Sabari Indian School Dubai is a Deira based, CBSE curriculum school, acquired by Al Najah Education.
Sabari Indian School Dubai (SIS) is currently home to close 500 students from KG to Grade 10 (from 4 to 16 years of age) is was rated Acceptable by the KHDA for the fifth year in a row in October 2019, something that the owners, Al Najah Education would certainly want to improve upon. With no subsequent school inspections due to the Covid 19 pandemic, it is to be hoped that the school has made progress in the intervening three years.
Despite the school being founded in 2013, growth has been relatively slow. Class sizes are low at an average of 18 students with a maximum class size of 25. The teacher:student ratio of 1:9 is also low - accounted for by the presence of two teachers in most classes. Although a range of 20 nationalities is represented within the student body, almost 9 out of 10 students and teachers are Indian nationals.
Students were supported at the time of the last KHDA inspection in October 2019 by some 55 teachers and an additional 9 teaching assistants. Unfortunately, staff turnover, at 28%, was on the high side compared not only with the average for international schools of 20-22%, but particularly for an Indian curriculum school where turnover tends to be lower. How much of this was driven by the departure of the previous Principal is hard to determine.
The school is now led by Ms. Pranjala Dutta who joined SIS in May 2019 from Apple International School which she had led for four years and where her key achievement was the achievement of a Good rating for the first time in the history of the then 22 year old school. The second inspection under her leadership saw a number of key measures improve to Very Good.
What about the curriculum?
In Phase 1, the KG/ Early Years section of the school, no one curriculum guides the school. Sabari says it "combines international best practices" instead and encourages students to "self-direct their learning through inquiry approach of doing things, asking loads of questions and consolidating new learning each time the ‘Eureka moment' is experienced".
In Phases 2 and 3, the school follows the CBSE curriculum. The CBSE, to an even greater extent than the ICSE, has been criticized by some as being too traditional and rigid and focused too much on rote learning. The school aims to offer a curriculum closer (based on the now-defunct CBSE-i curriculum) to IGCSE or IB.
Phase 2 - the Primary phase - is divided into Lower Primary (Grades 1 & 2) and the Upper Primary (Grade 3 to Grade 5 ). Students are supported by small class sizes with two adults in every classroom, including homeroom teachers, subject and Inclusion team specialists who offer an engaging curriculum and, though on-going assessment, data-driven teaching which aims to maximize each child's potential to learn. Students are exposed to learning through an enquiry-based approach based on the intrinsic curiousity of children and the inherent motivation to learn.
In Upper Primary the students develop the foundational knowledge, learning skills, and personality traits through a strong interdisciplinary curriculum allowing them to continue their exploration by becoming problem solvers and critical thinkers. As students grow academically, the curriculum is enriched through programmes such as STREAM, Drone making, Kaleidoscope and Making Learning visible, which prepare students for the next phase of their schooling.
The curriculum in Primary includes English as a First language, Arabic as Second language and choices for the third language between French/Hindi/ Malayalam/Tamil; UAE Social studies, Moral Education, Islamic studies, Living Arabic, ICT, Visual arts, Performing art such as ballet, gymnastics, dramatics, Music and Physical education which includes yoga, basketball, football, cricket, chess, and swimming. Individual iPads are issued to each student in Grade 3 and above.
According to the school, as students transition from the Primary phase to the Middle school their knowledge, skills and understanding begin to widen. The Middle school curriculum allows students "to take up trans-disciplinary ideas for an entire year and unfold the layers through a range of experiences to deepen the conceptual understanding, innovate, lead and connect to the community too".
Students are encouraged to explore the attitudes, values, and habits of mind to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and responsible global citizens. This occurs through their development of rigorous research skills through independent inquiry, collaboration through their role in groups, valuing others’ choices and recognizing the strengths in one another, strong communication skills to express, connect and lead, critical thinking skills to problem solve, innovate and enterprise and creativity to add value to the learning of self and others.
The Middle school subjects include English as a First language, Arabic as Second language and choices for the third language between French/Hindi/ Malayalam/Tamil; UAE Social studies, Moral Education, Islamic studies, Living Arabic, ICT, Visual arts, Performing art such as ballet, gymnastics, dramatics, Music, and Physical education activities that include yoga, basketball, football, cricket, chess, swimming and so on.
Additional features of the school co-curriculum include the AHA and Extra mile programmes (the latter for gifted and talented students) including Artificial intelligence, Drone designing, AstroPhysics, and a Citizenship programme.
Extra-curricular and curriculum extension activities include Creative Arts, Digital Story- telling (English), The Chef in Me (Science), Vedic Maths (Coding/Maths) and sports activities such as Basketball, Cricket, Football, Gymnastics and Swimming
In correspondence with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com the school itself says its inclusiveness is one of its strengths. SIS has a dedicated care and support centre, and ramps and lifts for wheel chair access throughout the school. It has dedicated teachers for SEND.
The 2019 KHDA inspection report noted that "The school’s vision as an inclusive school is evident in welcoming students that have a range of needs. There has been investment in staffing and resources, but there is insufficient monitoring of the quality of provision by school leaders". At the time of the inspection, almost 20% of the students at the school had been identified with additional learning needs. A number of specific recommendations for improvement were included within the report.
Parents are not asked to contribute additional resources if their child has SEND requirements. The school also offers the specialised ASDAN curriculum to support the needs of less academically-able SEND students.
Although SIS is open to Grade 10 and presumably has passed it first cohort of CBSE Grade 10 students, no information about their academic achievements is provided. This is disappointing, although perhaps not entirely surprising, since without being able to open the final two grades, it may well be that families have chosen to move their children elsewhere in order to complete all four final years of study.
Students do participate in a range of assessment and benchmark tests on which their differentiated 'data-driven' curriculum is adapted. These include GL progress tests for KG to Grade 2 students, CAT 4 tests for Grade 1 students onward, ASSET for students from Grade 3 onwards, ABT (the Arabic Benchmark Test) for Grade 3 onward, ACER IBT for Arabic and NGRT.
SIS is housed in a modern building with plentiful outdoor space to the rear. All classrooms are technology driven with students from Grade 3 each having their own iPad. School facilities include a STREAM Lab, where students apply the elements of Science, Technology, Research, and Engineering using Lego and robotic. There is a library for students from Grade 1 upwards, and a swimming pool.
After visiting Sabari Indian School after its acquisition by Al Najah Education, we had been encouraged by the team that we met and hopeful that the school would improve its initial KHDA inspection rating of Acceptable - the minimum requirement that the Dubai Regulator has for all schools in the emirate although their expectation is that all schools should achieve at least a Good rating.
Unfortunately, the school was again rated Acceptable on its fifth inspection, although clearly some progress has been made. The inspection team noted that Students in the Kindergarten (KG) and middle phase were making good progress in English, mathematics, and science. Good learning skills were noted in the KG, middle and secondary phases. All students in Islamic education lessons make good progress. These improvements were reflected in a smattering of improved ratings for Student Achievement, but the vast majority of ratings remained Acceptable. Arabic as an Additional Language in the Middle school remained Weak.
Although there were also three improved ratings to Good for Teaching and Assessment, the majority of ratings had remained Acceptable for both this Key Performance Standard and also the Curriculum - these two standards that have the most direct impact on Student Achievement.
The key performance standard which was most highly rated was that of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills, where 11 of the 12 ratings were Good including three improved ratings for Innovation. Health and safety ratings retained their Very Good standard, whilst Care and Support remained largely Acceptable.
However, clearly the inspection team felt that whilst the school had not quite made sufficient progress to achieved a high number of improved ratings, the overall direction was positive, and this was reflected in the ratings for Leadership and Management for which four of the five standards were rated Good.
In terms of the overall strengths of SIS, the inspection team found these to be:
As far as areas of improvement were concerned SIS was advised to:
Unfortunately, with the arrival of the Covid 19 pandemic, subsequent inspections of SIS have not taken place and it is not possible at this stage to determine how successful the school has been in implementing the recommendations made by the DSIB team. However, one particular comment from the inspection team would suggest that they had been positively impacted by changes to the leadership of the school and also by the commitment of the governors and owners - The new leadership team, led by the principal, has had immediate impact upon teaching and learning. This is without doubt a good sign!
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Although no physical inspections have been possible since early 2020, all UAE schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations which were designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the delivery of on-line learning. SIS achieved the highest Developed rating - you can find the report here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received insufficient feedback to our Parent Survey to be able to evaluate fully the views of respondents. Those responses that we have received have not been particularly positive, with the school receiving an overall score of just 2.6/5 - or a positivity rating of 52%.
If you are a parent, teacher or Secondary students at SIS, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community and complete our Survey.
The inspection reported noted that the school had made successful efforts to engage parents as learning partners. Some 60 parents participated in the KHDA's pre-inspection survey of whom 91% were satisfied with the quality of education being provided by SIS.
A large majority felt that the school listened to the concerns they had for their children's well-being and parents overwhelmingly felt that their children were safe at school and that teachers were caring.
66 Secondary students responded to the KHDA's Well-being Survey of 70% felt a high sense of happiness based on the Survey criteria. A large majority of students reported that they had positive relationships with adults at the school, and held teachers in high esteem, believing they were supportive. However, a large minority of students worried about their personal well-being as well as their future. Many believed they should be more persevering, although the majority were pleased with the circumstances of their lives.
When the team from WhichSchoolAdvisor.com visited Sabari Indian School five years ago, we had high hopes that this small school would make a large impact on the delivery of the CBSE curriculum to its students. We were impressed by the commitment of the school leadership and its owners to find a more rounded, international approach to the delivery of the curriculum with a focus on a more inquiry-focused curriculum delivery.
Whilst it seems that the school has tried to be true to its aims, the delivery itself has clearly not been as successful as we had hoped. It seems that with the arrival of the current Principal, steps were being taken to ensure the quality of delivery was being addressed. We hope that evidence of the success of these steps will be forthcoming.
Fees at the school are relatively affordable, currently ranging from AED 9,400 to AED 16,307. In addition to the annual tuition fees, SIS also charges an AED 105 entry fee (for an admission test), a further AED 1,000 Admission fee on offer of a place which is deducted from the first term's fees, a one-off AED 1,000 for Learning Materials, Stationery and School Examination Fee and a further one-off fee of AED 390 for School Events/School Field trips.
These are value range fees for Dubai, although mid range for an Indian curriculum school in the emirate.
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