JSS Private School is a private KG to Grade 12 school located in Al Wasl, Dubai. The school was established in 2011 and is part of the JSS Mahavidyapeetha group (JSSMVP), an Indian-based charitable trust that operates over 100 schools in India and a handful around the world.
JSS Private School has been rated Very Good by the DSIB inspection team as part of the KHDA's 2019-20 inspection round. The report can be found under the Inspection tab above this review. The review will be updated in due course.
The story so far...
On opening, in 2011, JSS had a student cohort that grew from 180 to 240 students over the course of the academic year. JSS Private School is the sister to the JSS International School in Dubai which offers the ICSE curriculum instead of the more common CBSE offered by the Private School. The school is now fully open to Grade 12 and has around 1,900 students (2017-18), a slight reduction on the numbers from the previous year. Of these, around 90 students have been identified with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities - some 5% overall.
The school's comprehensive website explains its motto and philosophy stating that "JSS believes that every individual is unique and is born with innate talents. We constantly strive towards unlocking the distinctive talents of each child thus leading to the holistic development of an individual. We believe in building a love for learning and developing long-lasting inquisitiveness among students in a stress-free and conducive environment that will lead them to seek learn and excel in life!".
The school's CEO states that "Our core focus is delivering high quality academic programs that will enable students to achieve their intellectual potential and have greater choice in their lives beyond school, including access to the best universities worldwide. We will continue to raise the bar of excellence as we mould young minds with sound characters, clearness of thought and the courage of their convictions".
The Principal's focus is succinct, but heartfelt. Mrs. Sharma has been the leader of JSS since it opened. It is my personal commitment to provide a learning environment that prides itself on a culture of mutual caring as well as learning through a dedicated approach in the whole process. Through our personalized learning approach, it is our objective to meet and address the unique educational needs of our students in a positive and friendly manner that aids the learning process. I assure you that the faculty is dedicated to ensuring that all our students are well prepared to face and meet the challenges of the future by equipping them with all the necessary skills to be global citizens who would contribute positively to the society.
The vast majority of students and staff are Indian passport holders. There are 150 teachers and 30 teaching assistants and the teacher to student ratio is 1:12, which is an acceptable number to allow for a good level of individual attention. Staff turnover, at 12 percent, is relatively low by Dubai standards, where the average is between 20-22%, and an improvement on previous years where JSS was replacing a fifth of its staff.
What about facilities?
JSS took over the school campus that was previously occupied by Dubai Modern Academy. The buildings are traditional, set among trees and with a courtyard area that is used for PE activities. This lacked shade during the most recent KHDA inspection (in September 2017), and the school has been asked to rectify this.
The school has facilities suited to its students, including ICT labs, Science labs, and other specialist rooms such as Music and Art. However, although the school does have interactive white boards, and uses tablet technology, the KHDA found that there are a lack of IT facilities within classrooms and some classes were found to be overcrowded.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows an international curriculum set by the Central Board of Secondary Education and claims to provide a number of programmes designed to aid each students intellectual development, such as creative and critical thinking programmes, discussion, debate and research groups.
The JSS curriculum takes its lead from the National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005). The paramount guiding principles as proposed by NCF-2005 are connecting knowledge to life outside the school, ensuring that learning is shifted away from rote methods, enriching the curriculum to provide for overall development of children rather than remain textbook- centric, and making examinations more flexible and integrated into classroom life.
Students in the KG follow the UK-based Early Years Foundation stage curriculum which is largely play-based. The cognitive and perceptive abilities of the children are developed through various activities such as art, crafts, music, dance, nature walks and excursions.This curriculum is described by the KHDA inspectors as "very good and well adapted to the children's needs".
In the Primary School section, JSS aims to offer a comprehensive and flexible curriculum that promotes the active involvement of children in a learning process that is imaginative and stimulating. Its overall vision is to enable children to meet, with self-confidence and assurance, the demands of life, both now and future. Initial steps are taken to provide the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science, together with Arabic, Hindi, French, Social Studies and Environmental Systems. Students also participate in Music and broader Performing Arts, as well as Visual Arts and PE.
In the Middle School section, (from grades 6-8), there is an extension of the Primary school learning with the focus on developing learning through collaboration. The Social Studies curriculum includes History, Geography and UAE Social Studies. Students are provided with opportunities to enhance their self confidence through experimental, co-operative and participative learning.
By Secondary school (grades 9-10), students prepare for their first CBSE public examinations through a curriculum that requires them to focus on five areas of learning. Students are required to study two or three languages of which English is compulsory, and either Hindi, a Mother Tongue/Local language or a foreign language (usually French) are options. All students study History, Social and Political Structures, Geography and Economics. In addition, they are required to study Mathematics and Technology. Information and Communication Technology is a compulsory component of the curriculum designed to enable students assess the impact of new technologies on society and train them to use these productively. Sciences include Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The final subject group includes Physical Education, Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Work Education.
For the final Board exams at the end of Grade 12, students study core subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Accountancy, Marketing, Business Studies, Economics, Computer Science, English and Mathematics. According to the school, the curriculum has been designed "to nurture multiple intelligences including linguistic or verbal intelligence, logical mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, sports intelligence, musical intelligence, inter-personal intelligence and intra-personal intelligence".
JSS offers many clubs, details of which can be found on its very competent web site, including a literary club, science club, civics club, mathematics club, fine arts club, library club, nature club, adventure club and sports club. The aim of the co-curricular activities is to make students aesthetically responsive, whilst sports activities are designed to make the students physically fit and mentally alert. A range of annual sports events take place including an Interschool Soccer Tournament, Interschool Swimming Competition, a Soccer Tournament, Swimming Gala and the Geeta Devi Memorial Cup.
In addition to the academic and co-curricular activities, JSS also has a strong focus on community involvement. Students have formed the Hope Club with the primary objective to work for children who are victims of poverty, as well as to extend support to needy members of society, not only around the school, but to organisations across the world. This involves acts of charity within the school premises and also within the community and includes activities such as games, club activities, literary activities, life skill programmes and practice time for competitions. The school time table is designed to accommodate these activities.
All students from Grades 1-8 participate in these activities for one period a week, during the regular school working hours.
What about results?
JSS publishes its results for both Grade X and Grade XII - something which we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com very much encourage. For the 2018 students at Grade X, all of the 79 students who entered for exams passed. 17 students (21%) achieved marks of 90% or above, whilst 57% of students scored 80% and above. Subject averages ranged from 71% for Hindi to 86.5% for English.
For the Grade XII exams, all the students entered (the number is not specified), passed the exams with 14% of students achieving above 90%, whilst 63 students scored above 75%. The overall average score for the school was 78.7% with the Science stream average at 80% and the Commerce stream at 77%. The Science stream topper achieved a score of 94.6%, whilst the Commerce stream topper scored 95.2%.
What the Inspectors Say
In the most recent KHDA report, JSS Private School achieved its fourth consecutive Good rating. Inspectors commented on the Leadership and Management of the school, noting that "There is a clear direction for the future of the school and almost all leaders demonstrate expertise in their areas. The school has improved learner outcomes and the quality of teaching, especially in the Kindergarten".
The inspection team were also evidently pleased with Student Achievement, commenting that "Students’ achievement is good across all key subjects and very good in English. Their attainment against curriculum standards is good in mathematics and science, acceptable in Arabic and mixed in Islamic education. Students make consistently good progress and their learning skills are strong, particularly in the Kindergarten and the secondary grades. There are clear improvements in students' achievements since the previous inspection".
In fact, Attainment and Progress in English has risen to Very Good across the entire school, whilst Attainment and Progress in Mathematics in the KG section has achieved the same rating. Almost all measures across the core subjects are now rated at least Good, with the exception of Attainment in Arabic and Islamic Studies which are largely rated Acceptable.
Students’ personal and social responsibility, and their innovation skills are rated exclusively Very Good across the school, and their understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures is rated Outstanding in all but the KG section where it is still Very Good.
In terms of the key areas of Teaching and Assessment and Curriculum Design and Implementation, measures are largely Good, with the exception of the KG (rated largely Very Good), and assessment in Primary and Middle school sections which is rated Acceptable. The focus of the KHDA inspection teams on the use of internal and external assessment of students to ensure that the curriculum and teaching is being adapted to their individual needs is a priority, particular in view of the UAE National Agenda targets in respect of international bench-marking tests. All UAE schools are being rigorously examined in this context.
Again, the protection, care, guidance and support of students is almost uniformly rated Very Good.
The final key performance area - that of Leadership and Management - fairs less well than other inspection areas. In fact, of the 5 key performance areas, 3 have been downgraded from last year, with Governance now rated Acceptable, and both the effectiveness of leadership and the relationship between the school, parents and the community having fallen to Good.
The reasons behind this fall in ratings is explained by the inspection report. There appear to be some concern about the leadership of the school in terms of all leaders being fully aligned with the school's strategic direction in respect of UAE and Dubai priorities. The report does not specify the reasons for this. However, any sign that the school is not fully committed to the UAE National Agenda in terms of assessment, raising standards in Arabic, or the implementation of Social Studies and Moral Education is likely to raise concern.
The comments in relation to the Governance of the school would seem to reflect these concerns - "The governance of the school is conducted by a board of 16 members, the majority of whom are employees of the JSS company. Consequently, the representation of all stakeholders is unbalanced and decisions are not always in the best interests of students. The governors demonstrate a less than thorough awareness of the importance of external assessments in English, mathematics and science". These are strong comments which will need to be acted upon by the Governors of the school.
The inspection team also raised concerns about feedback to parents in relation to school reports which, aside from the KG section, were found to lack information about next steps in learning and were deemed to be too focused on skills and not achievement. It seems likely that the lack of parental involvement in the governance of the school also impacted the rating for this indicator.
The pre-inspection survey carried out by the KHDA with students, parents and staff showed that students and staff were overwhelmingly positive in their comments about the school. Interestingly, despite over 300 responses from parents, the report does not mention the feedback received, other than to note that "The survey of parents' opinions of the school's provision and outcomes was unreliable".
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com feedback received from our on-going Parent Survey suggests that parental opinion is mixed. Whilst 40% of parents say that they would recommend the school, an emphatic 20% would not. 60% of those who responded felt that the standard of education being offered was lower than they would have received in their home country and the same number had considered moving their child to another school. If you are a parent at JSS, please share your opinion by completing our survey here.
It is early days for JSS in terms of proving the value of the school. With its first Grade 12 cohort having completed their studies only in the last academic year, there is not an enormous amount of evidence in terms of the quality of education provided. The KHDA inspection rating and report seem to suggest that this is undoubtedly a Good school, in fact, based on the ratings, a solidly Good school, but it does have some way to go in relation to the Regulators' requirements, before it is likely to move beyond that Good rating. How much this will matter to parents and students is a different story - but it should. The focus on assessment to inform teaching and the curriculum is key to student achievement and seems to be a core concern of the inspection team.
The main recommendations from the inspection team were that:
What are the Fees?
Fees are at the lower end of the spectrum, ranging from AED 11,552 for KG up to AED 23,889 for Grade 12. Parents are also required to pay an AED 1,000 re-registration fee which is put towards ICT and Activities.
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