Having originally been named the International School of Choueifat, Ruwais, then renamed Al Ruwais Private School, SABIS International School, Ruwais appears to have returned to the SABIS fold (and had continued to follow the SABIS curriculum throughout). To all intents and purposes, it remains a Choueifat School.
It is unusual for a school to go through several changes of name without a change of management or ownership. However, this seems to be the case with the now (renamed for the second time) SABIS International School in Ruwais. Initially known as the International School of Choueifat, two years ago, it became Ruwais Private School before moving on to the latest iteration. We can only assume that these changes have been made for ownership or marketing reasons - no formal explanation has been given.
The school currently educates almost 2,995 students. The largest nationality groups are Indian 19%, Emirati 15% and Pakistani 13%. The majority of students (70%) study within the KG and Primary sections, with a further 20% in the Middle School section and just under 10% in the High School. In 2021-22, there were some 100 (predominantly South African) teachers and 4 teaching assistants are responsible for the education of the children, with a teacher:student ratio of 1:25 – this is definitely on the high side, as is the teacher turnover rate of 26% (suggesting that staff are not necessarily particularly committed to the school).
All SABIS schools follow the in-house brand of curriculum which is essentially a version of the UK curriculum taught in a much less progressive way than the majority of schools would use today. There is a strong focus still on rote learning, and this, together with a testing regime that demands heavy demands on both teachers and students, means that whilst many former students swear by the approach, others feel that they are less able to work independently once they move on to university, whilst others feel that there is far too much pressure, particularly among the younger students.
In the most recent ADEK inspection in November 2021, the school was rated Good overall, a return to its previous Good rating, having been rated Acceptable in 2017-18 - the last inspection pre-Covid. At that time, the key indicators of Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, and Leadership and Management were all rated acceptable; Students’ Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, together with the Curriculum and Assessment were rated good; Protection, care and guidance of students was rated Very Good.
Readers might, therefore, wonder why the rating had been downgraded from Good in 2015-16 to Acceptable in 2017-18.
This goes very much to the style of teaching at Choueifat Schools and the SABIS Group's position in relation to supporting the individual needs of students, both in terms of accepting students with SEND, and with curriculum adaptation to meet the needs of either higher-performing or under-performing individual students. In the 2021-22 inspection report, it seems that the support for Students of Determination remains one area of provision that the school continues to avoid - not a single student had been identified as in need of specialist SEN support.
The school does not publish its academic results, but inspectors noted that students have performed consistently above world averages in all IGCSE subjects overall over the last three years, and in Grade 12 examinations in Islamic education, Arabic as a first language and Arabic as a second language. They noted that students’ attainment over the last three years has been outstanding,
There is very much a one-size fits all approach in all Choueifat Schools, decidedly based on teaching to the test - of which there are many, and on an on-going basis. Students who do not make the grade are expected to take additional remedial classes at the weekend until such time as they meet the expected requirement. Students who under-perform may be obliged to attend Summer School elsewhere in Abu Dhabi or Dubai to meet the minimum requirement.
Students’ independent learning, innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills were felt by the inspectors to be insufficiently developed. Whilst the school is deemed to provide “adequate” support to students who are gifted and talented and to those performing less well, the provision is not in place to ensure that these students are provided with the support to flourish at whichever is the appropriate level for them.
SABIS International School, Ruwais opened in 2001 and has relocated to a new purpose-built building in 2015-16. The purpose-built school is located in the centre of Ruwais Housing Complex, which is approximately 250 km to the west of the capital, Abu Dhabi. The school’s state-of-the-art facilities include spacious classrooms, science and computer laboratories, a modern performance hall, as well as extensive sports facilities with a semi-Olympic size swimming pool, indoor and outdoor basketball/tennis courts, and an Olympic soccer field surrounded by a running track.
The Infants’ Department is an independent unit with its own indoor swimming pool, two shaded, air conditioned playing areas, and a special KG car track. The school benefits from many IT features including, but not limited to, e-books for students, a computerised learning and testing centre, and smart TVs in most of the classrooms. ADEK’s inspectors noted that the premises and facilities are of high quality and used frequently and very effectively. A wide range of high quality resources, including the ILS tablet computers, are well matched to curriculum requirements.
The latest 2021-22 report rates the school as Good - the minimum rating that UAE regulators expect schools to achieve. The full report has not yet been issued by ADEK.
In the previous 2017-18 inspection, the ADEK inspection team found that Achievement was acceptable overall. Most indicators rate achievement as Weak (for Arabic medium subjects) to Acceptable with the exception of Science and Maths in the Secondary and Senior sections, which are rated Good. With its reputation for teaching to the test, the school has maintained high standards in international examinations and learning skills are acceptable overall. Students collaborate well together when given the opportunity in lessons. They use ICT effectively to support their learning.
Achievement in Arabic-medium subjects remains acceptable overall, although reading and writing skills in Arabic have improved, due in part to the purchase of additional books in Arabic. Progress in Islamic education in middle school and high school phases has improved, but Arabic language and Social Studies have not yet seen improvement overall.
Students’ personal development is good. They have very positive attitudes and contribute effectively to the daily life of the school through the Student Life Organisation (SLO) which is designed to offer the life skills, community involvement, innovation, critical and independent thinking and problem-solving skills that are not part of the taught curriculum. Students develop innovation skills through LSO school events and extracurricular activities, but, overall, inspectors feel that these skills are underdeveloped in the taught curriculum, particularly for younger students.
Students’ work ethic is strong but their skills of innovation, enterprise, and taking initiative in projects are less well developed in lessons, due to limited open-ended tasks and opportunities for practical work, though inspectors noted that students’ innovation and problem solving skills have improved in the high school phase, particularly in English medium subjects.
Teaching and assessment are rated acceptable overall. Teachers deliver appropriate lessons which engage students. Data analysis systems are strong (due to the rigorous testing programme), but teachers do not use assessment data to provide class activities which sufficiently support the full range of student ability and to meet the needs of different groups of students in class. Instead, gaps in students’ learning are addressed through planned remedial sessions and extra lessons.
Teachers provide helpful oral feedback, and sometimes involve students in assessing their own and others’ work, but provision of support for different groups of students is less evident in lessons, and does not offer opportunities for interactive teaching which is tailored to students’ individual needs. Teaching strategies adequately meet the needs of groups of students, but are not always fully effective in providing appropriate levels of challenge and support to meet the needs of all students.
The curriculum is good overall. It is planned well and reviewed regularly. It provides a range of choice for older students and prepares students well for the next phase in their education. However, reflective of the comments related to teaching and assessment, similarly, the curriculum not sufficiently modified to meet the needs of all students.
Where the school does score well is in relation to the overall quality of protection, care, guidance and support, which is very good. Personal and academic guidance and support are very effective and interactions between teachers and students are exemplified by warmth, trust and mutual respect. The school provides students with very effective personal and academic guidance and support, including high quality careers guidance for senior students.
Leadership and management is rated acceptable. The inspectors note the need to improve leadership and management by developing systems to precisely identify those students who have special educational needs or who are gifted and talented, and planning appropriate support or challenge to meet their learning needs.
In addition, the school’s self-evaluation is based upon SABIS expectations and comprehensive data analysis, but it does not use the indicators of the UAE inspection framework to evaluate performance accurately in self-evaluation to bring about further school improvement as required under ADEK’s mandate. Instead, in something of an act of independent thinking, the school relied on a SABIS internal framework.
Overall the inspection team identified the following strengths - students’ achievement in Science, and attainment in Mathematics in KG, middle school and high school phases and English in the high school phase. They praised students’ positive attitudes to learning and their personal development through the SLO. The school’s assessment procedures to identify gaps in students’ learning, including the use of the Integrated Learning System (ILS) were also noted as a positive, together with students’ use of modern technology to enhance their learning.
Areas for improvement focused on the need to improve achievement across subjects, and especially Arabic medium subjects; to improve students’ learning skills, particularly independent working and innovation skills; to further modify the curriculum to meet the needs of all learners; and to improve leadership and management.
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.
In common with all Choueifat Schools, parental involvement in the management of the school is not a feature. Even one-to-one contact with teachers is something of a challenge, since the schools prefer that all parental contact is via the Academic Quality Controllers, who, in theory, have a complete overview of a student’s performance across all subjects.
Whilst many parents and families feel that Choueifat provides them with the academic outcomes they are seeking, the style of teaching and learning and the lack of individualised and independent learning approach definitely does not suit every child. However, given the global reach and organisation of the Choueifat Group, it is difficult to imagine that they will introduce the significant changes advocated by ADEK’s inspectors to their UAE schools.
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Fees range from AED 17,900 (pre-KG/FS1) to AED 26,000 (Grade 12/Year 13) which are at the moderate range.
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