Ryan International School Abu Dhabi is a relatively new CBSE curriculum school set up in Masdar City under the management of the Ryan Group. It should not be confused with the former Ryan Private School, now Dunes International School, which was also under Ryan Group management until 2017.
The story so far...
The Ryan International Group opened its first school in Mumbai in 1976 and has grown into a sizeable group with some 135 schools in India and overseas. The Group was established by Founder Chairman Dr. Augustine F. Pinto supported by the Managing Director, Madam Grace Pinto. It seems that the group is very much a family affair, named presumably after son Ryan. It also seems that the group's ambitions do not just end with the schools that have already been established - it is working towards setting up its own universities "to continue the excellence in education that [it is] known for".
Ryan International School, Masdar City is a relatively new school within the Ryan Group having opened in September 2015. The Ryan Group states that the key value underlining all schools is "Excellence in Education and All Round Development".
The group aims to develop in Ryan students a goal to make the world a better place. Its approach, therefore, is "to impart education and create a renewed sense of enlightenment". It uses an approach called KASSM - an abbreviation for Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Social and Moral Values. The aim is to provide "the right mix of academia and other related activities for enriched living". The group's institutions are designed to provide a learning environment that focuses on all-round development of the child.
The Ryan Group's vision is "to be a premier global educational institution which develops the human resource for our dynamic and expanding community, the state, the nation, the region and the world at large".
The Group states further that "through our institutions, we will cultivate all round development of qualities in a student through excellence in education that shall foster academics, understanding, brilliance, spiritual well-being, physical development, psychological strengths, resourcefulness and creative skills, social responsibility and concern for one's environment".
The Ryan International School website is based on the design of the Group's Indian site. As such it is remarkably uninformative! What information is provided about the school is generic for the most part. The first ADEK inspection of Ryan International School took place in the 2016-17 academic year and does provide some data in relation to the school, although this will obviously have moved on.
At that time, the school was open to Grade 5 only, and consisted of some 347 KG children and 49 Primary students. Some 96% of students were Indian nationals, followed by 2.5% Pakistani and 0.5% Bangladeshi. Teachers were predominantly Indian. A teacher:student ratio of 1:22 in the KG is on the high side, although there were also 16 teaching assistants employed by the school who we would expect to have been working with the youngest children.
Our expectation - though there is no direct evidence of this other than photos on the school website - is that the school has now progressed to offer places in the Secondary school, particularly after the dispute between the Ryan group and the owner of Ryan Private School which resulted in the latter being re-branded to Dunes International School. At the time of the dispute in early 2017, Ryan International School was given approval by ADEK to offer places to students from the Private School.
What about the curriculum?
The school offers the CBSE curriculum. Students follow the core subjects of English, Maths, Science, Arabic as a second language, Hindi and French, as well as Islamic Education and Social Studies. Additional subjects include Art, Music and PE. The Ryan approach to teaching is cross curricular and theme based - a growing trend in almost all western curricula. The delivery of the curriculum involves incorporating activities - Activity based learning - based on the Multiple Intelligence theory of Howard Gardner, professor at Harvard University, that leads to literacy, inquiry, creativity, and critical thinking.
The Ryan Group says that "the challenge lies in utilising the changing learning patterns, and with changes in the methods of instructions compiled with technological advancements, to create an educational experience that will uphold our commitment towards nation building". According to the Group, a student with knowledge, attitude, skills, social and moral values...enhances their personality development, physical and psycho-social capabilities. These qualities are effectively achieved through professional coaching in sports, creative and personality enhancement activities.
Ryan International School aims to ensure that along with a high calibre of academics, students inculcate winning habits from a young age. This is achieved through "various character building activities that strengthen their moral fibre and helps them face the rigours of academia and life". Unfortunately, in line with much else on the school's website, it is high on hyperbole, but limited on detailed information about what actually takes place.
The school does provide a little more information about Co-Curricular Activities which apparently include participation in the Indian Model United Nations, the International Children's Festival of Performing Arts, ICEPLEX (a cinema/TV initiative), and BBN - Beyond Breaking News - though it is questionable how much of this is actually taking place in Abu Dhabi. There are also a range of sports activities including training for Football, Basket and Handball, Table tennis, Chess, Judo and skating.
What about the facilities?
The school is located on a purpose built campus with state of the art infrastructure including technology driven classrooms, and amenities including activity rooms, an auditorium and a swimming pool, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer labs, and library as well as both outdoor and indoor sports facilities.
The ADEK report notes that "The premises are brand new; they are of good quality, well-decorated and well-maintained. High quality displays of students’ work enrich the corridors. There is no art room. Specialist rooms for science, library work and ICT are well-resourced. All classrooms have Wi-Fi enabled smart television boards. The well-equipped games areas include a 50-metre running track and a covered all-weather pitch. [However], there is no direct access to outdoor areas from classrooms in the KG section of the school which limits opportunities for children to engage in play based learning".
What the inspectors say
On its first inspection, Ryan International School was rated Acceptable - the minimum rating expected by the Abu Dhabi school regulator, ADEK. In fact, the school was rated Acceptable across four of the six key performance standards, and Good in relation to Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills, and The protection, care, guidance and support of students.
As is invariably the case, the strength of Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum have the most direct impact of Student Achievement - all three of these performance standards were rated Acceptable, as was also the Leadership and Management of the school. Worryingly, in our view, none of the teachers involved in the KG section were trained in Early Years education.
The school grew very rapidly in its first year. There were initially 210 children on roll in the kindergarten classes (KG). In September 2016, the school expanded to include over 100 new KG children and around 50 students in Grades 1 to 5. Twenty-four new teachers joined the school in September 2016 to facilitate the growth of student numbers.
Such a rapid growth in student numbers and teachers would have been potentially challenging for any new organisation to absorb. It, therefore, did well to receive positive feedback from ADEK's inspection team who identified the school's strengths as:
The key areas of improvement identified by the inspection team were the need to:
It is very much to be hoped that Ryan International School has implemented the improvements required by the inspection team - particularly in respect of qualified teaching staff, and opportunities for innovation and independent learning. Certainly, at the time of this first inspection, a number of the school's commitments in respect of the curriculum delivery, teaching quality and activities did not appear to be being met.
The next inspection of Ryan International School was due to take place in the 2018-19 academic year and has yet to be published by ADEK. Until such time as the report has appeared, we would be reluctant to provide a wholly positive opinion of the school.
Fees at Ryan International School start at AED 13,400 for KG1 and 2, rising to AED 14,700 in Grades 4-6, before jumping significantly to AED 20,000 in Grades 7-9. High School fees will be AED 22,200 for Grades 10 and 11, and AED 22, 800 for Grade 12. Additional Book fees range from AED 400 in KG1 to AED 1,000 in Grade 12.
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