Sabari Indian School Dubai is a Deira based, CBSE curriculum school, acquired by Al Najah Education, a group that is already injecting some much needed know how into school operations.
Sabari Indian School has been rated Acceptable for the fourth time running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed once the full report has been published.
The story so far...
Sabari Indian School Dubai is currently home to 417 students from KG to Grade 9 (from 3 to 16 years of age) is currently rated Acceptable by the KHDA for the third year in a row, something that the new owners, used to high performing schools Horizon English (rated Outstanding in the 2018-19 inspection round) and Horizon International, will want to improve upon pretty quickly.
As with many newer schools pupils are currently skewed towards younger years. There are four KG1 classes, three KG2, four Grade 1, four Grade 2, three Grade 3, two Grade 4, two Grade 5, two Grade 6 and 7 and just one each Grades 8 and 9. While not evenly split the 25 classes mean each class will have an average of approximately 17 pupils. The maximum class size in terms of student numbers at the school is currently 25.
For an Indian curriculum school this is very much on the lower side - as is the current teacher:student ratio of 1:9. If you want your child to get more individual attention, these are the kinds of figures to look for. Thirteen nationalities are represented within the student body, but almost 9 from 10 pupils come from Indian families. Girls and boys are represented in almost equal measure.
Sabari Indian claims a current teacher turnover of 35%. This is actually high by Dubai standards, and especially so compared to Indian curriculum schools in the emirates. However this will, to a degree, be due to the change in ownership and Al Najah Education's focus on human resources. Where this is the case turnover will be very positive with well qualified, high performing staff coming in to complement existing staff that the school's new owner rates highly enough to keep on.
To improve the school needs a stronger leadership team, to some degree already in place following its acquisition. Al Najah Education has appointed a new Indian Curriculum Head Karan Brown, the ex associate director at GEMS India who, in turn, spearheaded the appointment of principal Latha Venkateswar. Venkateswar comes directly from Kindergarten Starters, a school rated Good by the KHDA under her leadership. With some 32 years’ experience in India, Oman and Dubai, the new principal clearly has the experience and know-how to raise standards.
The school has also recruited nine new heads of department to lead and mentor the Sabari teaching staff.
Staff are recruited from India and Dubai and "a degree with professional qualifications is considered while recruiting a teacher". Five percent of the school budget goes into teacher training. This should, over time, lower teacher churn, and result in better teaching through the school.
Finally, to broaden the school's remit, Father Stanley Lawrence has been recruited from the Don Bosco Association to head administration and extra-curricular activities at the school.
What about the curriculum?
At Phase 1, the school's early years, no one curriculum guides the school. Sabari says it "combines international best practices" instead. In its Phase 2 and 3, the school follows CBSE curriculum. The CBSE, to an even greater extent than the ICSE, has been criticized by some as being to traditional and rigid and focused to much on rote learning. The school aims to offer a curriculum closer (based on the now-defunct CBSE-i curriculum) to IGCSE or IB. It aims to offer:
"A way to move to an enquiry based skills approach in which teachers and students engage in collaborative learning;
To be involved in creating students who raise questions, think, reflect, analyse, interpret, experiment, research and create knowledge and;
A set of materials, print and electronic which help teachers to innovate and create".
From Phase 3, the school's pre-University offering, the school moves back to a core CBSE curriculum. This is probably wise if only for the school to be able to generate the exam results its students need for university placement. (Note the school currently only goes up to Grade 7).
The school now has new ethos of 'head, hand,and heart'.
Under the head category, Sabari says it is the first Indian school in the city to implement iPad based learning across all school Grades. In terms of Hand, the school outlines its new extra-curricular Programme including both yoga and meditation, herbal gardening, swimming (when the soon to be added- indoor swimming pool is completed) and horse-riding. Finally Heart - or "Mentoring for Every Child". Each teacher is tasked with mentoring three students.
“Every child has a special skill or talent and we want to nurture that,” Brown, told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.
What about inclusion?
In correspondence with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com the school itself says its inclusiveness is one of its strengths. Sabari Indian has a dedicated care and support centre, and ramps and lifts for wheel chair access throughout the school. It has two dedicated teachers for SEND (a counsellor and special educator), and one member of staff dedicated to support. Parents are not asked to contribute additional resources if their child has SEN requirements.
What the inspectors say
In line with the overall rating of the school, the KHDA currently rates the curriculum and its adaptation to the UAE as just Acceptable - although, to be fair, Al Najha Education's acquisition would have come too late to have made any material difference here.
Even at the time of the acquisition Sabari Indian already had areas of relatively high performance. The school provides a healthy and safe environment, while senior leaders are said to ensure effective and efficient day-to-day management of the school. Sabari Indian shows a good understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures and the KHDA notes its "strong caring and inclusive nature.
In its report the KHDA also recommended a refined vision and realigning the school’s curriculum, teaching and assessment programmes to ensure greater clarity of school direction and improved student learning outcomes.
Other areas the school will be focusing on in 2016/17 will be the quality of teaching and learning and students’ progress, in all subjects and phases, improving on best practice in assessment , improving governance by broadening stakeholders’ representation, and training board members "so that they more effectively influence the school’s performance and hold school leaders to account for improved achievement and development by students".
As well as being rated Acceptable by the KHDA, Sabari Indian has a 5-star gold rating from the World Education Foundation. This is not a body we had heard of, but says its mandate is to promote "peace through education". It is not an education standards based organisation. More information here.
The school as noted has ramped up its extra curricular activities and these now include basketball, cricket, football, karate, table tennis, chess, badminton, swimming, horse riding, and Bricks for Kids (robotics). Of these some are provided at no cost (cricket and basketball for example), while others that require external expertise or facilities have a minimal charge. Badminton costs 250 AED for 8 sessions, Swimming and Horse riding 650 AED for 8 sessions for example.
There is no doubt that many changes are being put into effect at Sabari Indian that should bear positive results in the future. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com also finds it hugely encouraging that the UAE is creating an environment where a school needing quite serious improvement can benefit from the expertise of a group with proven ability elsewhere in the emirate.
We also appreciate that Al Najah Education has itself brought in expertise where it has needed it.
Fees at the school are affordable, currently ranging from AED 14,124 to AED 16,307. These are value range fees for Dubai, although mid range for an Indian curriculum school in the emirate.
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