are identified with Special Educational Needs or are more able and gifted students. The school aims to be fully inclusive school by 2020. Its goal is to "nurture every student to achieve their personal, social, emotional and academic goals in a safe, secure and positive environment". A qualified clinical psychologist and specialist teachers are available to support the 80+ students who had been identified with SEND requirements in 2017.
Although the academic focus of the school is very clear, JSSI does also recognise the importance of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. The school programme includes Athletics, Squash, Cricket, Swimming, Basket Ball, Chess, Football, Yoga, Volley Ball, and Table tennis. Clubs include the Literary Club, Science Club, Civic Club, Mathematics Club, Fine Arts Club, Library Club, Nature Club, and Adventure Club.
What about exam results?
Unusually, in our experience, JSSI publishes its exam results at Grades X and XII. For the 2017 session, the school's students achieved 100% pass rates in both CISCE and ISC examinations. In ISC, the school average was 84% and with a total 8 passes at 100%, of which five were in Psychology, and one each in Computer science, Economics and Sociology.
In ICSE, the school average was 88% with total passes at 100%. Three were in Commercial Studies, two in Computer Application and one in Mathematics. Sixteen students secured more than 90% in ISC and 27 students secured above 90% in ICSE.
Unfortunately, the school does not provide information about the number of students who participated in the examinations, and it is not possible therefore to see what proportion of students were among the highest achievers.
What about facilities?
According to the most recent KHDA report, the move to the new premises has improved facilities considerably. There are now an excellent range of facilities, including ICT, that supports students’ learning. The new building offers a comprehensive library, well equipped IT laboratories with the latest PCs and Wi Fi connection and a Project room where students can explore and experiment, to do the assigned projects.
The auditorium, with modern acoustic features, is in compliance the Green building regulations of Dubai Municipality. It has a seating capacity for over 1,000 guests, and offers a platform for students to demonstrate their talents in co-curricular and extra curricular activities. Specialist facilities in labs for Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and Language, a Lecture Hall, Canteen, Music rooms and Sports facilities, including a swimming pool.
Classrooms are spacious and airy with internet access for a blended approach to learning.
Read the report of our most recent visit of JSS International School campus here.
What do the Inspectors Say?
The latest KHDA report ranks the school as Good for the fifth year in a row. Strengths of the school include the students' personal development and their achievement in the core subjects in the Secondary school. As the report notes, "Students' personal and social development continues to be excellent. Students consistently demonstrate outstanding attitudes towards their learning. Across the school, students show high levels of resilience, self-discipline and commitment to produce work of the highest quality. They maintain positive relationships with each other and their awareness of diverse cultures and their social responsibility are very well developed. Innovation is an emerging feature of their learning and at the early stages of development".
Achievement in Mathematics, Science and English are all rated Very Good, although attainment and progress in Maths and attainment in Science have dropped from their Outstanding rating of a year ago. In fact, with the exception of KG Science which has improved to Very Good, the vast majority of ratings for the core subjects in Primary and Middle school have retained their Good rating. There has been little change in the ratings for Islamic Studies, largely Good, and Arabic, which is rated Acceptable.
Ratings for Teaching and Assessment remained largely unchanged also having been found to be Good with the exception of teaching for effective learning in the Secondary school which remained Very Good. The report notes that "teaching across the school is of good quality overall in all phases; it is steadily improving particularly in KG and in secondary. Assessment systems and practices are generally good in the school and they support the identifications of strengths and weaknesses in student achievement".
The Curriculum design and implementation also retained its ratings of Very Good in KG and Secondary, and Good in the Primary and Middle school sections. Moreover, the adaptation of the curriculum to meet the needs of individual students was awarded a Very Good rating in the Primary section, meaning that the entire school is now adjudged to Very Good in this particular key performance area. Inspectors commented that "The curriculum is broad, and balanced. It ensures progression and provide good opportunity for developing students' academic and personal development in all phases. Recent reviews of the curriculum have resulted in appropriate curricular and extra-curricular modifications in mathematics, science and in reading. The effective implementation of these modifications to enhance students' skills and progress is a key area for improvement. Students are provided with wide range of opportunities for engaging in developing creativity and entrepreneurial skills. For example, activities like the 'Thinkering' Lab in the primary phase and the 'student bank' in the secondary phase".
The protection, care, guidance and support of students remains a strength of JSSI. Health and safety, including child protection was rated Outstanding across the school, whilst the care and support of students retained its Good rating. Inspectors stated that "The school's provision for health and safety remains outstanding. This has been enhanced by the school’s relocation to its new campus with excellent facilities which are easily accessible to all students. The school has strengthened its provision for care and support for students throughout the phases. However, for students with SEND, further improvements are still needed".
Despite the obvious and stated desire of the school to support children with additional learning needs, it seems that there is some degree of improvement required. Provision and outcomes for students with SEND were found to be only Acceptable. Inspectors noted that the Principal is committed to supporting students with SEND and that the SEND staff are proactive in providing training to class teachers to support their efforts in implementing Individual Education programmes. However, they found that "Lesson planning by classroom teachers to meet the specific learning needs of students with SEND is not always evident in lessons. Teacher do make adjustments to their teaching for students with SEND but focus on task completion rather than supporting and accelerating the progress made by the student. Many students with SEND make gains expected at the level of their mainstream grade level peers. Others are not challenged appropriately at their individual level of learning".
In the remaining key performance area of Leadership and Management, inspectors were clearly impressed by the new facilities of the school, commenting that "Governance remains good and has played a key role in ensuring the school's smooth relocation to its new campus which provides an attractive and stimulating learning environment for its growing student population". As a result, the rating for the Management, staffing, facilities and resources improved to Very Good. The remaining four ratings remained Good, with the inspection team stating that "Leadership and management of the school remain strong. The school's self-evaluation and improvement planning are also good; this has resulted in key improvements for children in the Kindergarten (KG). The school actively promotes partnerships with parents and this aspect remains at a good level".
Key recommendations for the school include:
In common with many UAE schools, it seems that the accuracy of self-assessment (how the school views its performance), the improvement plans it develops to address this, and the evaluation of success in the implementation of the plans, shows a disconnect between the school's judgement and that of the inspection team.
The emphasis on assessment of student performance, in relation to both internal measures and international bench-marking, are a particular focus of the UAE as a result of the National Agenda goals in relation to education. Inspectors expect all aspects of teaching and the curriculum to reflect the impact of such assessments, in order to better inform lesson plans and activities for individual students, including those with SEND requirements. In order to do so, schools must also ensure that teachers are trained to recognise opportunities to improve student achievement. This is no easy task, requiring significant investment.
What do Parents Say?
376 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. 93% agreed or agreed strongly that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by JSSI. The report notes that "Most parents have indicated that they are satisfied about the quality of education the school provides for their children. They feel their children are safe in the school and enjoy excellent relationship with their peers. A few feel their views are not always acted upon by the school and they could receive better guidance and feedback about their children. Inspection findings generally agree with these comments". Feedback from 128 senior students was also largely positive, with the main criticism that they would like more opportunities to work with ICT, a view which the inspectors supported.
The school is relatively new, but feedback from parents, students and teachers all appears to be broadly positive, to the KHDA at least. In the ongoing WSA School Survey from which we have received limited feedback, parents said they were only partially satisfied with the academic performance of the school. There was a strong sense that parents were unwilling to recommend the school and a universal view that it is overpriced. If you are a parent with children at JSSI, please share your opinion with us here.
What about the Fees?
School fees are mid to top range for an Indian curriculum school, starting at AED 14,117 for pre-KG students, AED 15,274 for KG1 and KG2, and rising by increments of approximately AED 3,000 per year to AED 36,837 per year for Grade 12 students (not including additional registration fees or bus fees).
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