Consistently rated good by the KHDA for 9 years, in 2017-18, the Oud Metha located Lycée Français International made the step up to Very Good, consolidating this rating a year later. Otherwise known as AFLEC, Lycée Français International is a French curriculum school currently attended by over 2,270 students aged from three to 18 years of age. The largest single group of students is made up of French nationals, followed by Lebanese and Egyptians.
The story so far...
Located in the centre of Bur Dubai, close to the Creek and the more traditional areas of the city, Lycée Français International (otherwise referred to as AFLEC - Association Franco-Libanaise pour l'Education et la Culture, an organisation of which the school is a member), is located on a large site and is the only French curriculum through-school to be located at the heart of the city - though the Primary section of Lycée Français Georges Pompidou (the first French school in the city) is located just across the Creek in the traditional Oud Metha area.
AFLEC is one of three schools in the city with a notable Arabic connection - the others are Lycée Libanais Francophone and the International Concept for Education (ICE) (which, although originating with Lebanese investors, offers a dual French and International Baccalaureate curriculum); latterly it seems that AFLEC and ICE have developed a closer working relationship.
There are, in total, 49 nationality groups represented within the student body of just over 2,270 at AFLEC. Not all students are French-speakers on entry to the school, and this is an area which is well-regarded by the KHDA's inspection team - in fact the largest nationality group is Arab with 30% Lebanese, 27% French, and 12% Egyptian.
The school states that the fundamental value that drives AFLEC is based on respect for the individual as a human being, whatever their origins, culture, religion or philosophy. It is summed up in French by the word Laïcité, which means that the education provided in institutions must not promote, propagate or favor any ethnicity, culture, religion or philosophy. Only values that uphold humanism and respect for human rights for boys and girls are advocated. Sectarianism of all kinds [has] no place there.
The 200+ teachers are all said to have first degrees and appropriate teaching qualifications, with the largest proportion - over 50% - of them being French. A further 20-29% are Lebanese, together with teachers from Syria, and the USA.There are a further 50 support staff, and with a staff:student ratio of 1:24, class sizes are average for a school at this price point. Staff appear to be satisfied with their employment at the school - with a turnover of 11%, this is decidedly below the average of 20-22% in international schools in the UAE.
Like many schools in the UAE, the majority of students can be found in the early years of the school, with student numbers in the higher grades relatively low (although growing). With a maximum class size of 25, there are 6 classes for the youngest (three year old) students, and nine for the four year olds. Maternelle Primaire has an even higher number of eleven classes. Thereafter the number averages 8 per year group from CP to CM2 before dropping to lower numbers of classes - with six in Sixième, five in Cinquième and Quatrième and Troisième, and three each in Seconde, Première and Terminale.
What about the curriculum?
AFLEC is accredited by the French Ministry of Education through its Agence pour L'Enseignement Français a L'Exterieur. This ensures that the curriculum offered and qualifications achieved by students are recognised within France as well as at other French schools overseas, together with universities around the world.
At Lycée Français International, students follow the French National Curriculum, together with Arabic language, and Islamic and Social Studies, as prescribed by the UAE Ministry of Education. In addition, the school offers a bi-lingual French/English curriculum, starting in the Nursery section, which continues through Primary and Secondary schools. Teaching is split 60:40 between the two languages, with lessons for each taught by native speakers.
The school has a particular focus on languages, noting on its website that it offers "French, English and Arabic, the possibility of starting or continuing to learn Spanish, Chinese, German and Italian - in addition to Greek and Latin; we promote bilingualism through our bilingual classes and our international American section, which prepares for the international option of the baccalaureate; each year, our students enter the best schools and universities in France, Canada, England, the United States, but also in Lebanon and at the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi".
This is an aspect of the school which was noted by the KHDA to be particularly well organised. Arabic language instruction for both native and non-native speakers commences in Primary school.
Additionally, the school says that it is committed to academic excellence and the ambition that the French education system offers its students. "We use all the richness of this system to allow personalized courses: classes at times arranged in theater and arts, a sports section in college; and arts and sport options in high school".
In recognition of its internationality, AFLEC also offers an American section, which is designed to develop English language and cultural knowledge. The programme comprises 4 hours of history-geography (HG) and 6 hours of English language and literature (LL) per week.
For the History and Geography section of the course, the entire French history and geography curriculum is taught with 70% in French (two hours per week) and 30% in English (one hour). An additional hour is devoted to elements of the American and UAE programme which is taught entirely in English.
The emphasis of the English Language and Literature section is the study of language and literature, taught entirely in English. The school states that a "solid general culture and a varied vocabulary in both French and English are essential".
In addition, AFLEC is at pains to point out that the volume of personal work, even if it is harmonized with the normal curriculum, remains higher than the traditional course and requires personal commitment and sustained efforts throughout the year.
Although AFLEC says that it does not have a particular area of focus, it offers a range of academic pathways - which are personalized in secondary for students (science, arts, international section, sports, theatre) - and further details can be found here.. One area of the curriculum to which the school gives focus is Performing and Visual Arts.
The performing arts (Theatre) class is intended for sixth grade students, and is designed to develop the "cultural intermingling" of its students. According to the school, Theatre "perfectly meets the requirements of this multicultural establishment whose educational project is based on culture and languages".
The visual arts option cultural class is arranged in the timetable with three additional hours of visual arts per week, to allow students to discover reference works and to discuss various artistic practices. Students are invited to get involved in individual, collective and multidisciplinary projects.
Under normal circumstances (pre-Covid), AFLEC also offers a wide range of sports and extracurricular activities, though these are currently on hold. The school continued to welcome all its students on-site despite COVID (except for those who wished to continue with online learning). However, with its city centre location and lack of additional space, students in the Maternelle made use of the campus of AFLEC's partner school ICE, located in Meydan, in order to accommodate the remaining students on site.
On average, some 80 students take the Diplôme National du Brevet at the end of their Troisième year (equivalent to Grade 10/Year 11). There are around 50 candidates in the Lycée who take the Baccalauréat in their final year (Terminale).
The school publishes results for students taking the Bac and Brevet on their website (something WhichSchoolAdvisor.com encourages), and the KHDA's latest reports give the school a consistent thumbs up for both academic performance and progress across subjects.
The school organises a thorough orientation process which allows its students international exposure in terms of university choices. Students are admitted into various universities worldwide and often head to France, Canada, and other international destinations to pursue their education.
AFELC is located just across the Creek in the tradition Oud Metha area. at the centre of Al Nasr Leisureland. This was the first outdoor sports facility in Dubai, with tennis courts, an ice-skating rink and range of other sporting opportunities.
The buildings appear modern in a fairly traditional form, with appropriate facilities and outdoor space on a sizeable plot at the heart of the Al Nasr Leisureland development. They have recently been extended, and now include sufficient specialist rooms and well-stocked libraries. The 2017-18 KHDA inspection report notes that "The school accommodation is well suited to the needs of the curriculum" whilst the most recent report notes that the school provides a stimulating environment for learning, sport and recreation.
What the inspectors say
After 9 years of being rated Good - the minimum level targeted by the Dubai Schools Regulator, the KHDA - the move up to Very Good in the 2017-18 inspection round brings AFLEC to the accomplishment of the other well-established French school, the Lycée Français Georges Pompidou, at its the main campus at Dubai Academic City which is also rated Very Good by the Dubai regulator. The Nursery section in Oud Metha is rated Outstanding - the highest available.
The Very Good rating was again awarded for the 2018-19 academic year. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, most physical inspections were cancelled in the 2019-20 academic year, and none were held in the 2020-21 academic year. However, in May/June 2020, all UAE schools participated in a Distance Learning Evaluation. AFLEC received a rating of Developed - the highest of three categories. The DLE report can be found here.
In line with the new policy announced by the KHDA in September 2019, whereby schools rated Outstanding and Very Good would no longer be fully inspection on an annual basis, AFLEC is unlikely to participate in a full inspection and to be issued with a new inspection report unless there is a change in overall rating.
To our mind, this is a great pity, since parents will no longer have access to details of the improvements that will clearly be expected to continue to be made, even if there is no public recognition of them.
The improvement in KHDA rating to Very Good in 2017-18 was due primarily to some evident progress in relation to Students' achievement - notably in Mathematics in both the Secondary (College) and Sixth Form (Lycée) sections, together with Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum and Health and Safety.
Key strengths of the school as defined by the inspection team were found to be:
Inspectors noted that "Senior leaders are providing clear direction on the school's journey of continued improvement. They have an accurate picture of where improvement is needed." They are supported by Governors who are providing the school with a high level of professional expertise.
Students' achievement across all areas of the core curriculum is a real strength of the school. In French, English, Mathematics and Science, all sections of the school are rated either Very Good or Outstanding in attainment and progress, with French and English rated Outstanding in all measures across the school. Islamic Education and Arabic as a first language are also rated Good in almost all aspects. Arabic as an Additional Language does not rate quite as highly (and is taught only in Primaire and College), being deemed Acceptable for the most part.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills were also considered a key feature of the school with Personal development being rated Outstanding across all sections.
Inspectors commented that "Students’ behaviour is exemplary. They have very positive attitudes and take pride in their achievements. Most students have a strong work ethic and participate in a range of environmental initiatives and charity events, drawing on their developing innovative and entrepreneurial skills."
In terms of Teaching and Assessment as a further key indicator of the school's progress, Teaching for Effective Learning is an evident strength - rated Very Good across the three lower stages of the school and Outstanding in the Lycée. Both Maternelle and College were upgraded to Very Good from Good in the previous inspection.
The curriculum design and its delivery is a further strength of AFLEC and was upgraded to Outstanding across the school in the 2018-19 report.
Previous reports had noted some concern among students and parents in relation to the range of additional subjects available to students and also to the range of Extracurricular activities on offer. The inspection report notes that the range of options available to older students has increased. "Science, business, humanities and language options are providing an appropriate range of pathways to higher education and future careers." In addition, "the extracurricular activities offered in the performing arts, together with a wide variety of educational visits, enhance students’ learning."
Health and safety, including arrangements for child protection /safeguarding were also found to have improved to Very Good in 2017-18 and to have improved further in 2018-19 with a further upgrade to Outstanding across the board during the most recent inspection.
Provision and support for students with special educational needs/ disabilities (SEND) was found to have improved; however this is still an area of relative weakness - being rated Good - in comparison with the curriculum delivery in general across the school. This is an area of focus for the KHDA, following the implementation of its Inclusive Education policy in 2017, and one that AFLEC will need to embrace fully.
For the final key indicator of Leadership and Management, almost every aspect was found to be Very Good.
The main recommendations from the inspectors to the school focused on two areas:
If you would like to read the latest inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Close to 250 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey for 2018-19. The KHDA inspectors found that "almost all parents were satisfied with the school. Overwhelmingly, parents believe that student wellbeing and academic success are equally important. Parents feel that students are safe in school."
482 students responded to the KHDA's Student Wellbeing Survey. Students speak French, Arabic or English at home. They are generally very positive about their wellbeing while in school. Most have high self-esteem and feel safe in school and that they fit in students of their own age.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is very limited but generally positive. Some 75% of parents would recommend the school to another parent. Students are said to have a strong sense of belonging, parents believe the school is very good value for money and that expectations are high for students. 88% of parents agree that the school offers a standard of education that is higher than or equal to that offered in their home country.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at AFLEC, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey.
AFLEC has tended to be viewed as the second choice by French families arriving in the UAE, but with the recent improvements made to the delivery of education at the school and its well-deserved Very Good rating, we can no longer see why it should not take its place at the top table. Overall, AFLEC is clearly on the path to making significant strides in its provision. The risk, after so many years of limited progression in respect of the inspection process, is stagnation. Clearly, despite nine years of the Good rating, the recent improvements leading to an overall Very Good rating with multiple Outstanding features indicates that stagnation is not the case here.
Fees for Lycée Français International are relatively affordable, ranging from AED 26,922 at Pre-K to AED 56,936 in Terminale. This puts the fees in the middle bracket for a school in Dubai. There is the obligatory 500 AED (non-refundable) for applications.
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