Shining Star International School is a CBSE curriculum school which opened in the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi in 2014. It currently educates around 1,800 children from KG1 to Grade 12.
The story so far...
SSIS is a relatively new school that is now in its fifth year of operation. The school aims to provide a sound and holistic education, offering a wide variety of subjects and extra curricular activities to ensure that children develop a broad range of skills. Technology is at the heart of the school's educational process ensuring students are prepared for an ever changing world. SSIS works towards ensuring that students "evolve into responsible citizens with knowledgeable minds and benevolent hearts".
The school is led by its Chairman, Mr. Sanjiv Khanna, whose remarks on the school website include "Shining Star believes that only education can bring about a positive change in society. The school plays an important role in each student’s journey, right from the beginning aiming to enable them to become well-equipped for the future challenges".
The school's mission is "through the combined efforts of our staff, parents, students and community to develop future leaders with active and creative minds. Our focus is on the holistic development of the individual, social, moral, intellectual and physical growth, along with a strong sense of heritage and culture". Its vision, which gives a sense of the direction within the school, is "To be a school of innovation and creativity, preparing students for global challenges". Technology is a key part of the delivery of the vision and curriculum of the school.
Principal, Mr. Alyas Ali, joined the school in 2016 with the aim of improving SSIS' performance following its first ADEK inspection in 2015, when it was rated Weak. The second inspection, which took place in February 2017, rated the school as Acceptable overall with inspectors commenting on the improvements under Mr. Ali's leadership. Mr. Ali comments "we aim to provide each and every student with a unique experience which allows them to achieve their potential in both academic and social terms. We believe in developing everyone holistically and we aim to produce young adults who will positively contribute to their communities and the world as a whole".
In a clear step towards transparency and good governance, SSIS organises a Parent Council which meets on a monthly basis. The participants of the Council are chosen on an annual basis with the aim of finding parents with a broad mix of skills that can contribute to the school's operations. In addition, two parents also participate, together with the owner, the chairman, the Dean, the school principal, one member of staff and two community members, on a newly formed Board of Trustees.
The school has grown rapidly since its opening, with some 1,120 students (down substantially compared with supported 1,800 two years ago), supported by 84 teachers (143 in 2016) teachers and 4 (41 in 2016) teaching assistants. A staff to student ratio of 1:13 (a relatively low figure and well below the 1:20 of 2016) is maintained throughout the school, with maximum class sizes of 25 in KG and 30 in the remainder of the school. Students are predominantly from India (some 89%), followed by Pakistan (9%) and Bangladesh. Teacher turnover, at 16%, had been on the high side for an Indian school (as noted also by ADEK), but has reduced to 13%, low compared with the UAE average of 20-22%.
What about the curriculum?
SSIS delivers the curriculum in accordance with the guidelines of the CBSE, followed through NCERT textbooks. Equal weightage is given to academic and co-curricular activities, ensuring holistic development of each child. According to the school, the curriculum is research oriented, challenging and caters to the needs of students with varied abilities. The school emphasises critical thinking and creative expression among its students and aims at seeing them excel both academically and socially.
SSIS teaches five languages including English, Arabic, Hindi, Malayalam and Urdu. Co-curricular activities include yoga, martial arts, football, cricket coaching, Abacus, Robotics classes, nature clubs, book clubs, art and craft camps, drama, music and dance, chess, language, photography, literary and vocational studies among others.
What about Academic Achievement?
Unfortunately, SSIS does not appear to publish its academic results - something we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com always encourage in order that students can share their achievements and parents can see how the school is performing. Whilst academic achievement should not be the be-all and end-all of education, it is inevitably an important factor in school choice. ADEK's inspection report notes that "Standards in high phase are outstanding in English, very good in Arabic, good in science, and acceptable in mathematics. International Benchmark Test data for 2017 show attainment to be below average in [the] primary and middle phases for English, mathematics and science.
What about facilities?
The school is housed in a modern building in the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi. Facilities include a library, drama studio, computer labs, robotics lab, science labs and multi-purpose auditorium along with a cafeteria, music and art facilities and a clinic, in addition to the usual classroom and outdoor sports facilities. SSIS offers competitive sports throughout the year, together with a wide range of arts.
What the inspectors say
Having received an initial rating of C6 under the previous ADEC rating system (in need of significant improvement), SSIS had come a long way by the time of its second inspection in February 2016, when it achieved an Acceptable rating. In May 2018, on its third inspection, SSIS was again rated Acceptable. Two of the six key performance standards - those of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills, together with Leadership and Management were rated Good, whilst the remaining four measures were rated Acceptable. In fact, with the exception of standards under these two categories, every one of the ratings for SSIS were Acceptable.
Whilst the overall rating of the school remained unchanged compared with February 2016, the inspection team did note a range of improvements. These included progress in addressing most of the recommendations from the previous inspection report. Students’ achievement in Maths and Science in Kindergarten(KG) and the Primary section, and other subjects in the Middle section had improved and are now acceptable. Teaching and assessment were found to be at least acceptable across subjects. A school system for marking and feedback has been introduced and the school had reviewed assessment systems and improved the accuracy of assessment data. This has resulted in progress targets being set for each student.
The report notes that Leaders are continuing to develop these processes and they are becoming increasingly effective tools for raising achievement. A systematic review of subjects has been completed and action plans provide for the review of outcomes, and contribute to plans for professional development. Leaders have ensured approval for all teachers and resolved licensing regulation issues relating to timetabling of the school day. Leadership has been restructured to include Heads of Departments who have been delegated some leadership responsibilities. The school has developed appropriate links with local schools and charities. Overall, leadership had improved and is now good. Leaders have been successful in promoting a shared sense of direction for the school. Importantly, previous weaknesses in teaching across a number of subjects have been eliminated.
The strengths of the school were identified as:
One of the key measures of the inspection team is the capacity for a school to improve. Usually, this indicator is rated in line with the school's overall inspection rating. SSIS was judged to have Good capacity for improvement - an indication that provided the school continues to improve to the same standard, it is on its way to this level of overall rating. However, with the vast majority of ratings - and notably for Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and Curriculum - being rated Acceptable, there is still clearly a considerable path to improvement to follow at SSIS currently.
The key recommendations, as identified by the Inspection team from the 2018 inspection, were the need to:
Given the progress made by Shining Star International School between the initial and third inspection, and the evident clear direction of the leadership, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks forward to learning more about the school's path to improvement over the next academic year. All the signs from the most recent inspection suggest that progress will continue.
Tuition fees at Shining Star International School are low to moderate with KG1 commencing at AED 7,900 and Grade 12 AED 15,500. Fees may be paid in four payments across the academic year. In addition to the Tuition fees, parents will also need to pay for books (varying between AED 495 in KG1 to AED 880 in Grade 12) and uniforms (AED 396-435).
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