Masar International Private School is one of Sharjah’s newest schools, having opened in September 2020 and due to fully launch in September 2021. Masar is an American curriculum school which offers KG1 through to Grade 12.
Although classes first opened for students in September 2020, September 2021 will mark the first true year of Masar’s operation, with face-to-face learning available amid extensive Covid-19 safeguards.
Located in the popular Al Azra district of Sharjah, Masar’s Vision is about “providing a positive, safe and stimulating learning environment that ignites creativity and critical thinking skills to create a generation of self-confidant [sic] and innovative individuals who are globally successful.”
With a school motto of “Where Learning Thrives”, we would expect Masar to be a well-rounded, passionate school with students as its central focus, and the school’s Mission statement certainly seems to support this:
“Masar School is committed to delivering high-quality education that empowers learners with profound knowledge and builds up their various skills with outstanding teaching and professional academic staff.”
Many schools are invested in instilling good moral values in their students, but Masar in particular does not just want students to act in the ways they are told. Instead, they want students to have the inner motivation to foster and develop these values themselves, taking ownership of who they are and how they can affect the world around them.
Masar’s particular core values are: Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility; Equality Across Diversity; Coordination & Cooperation; and Social & Emotional Growth.
In order to achieve this, discipline seems to be an important part of school life, ensuring that students are present and engaged with their learning environment. The school day runs from 7.30am to 1.30pm, and latecomers to school are not allowed to attend their first class, as this disrupts other students. In addition, failing to attend any period without permission or a reasonable excuse is considered a full-day absence; any students who exceed 10 consecutive days of absence, or 15 separate days, will be expelled.
Some parents may think these measures are especially strict, but it certainly reflects a school that is concerned about every child’s learning experience, and about the continued commitment of each student to their educational journey. And while the school may have high expectations of its students’ dedication, the school certainly doesn’t look to lack warmth.
Photos and videos on the school website show passionate, engaged teachers who are doing their best to make learning both meaningful and fun. Of particular note is the awarding of Certificates of Appreciation – these are presented to outstanding students each semester, and the school is very active in sharing regular images and posts on social media channels of its students participating in classes, events, and activities.
Communication with those outside of the school seems to be another major focus. Masar uses a system called ClassDojo, a school communication platform that teachers, students, and families can use every day to build close-knit communities. ClassDojo can be used to share what’s being learned in the classroom, through photos, videos, and messages. In doing so, parents are involved in the teaching of their students, and there is a real sense of communication and community at every level of the school.
“We don’t believe there is some ‘ideal’ education, a one-size-fits-all model that all kids must fit. Instead, we believe every community of teachers, kids and families should be able to get the learning experiences that they want and love. And we believe the way to do that is from the ground up. This is ClassDojo’s plan: we listen to teachers, kids and families. We help them work together as a community. And we help them bring the world’s best learning experiences into their classrooms and homes.”
It’s still early days for Masar, but first impressions of the school suggest a fun and supportive environment that fosters passionate, value-driven students.
Masar is an American curriculum school which offers SAT examinations and the EmSAT. The school states that its focus is on providing students “with access to a broad range of learning opportunities that respond to the diversity of their individual needs and abilities”. It’s interesting to see that, while Masar of course wants its students to achieve well academically across the board, the main focus of the curriculum is nurturing students’ individual talents:
“Our challenge is to target key indicators which define what it is to be a truly successful learner, a learner who not only achieves well in National Testing but who is deemed successful within the context of his/her area of talent.”
It’s reassuring to see a school that is so open about wanting to encourage students’ individual interests, rather than simply training students to perform well in the required areas – it will be exciting to see what students at Masar will achieve in the future.
In order to nurture individual talents alongside required learning, Masar’s American curriculum is combined with a tri-language program and an integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) approach.
The tri-language program includes the teaching of English, Arabic, and French classes at a ratio of 60:30:10, ensuring a strong base knowledge for students in each language. Activities are planned between all subjects, rather than just in isolation, an integrated approach that teaches students to apply skills across different areas, whether it be Science, English, or Art.
In the primary school, Masar focuses on sensory and hands-on activities, to make learning more appealing to younger students. The school also offers dedicated classes in Literacy, Listening, and Speaking, to ensure the core skills of reading and communication are honed early on. Masar additionally runs a Math Learning Club, for any students who may need extra help in Mathematics – from the curriculum outline, we can certainly see a lot is put into developing the foundational skills that a good education is built on.
For older students, the focus moves to their examinations and what they need to achieve to successfully complete their schooling. The main form of assessment is the Collegeboard SAT Exams (PSAT, SAT 1, and Sat 2/AP Sat) – as international exams, these offer students the qualifications they can take into higher education if desired.
The PSAT for English and Maths is first introduced in Grades 9 and 10, where students complete practice exams; the actual exam is taken in Grade 10. Practice for the SAT 1 for English and Maths runs from Grade 9, with the final exam in Grade 11. Finally, the SAT 2/AP SAT exams, which apply in all subjects, are studied for in Grades 11 and 12, before being sat in Grade 12.
Masar also offers the IELTS and TOEFL English Exams, introduced in Grade 10 and sat in Grade 12. As far as Ministry of Education (MOE) required exams, Masar offers the EmSAT (Emirates Standardised Test) in the final year of schooling – this is an MOE graduation requirement.
In order to help students succeed in their exams, Masar runs PSAT/SAT and TOEFL/IELTS sessions every week. All of this is underpinned by the CCSS (Common Core State Standards Initiative), a national set of standards developed in the US for English and Maths. These standards ensure that students develop creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication, as well as preparing them for both national and international exams. The CCSS ensures that graduating students have the skills to meet university and work expectations, whichever path they may choose.
The school does not yet give any detailed information about subjects, aside from the clear focus on English and Maths. We can assume that MOE subjects, such as Moral Studies, Islamic Studies, and Social Studies, are all included in the curriculum.
Looking beyond individual classes, school life at Masar looks packed with extra activities and events to nurture students’ interests and skills. For example, the school uses a digital platform called ‘Mqroa’ for all Kindergarten and Primary students, which provides reading texts in Arabic, in order to improve Arabic reading proficiency in an easy and entertaining way. The platform monitors, analyses, and compares student activity, producing reports that teachers can then use to track and improve achievements.
Also on offer is a Holy Quran competition and a Logo Designing competition. The Holy Quran competition gives students the chance to display and expand on their religious knowledge, while the Logo Designing competition challenges students to create a logo for Masar science activities; whichever design receives the most votes will be used for all science-based events at the school, and the winner will receive a certificate of appreciation.
For students who want to take part but not necessarily compete, Masar offers many fun events throughout the year. Some examples of events in the Primary school include Sea Animal Day, Fruit Day, Hat Day, and Farm Animal Day. The entire school also celebrates events like National Day, International Day of Tolerance, Commemoration Day, Zayed Humanitarian Work Day, Flag Day, Diabetes Day, Food Day, Teachers Day, and Peace Day.
The school also develops students holistically by teaching them about lifestyles and skills outside of school. Masar promotes healthy eating and outdoor exercise, as well as running workshops in both English and Arabic about topics like cyber security. The regular parent–teacher conferences reflect the schools desire to include parents in their child’s learning as much as possible, and most events can be accessed remotely.
While Masar does not have a dedicated website page about Special Needs Education (SEN) provisions, there are some mentions here and there on their social media channels and in their instructions for parents.
The school policy, for example, states that parents must inform the school's administration if their child is an SEN student, or if they have any psychological or emotional concerns – this is to ensure that the school can set the correct plans in place for the child. The policy further mentions that SEN students are not allowed to join a class without permission from the school specialist and the agreement of the school's principal. From this, it looks as though the school does have at least one dedicated SEN staff member offering one-to-one classes, with the potential for integration.
Other mentions include posts about World Autism Day and making inclusion “our final destination and compassion towards the underprivileged people our sole route to follow”. Similarly, Masar observes the International Day of Disabled Persons and has collaborated with the Pioneer Center for People with Disabilities to offer workshops run by the school psychologist, Mr. Reem Aboud.
As Masar is a brand new school in Sharjah, there are currently no records of academic achievement. However, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com hopes that Masar will make its results public once students sit their first exams, and will be on the lookout for any indications of academic performance.
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 (DLE), implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). However, as Masar is not yet fully open, there is currently no DLE report or rating.
Images on the school website show a traditional, attractive building made of sandy stone and decorated with flags and banners. The main school building seems to be built around a large, central outdoor space, which is fully shaded and provides a place in the school for PE lessons, activities, and events. This area includes a sports hardcourt, a small field, and a playground with slides.
Inside the school, things look bright and clean. Predominantly white classrooms and corridors are decorated with colourful learning tools and examples of student work; the school has fully-equipped classrooms and high-tech science labs, as well as an indoor play area for younger students.
One major benefit of Masar being such a recently-opened school is that they have been able to design the learning spaces around distance learning provisions – all rooms have been designed with individual desks for each student (colourful ones in the Primary section), and are laid out to ensure social distancing can be observed.
As Masar has not yet fully opened, there are currently no online reviews for the school.
If you are a parent, teacher, or senior student at Masar, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by taking part in our survey.
Masar does not currently have any information regarding fees on its school website, so direct contact should be made with the school to find out the cost of tuition. However, the school’s social media pages mention discounts of up to 40% due to current conditions, and encourage prospective parents to get in touch.
Masar looks to offer transport services for students, but there are similarly no fees offered on the school website. It looks as though these services are available at extra cost, along with books and uniforms, which are also not included in the tuition.
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