Sharjah American International School Abu Dhabi is the fourth school in a group that originated in Sharjah. The school follows the US curriculum.
The Story so far...
Sharjah American International School Abu Dhabi (SAIS-AUH) is the fourth school in this Sharjah-based schools' group. It started life as Scholars American International School (presumably in order to address any possible confusion caused by the Sharjah branding), only to be renamed when another group, coincidentally also operating a school by the same name in Sharjah, objected to the use of their brand.
The SAIS Group of Schools was established in 1997 in Sharjah by Dr. Aysha Ali Bin Sayyar and Dr. Nawaf Mohamed Fawaz who wanted to provide more educational choices for students and their parents.
Following the success of the original Sharjah American International School, a second branch was opened in Dubai, in 2005, followed by the third school in Umm Al Quwain in 2014, and by the Abu Dhabi branch in 2016.
The school's Mission is "to ensure each student achieves personal goals, develops individual purpose, and becomes college and career ready, in a culture distinguished by character, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity that promotes safety and social growth."
Its Values are S-Social Responsibility A-Acceptance I-Integrity S-Self-confident
According to the school, its Vision is to provide an education at SAIS-AUH [that] ensures that all students:
Given that this is a relatively new school, it is probably unsurprising that student numbers are not yet especially high. In fact, at the last ADEK inspection in early 2019, SAIS-AUH had just over 300 students from KG to Grade 8 - the school is now open to Grade 9 expanding annually until it establishes all classes to Grade 12. Students are educated together from KG to Grade 4, after which classes are separated by gender.
The vast majority of students (86%) are from the local Emirati community, with a further 4% from Yemen and 2% from Egypt. The remaining 8% of students is made up of a range of different nationalities. Classes are taught in English.
Students are supported by 34 teachers and 5 teaching assistants, providing a very low teacher:student ratio of 1:9. This should ensure plentiful individual attention and adaptation of the curriculum to meet student needs. As is also usually the case in new schools, the majority of students are in the KG (22%) and Elementary (38%), but a relatively substantial 40% were studying from Grades 6 to 8 at the time of the inspection.
Staff turnover - at 9% - was very much lower than the UAE average of 20-22%, a very good sign for the stability of staffing at the school.
What about the curriculum?
The schools offer an enriched American Curriculum which is based on the Common Core Standards for English and Math, and NGSS standards for Science. The school follows the California State Education Framework. The subjects offered include English Language Arts, Mathematics, History, Art, Music, and Physical Education, along with a full core of MOE subjects (Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies) and an American core of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
The California standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The standards are a starting point for transforming the way students learn through problem solving in relevant real world experiences. They are designed to help reflect the knowledge and skills that students need for success in future college and career endeavours. SAIS-AD focuses on fostering critical thinking by helping students develop complex problem solving skills.
According to Ms. Bana Al Duri, Principal at SAIS-AUH, the school offers "curriculum, instructional strategies, and resources to meet the needs and styles of diverse learners. Each student will be challenged to achieve based on individual strengths and areas of growth and through small group instruction, personalized education time, and interventions built into the school day. At our core, we are a community of educators and learners who are deeply dedicated to the well-being and success of every student."
In common with most US curriculum schools, SAIS-AUH has a strong focus on cross-curricular teaching through its STEAM programme which is designed to provide students with an opportunity to engage in Science, Art, Math, engineering and technology. Students are provided with the tools to experiment with robotic technology while learning about construction and programming.
Programmes such as Lego Mind Storm, SAM, PITSCO, and PASCO Kits help students understand the different branches of engineering and problem solving while incorporating mathematics and physics. Student use iPad products to inspire creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. The aim is to cultivate environments in which students are excited and curious about learning.
In the Kindergarten, students follow the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) for KG1 and KG2 which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for kindergarten, and provides valuable information about students’ developmental progress.
The DRDP is made up of eight core areas for development:
The focus of each core area is on the acquisition of knowledge, skills, or behaviours that reflect each area’s developmental targets. KG students have daily visits to the STEAM lab.
The Elementary curriculum follows the California Common Core Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and English Social Studies. The school follows the Next Generation Science Standards in Science and is aligned with the MOE curriculum for Arabic, Arabic Social Studies, and Islamic subjects. Elements of UAE heritage, history and Islamic culture are incorporated during teaching and learning activities across all disciplines.
Core subjects are taught by class teachers, (English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies) and specialist classes are taught by subject specialists in Arabic, Arabic Social Studies, Islamic, ICT, Music, Art, Physical Education, and French.
In the Middle School students continue with the core subjects of English, Math, Science and Social Studies but are offered a number of electives from which they can select. Grade 6 subject options are broadly arts-focused and students can choose to take French, Art or Music. Electives offered to Grade 7 and 8 students expand on the arts and introduce new fields of interest including Creative Writing, Speech and Debate, Personal Finance, and Cyber Security and Engineering Technology.
In addition, by offering a variety of electives, outdoor education, and service experiences, students learn to give voice to their opinions, questions, and personal passions. Project based learning reinforces the importance of cooperation and collective achievement, while interdisciplinary learning helps students make meaningful connections between coursework and real life, and helps foster understanding and concern for others.
The school offers Field trips, participating in MUN, Science Fairs assemblies, as a means of exposing students to the outside world with the aim of enabling Middle School students to move on to High School " fully prepared as ambitious, creative, self-motivated learners."
The High school curriculum seeks to further develop critical thinking, advanced writing and creative reasoning skills across all subject areas. High school students are expected to gain knowledge in fundamental areas as well as develop a sense of their own strengths and interests — skills that are essential to success in college. The minimum graduation credit requirement for SAIS-AUH high school students is 25 credits in a four-year program.
What about Academic Achievement?
SAIS-AUH says that its Support Team seeks to create a school environment where students feel supported academically and emotionally. The school aims to ensure that all staff members are working to support the students with plans, activities, and appropriate follow-up to help them achieve success both inside and outside of the classroom.
Students in Grades 3 upward take a CAT 4 (Cognitive Ability) test once on joining the school so that their learning style can be identified and incorporated into personalised teaching.
In order to track student achievement, students from Grade 1 upwards take internal assessments at the end of each academic term. These assessments are used to track student attainment of curriculum goals across a range of subjects. Students receive study guides at least two to three weeks prior to these assessments to enable them to prepare.
The results of the internal assessments provide detailed information to teachers about student learning targets met each term, and, importantly, enable teachers to revise the curriculum in the next term to meet individual student needs and goals.
In addition, students in Grades 3 upward also take external assessments utilising widely-used standardized MAP tests. These tests are taken three times throughout the course of the academic school year. MAP assessments are computer-based and produce accurate, reliable data that reveals the precise learning level of every student, regardless of the student's ability or grade level.
Students at SAIS-AUH also participate in the IBT (International Bench-marking Test) Arabic Language Proficiency exam conducted by ACER. The school will also be expected to participate in the other International Bench-marking tests required under the UAE's Vision 2020 requirements including TIMMS, PISA and PIRLS.
What about the Facilities?
The purpose built campus is divided into separate sections for the KG department and Elementary departments, Middle and High School Boys Section, and Middle and High School Girls Section.
In the KG Department, students have homeroom classes and their own Music room, Literacy room, and STEAM room are used daily on a rotational basis. Elementary students also have homeroom classrooms and a dedicated Literacy Room, STEAM room and an Art room. Middle and High School Boys and Girls Sections have both subject and homeroom classrooms. There is a large secondary library where students are able to go to conduct research, check out reading material. The school also has fully equipped laboratories, art and music rooms, an Islamic room, and French and Arabic language rooms.
Sports facilities include separate boys' and girls' gymnasium, two swimming pools, volleyball courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, and outdoor play areas.
What the inspectors say
Having achieved an Acceptable rating on first inspection in 2016-17, SAIS-AUH consolidated its rating, achieving an Acceptable rating for the second time in 2018-19. Five of the six key indicators retained their rating from the first inspection, whilst that of Students' Personal and Social Development, and their Innovation Skills obtained a Good rating overall.
Inspectors acknowledged that Leaders had "maintained an overall acceptable standard of education in spite of the challenges posed by the influx of new students across all age groups and new staff for the increased number of classes." Student numbers had grown from 50 in the first year to over 300 by the time of the second inspection.
The Inspection team found that the school had been successful in targeting reading for all in their daily timetabled reading session. In Arabic, there had been an improvement in achievement, from weak to acceptable, across all phases of the school. Attainment in Islamic education had also improved across all phases from weak to acceptable. Achievement in KG improved to good in English, mathematics and science.
In fact, English was rated Good across all sections of the school for both attainment and progress. Given that almost all children are learning the subject as a Second language, this is a not inconsiderable achievement.
In terms of the strengths of the school, inspectors found these to be:
There were, inevitably, a significant number of areas of improvement, but there is not a single criteria in the report that is rated Weak - again a real achievement for a relatively new school.
Key areas for improvement identified by the inspection team include the requirement to:
In common with many schools in the UAE, the focus on assessment and adaptation of the curriculum and teaching to meet individual student needs is clearly proving to be something of a challenge at SAIS-AUH. Only through this, however, will Student Achievement improve overall.
However, the fact the school is acknowledged for its staff who "are qualified and receive regular professional development opportunities" suggests that leadership of the school is aware of the need for focus on these issues.
If you would like to read the full inspection report, and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to see the reasons behind the ratings, you will find it here.
Unfortunately, ADEK does not provide any detailed feedback from students, parents or teachers. However, we do know that "The links with parents and the daily running of the school are good. Relationships between students and teachers are positive and this creates effective learning conditions in most lessons. The school is successful in engaging parents as partners in their children’s’ education. Regular communications keep parents updated on their children’s progress and future learning plans."
The low staff turnover of 9% suggests that the school offers a good working environment which should enable it to retain staff and create a stable team.
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What about the fees?
Fees at SAIS- AUH are in ADEK's high category, starting at AED 29,500 for KG and rising to AED 39,300 in Grade 9. These are tuition fees only and do not include books, stationery, student agendas and resources for lessons taught in Arabic. A further AED 800 to AED 2,500 is payable for these 'extras' dependent on Grade.
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