SABIS International School Al Jada is the latest member of the SABIS International group of schools - including the better known Choueifat schools - to open in the UAE. It is due to launch in September 2021.
Launched in March 2021, SABIS International School Al Jada will be the second branch of the SABIS group to open in Sharjah, following the long established Choueifat International School Sharjah which opened in 1976. The new school will be 15th SABIS school in the UAE, and students joining it will be among the 70,000+ SABIS students currently enrolled in 20 different countries on 5 continents.
The location of the new school is at Al Jadar Center, described as at the heart of Sharjah's 'largest lifestyle megaproject'. The school will open for KG to Grade 5 students in September 2021, adding new grades each year until it offers a full KG to Grade 12, all-through, environment.
Introducing itself to parents, the school states that it "will be recognised as a provider of top-quality education to a highly diverse student body. SIS-Aljada will strive to help all students achieve their full potential, prepare them for success in college, equip them with the ability and desire for lifelong learning, and strengthen their civic, ethical and moral values. SIS-Aljada will maintain high standards of efficiency and accountability throughout its operation".
In line with the philosophy of all SABIS schools, immense emphasis is placed on all staff and students to be responsible for student achievement. The new school goes so far as to say:
"At SIS-Aljada, we consider the school as a dynamic production team. Administrators, teachers, and students are all contributors to this team. Knowledge and ideas are the product of the team effort. Since students are the ones who benefit most directly from the product, they should be most concerned that the product is of a high quality".
Further, it goes on to say that "everyone in a SABIS® Network school has a job to do; everyone is accountable. Administrators, students, and staff practice "self-auditing" in order to discover and correct errors. It is teamwork that allows every team member to reach heights that would be more difficult to reach individually".
One of the ways in which SABIS and Choueifat schools ensure that students are achieving the required "heights" is through a programme of weekly testing which can place enormous pressure on students. According to the school, "students engage in regular assessment using exams that teachers do not see in advance". Many question whether this on-going testing is the most effective way to assess students' achievement and ability.
Teachers are also distanced from direct access by parents, through a team of Administrators who are responsible for collecting the data resulting from the tests and who are effectively the first, and main point of contact for parents. Whilst this may relieve the pressure on teachers in terms of collecting and monitoring the data, we have often questioned whether placing a non-teacher in such a position, who may not be aware of specific issues related to a particular child, is the most effective form of communication.
SIS-Aljada will be "a highly academic, non-selective, co-educational, English-medium, independent, day school catering for the complete individual".
The school aims to develop students' academic competencies, learning techniques, interpersonal skills, and personalities in addition to instilling high ethical, moral, and civic values.
The curriculum implemented at SIS-Aljada will be that followed by all SABIS schools. Although the curriculum is treated as 'stand-alone' it is in large part based on the National Curriculum of England and Wales, but without the Learning through Play approach of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Instead, there is an immediate focus on the core subjects of English, Arabic and mathematics.
Students at Grades 9 and 10 are entered for IGCSE examinations, and are given the option at Grade 11 of doing a two year A/S and A Level programme, or being offered a High School Diploma and the option of Advance Placement courses for US university entrance. In addition, the school will also offer SAT and TOEFL exams.
According to the school, all courses for students at all levels "are clearly structured to enable students and teachers to know precisely what should be learned. Teachers teach one concept at a time using the SABIS Point System® with each lesson alternating frequently between oral work, individual work, and group work in such a way that it is difficult for students to “switch off.”
There is very little, if any, mention of a holistic approach or student well-being. In fact, the school summarises its approach clearly in the following statement: "Everyone in the school is accountable. Accordingly, students learn more in class and have more time for relaxation and fun after school".
The school says that "The SIS-Aljada program balances academic development with social, physical, and emotional development. Students are encouraged to explore talents, interests, and hobbies and develop life skills through participation in physical, academic, scientific, and artistic pursuits that stimulate a healthy, eager, and happy attitude toward learning."
A range of after-school activities take place during day, after school, and at weekends, that include a range of clubs, events, activities and functions run by the student life organization (SLO) - no specifics are provided in this context. However, the school states that regional events including one year sports mini-Olympics and one year talents' tournament such as painting and poetry take place. There is also the Ashwicke Hall summer camp in England and other paid activities which will be open to students.
An issue that has dogged the Choueifat schools has been the refusal, until recently, to provide individual support for students with additional learning needs. This is an area that the group does seem to be addressing, brought on, we suspect, by the downgrading of all the Abu Dhabi and Dubai-based schools during the school inspection process in recent years.
According to the school, the criterion for acceptance into SIS-Aljada is a willingness to put in the effort to achieve full potential, not high “innate” ability. Placement into a grade level is determined by academic attainment, with age acting as a limiting factor. Students applying to Grade 2 and above take diagnostic tests to determine accurate placement.
This focus on Academic Attainment, must, however, in our opinion, limit the school's ability to be fully inclusive.
Students who are found to be behind academically are rarely refused. Instead, they are offered, at an extra cost, one of several different solutions, depending on their academic needs. These options include Special Lessons, where a student found to be weak in one subject attends extra periods in that subject until the level of the class is reached, or Full-Special Classes, where students are given accelerated programmes intended to prepare them to join the regular classes.
The school's website says the building is located on a large 2.2km2 of land that it will feature state-of-the-art facilities, "dedicated to providing students with the perfect environment to study, explore their talent, and unlock their full potential".
Facilities will include spacious classrooms, science and computer laboratories, and a dedicated SABIS Integrated Testing and Learning (ITL) Hall where students can take computerised exams. It will also house a theatre, cafeteria and kitchen, library and extensive sports facilities, including a semi-Olympic swimming pool, an indoor and outdoor basketball and tennis courts, and a full-size soccer field surrounded by a an 8-lane, 400-meter track and field,running track and gymnastics and extracurricular activities rooms..
There will be dedicated facilities tailored to younger students. The KG section will be situated in a separate building with its own Administration, where the youngest students will have access to an indoor heated pool, a mini-gymnasium, and extensive, shaded, play facilities including a specialized car track for young students.
For reasons that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com completely fail to understand, none of the SABIS/Choueifat schools in the UAE publish their school fees on their websites. Given that these have to be approved by the local regulator and are published by them, we are not sure why the schools simply do not make it easy for parents to access this information from the outset.
We do know that fees for the Choueifat School in Sharjah in the current academic year range from AED 20,000 in KG1 to AED 34,000 in Grade 12. However, the newer SABIS/Choueifat schools' fees are considerably higher - the Choueifat School in Dubai Investment Park's fees range from AED 24,000 to AED 45,000. We would expect the fees for SABIS Al Jada to fall somewhere between the two.
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