United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Al Mushrif / St. Joseph's School Abu Dhabi

St. Joseph's School Abu Dhabi Review

Part of the Catholic Church-owned St. Mary's Group of Schools, St. Joseph's Abu Dhabi is the oldest member of the group, and only one of two schools within the Group not to bear the St. Mary's name. It is also the only fully Indian curriculum school within the group.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 7,000
Annual fees
AED 5,800 - 10,600
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1967
School year
Apr to Mar
Principal
Sister Carmen
Owner
St. Mary's Group
Community
Main teacher nationality
Indian
Main student nationality
Indian

Nearby nurseries

1.6km • EYFS curriculum
1.8km • EYFS curriculum
2km • EYFS curriculum
2.1km • EYFS curriculum
2.6km • Blended Early Years curriculum
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St. Joseph's School Abu Dhabi
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 7,000
Annual fees
AED 5,800 - 10,600
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1967
School year
Apr to Mar
Principal
Sister Carmen
Owner
St. Mary's Group
Community
Main teacher nationality
Indian
Main student nationality
Indian
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First Published:
Monday 7 January, 2019

Updated:
Tuesday 8 January, 2019

Part of the Catholic Church-owned St. Mary's Group of Schools, St. Joseph's Abu Dhabi is the oldest member of the group, and only one of two schools within the Group not to bear the St. Mary's name. It is also the only fully Indian curriculum school within the group.

The story so far...

St. Joseph's School is a Primary to Secondary school located in the heart of Abu Dhabi at Al Mushrif.  Unusually, although similar to its sister school, the St. Mary's Catholic High School in Dubai, St. Joseph's only starts to educate children from Grade 1 - children join from a range of nurseries. 

The school was established in 1967 and is managed by the Apostolic Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church to Arabia.  St. Joseph's School was always associated with the Roman Catholic Church, and was located initially with the church building on the Corniche strip. Following the decision of the Abu Dhabi Municipality to redevelop the site, the school was obliged to relocate and the present foundation was laid for the church and school buildings on the 19th of March, 1981, being dedicated to St. Joseph, whose feast-day is celebrated on the same day. The day-to-day working of the school is managed by the Carmelite Sisters of St. Theresa, led by the present principal, Sister Carmen. 

St. Joseph's motto is Shine Where You Are. Its Vision is to Educate, Innovate, Empower to become Global Citizens, whilst the school's mission is "To equip students with skills and values to face the challenges of the 21st century, To enable students to achieve their highest potentials by developing their Social and Emotional personality through active learning, To create in students an awareness of Global environmental issues"

St. Joseph's educates both girls and boys in mixed classes from Grade 1 to Grade 6.  From Grade 7, the school is single gender for Girls only. The school has grown to well over 1,100 students, although a halt was placed on the entry of students to Grade 1 in 2017 to allow for some redevelopment of the school.  As a result, numbers have fallen from over 1,300.  The vast majority of students and staff are Indian.  A staff to student ratio of 1:14 encourages personal support for each student.  Staff turnover is minimal.

What about the curriculum?

St. Joseph's is affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education in New Delhi. Students follow the CBSE curriculum from Grade 1 and take part in the X and XII standard public examinations.  Core subjects include Maths, English Language and Literature, Science, Arabic as a Second Language, Hindi, French, Islamic Education and Social Studies.  PE is also included, and the school says that it has always encouraged and motivated its students "to discover their forte and provides them with a platform to showcase their talents through their annual events such as Talent’s day, Sport’s day, Elocution, Drama, Science Quizzes, etc".

The curriculum at X and XII standard is relatively limited with a very specific focus on Science and Commercial subjects. These include a Science and Computer Science stream, a Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Psychology, or Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Biology stream, and a Commerce, Psychology and Maths stream.  Commerce includes Business Studies, Economics and Accountancy, whilst the majority of students also retain English. 

Although St. Joseph's does not publish its exam results in detail - providing only Toppers - the 2017-18 ADEK report includes the following information. "CBSE 2017 data for Grade 10 students show that attainment was outstanding in English, Mathematics and Science. The 2017 CBSE data for Grade 12 students indicate that attainment was outstanding in English, Biology, Chemistry and Physics ,very good in Mathematics and Business Studies, good in Accountancy and Economics and weak in Psychology. Attainment was outstanding in Islamic education and very good in Arabic (Second Language)".

The school aims to ensure that students are academically able and qualified for a university education in order to ensure a wider choice and better career prospects. St Joseph’s School prepare students for university and a future of continuous learning.  The school states that "Through the St Joseph’s School Educational System, students develop a solid foundation of knowledge. They are motivated to strive for academic and personal excellence, and thereby become better geared to meet the challenges of a changing world".

What about facilities?

The School Building is situated in a campus area of 400 x 400 sq.mt. The main building consists of 49 class rooms, 4 Science Laboratories, an IT suite with both desk top and laptop computers and a well equipped Library.  Sports facilities are limited to outside shaded spaces.

What the inspectors say

St. Joseph's has been inspected by ADEK's inspection team on a bi-annual basis and has consistently achieved a Good rating.  Students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills were rated Very Good, as was the Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students during the 2017-18 inspection.

Inspectors identified the strengths of the school as:

  • The achievements of the students in English, the sciences, Islamic education and UAE social studies.
  • The relationships at all levels, the students’ personal and social development and their attitudes to learning.
  • Students’ appreciation and understanding of the heritage and culture of the UAE and Islamic values
  • The protection, care, guidance and support of students
  • The leadership of the principal and the senior team.

Students' achievements within the Primary and Middle (Grades 7 to 10) and High school sections  (Grades 11 and 12) are impressive with attainment and progress across the core subjects of Islamic Education and Science rated Very Good. English and Social Studies are also rated Very Good in the Middle and Senior sections, whilst Good in the Primary section. In common with many international schools, Arabic as a Second language does not fare so well, being rated Acceptable across the school.  Somewhat surprisingly, Maths is also less of a strength, rated Acceptable in the Primary section and Good in the Middle section, but improving to Very Good in the High school section (although, interestingly, Accounting was found to be Weak in Grade 12). 

Other subjects such as Music and PE are rated Good across the school, as are learning skills in Primary and Middle school, whilst they are rated Very Good for Grades 11 and 12.  The school's commitment to students with additional learning needs or Gifts and Talents is also clear "with SEN and G&T students making similar progress to their peers from their respective starting points".  There is evidence of clear progression and improvement as students move through the school.  If achievement can be improved in the Primary section, it can only be expected that this will raise the standards through the school.  Importantly, inspectors found that students are more than capable of improvement, noting that in terms of their learning skills "Most communicate their learning confidently when presenting original research. They discuss their work appropriately in groups and take responsibility for their own learning. Students make clear connections between areas of learning and use their understanding of the world to improve their achievement. The majority use new technologies innovatively to present their work, but their use of a wide range of resources in research is inconsistent across subjects".

Students' personal development was found to be Outstanding across the school, whilst their Social responsibility and innovation skills were rated Good in Primary and Very Good in the Secondary school.  St. Joseph's has a particular focus on the environment, with its Verte Club at the centre of its efforts. 

Inevitably, fundamental the achievement of St. Joseph's students is the quality of teaching at the school.  St. Mary's Group of schools is committed to professional development and this is reflected in the rating of Good in the Primary and Middle school sections and Very Good in the Senior grades.  Inspectors commented that "Most teachers use their secure subject knowledge and understanding of how students learn to consistently plan interesting lessons. Teaching in Arabic (SL) lessons, and of Mathematics in the primary phase, is less strong. They build on students’ motivation and engage them in learning through thoughtful questioning and dialogue. Clear explanations help students to make good connections with everyday experiences. Teachers effectively meet the needs of most students, although in a minority of subjects planning does not sufficiently challenge more able students"

The curriculum design and implementation was found to be Very Good across the school, whilst its adaptation to meet the differing needs of students was found to be Good. Inspectors noted that "Overall, the curriculum is very good. School leaders’ implementation of the CBSE curriculum is effective in developing a balance of relevant skills and understanding and promoting progression across phases. It prepares students very well for the next phase in their education".  The adaptation of the curriculum was found "to meet the needs of almost all groups of students, although more able students are not yet challenged consistently in all subjects".

The protection, care, guidance and support of students is a further strength of St. Joseph's, rated Very Good across the school.  Student-staff relationships are described as Exemplary.  Inspectors also reported that "The school provides highly effective personal and academic guidance and support in all phases. Partnerships with universities provide senior students with very effective career counselling".

The final key performance standard, that of Leadership and Management, although rated Good overall, also achieved ratings of Very Good for three of the five measures.  These included the Effectiveness of Leadership, Partnerships with Parents and the Community and Governance.  The lack of a Senior Leader within the school management to oversee the Arabic curriculum meant that the school's self-evaluation and planning were deemed to be Good.  Where St. Joseph's also needs to invest is in the Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources of the school, which were rated Acceptable. However, inspectors recorded that "School leaders have overcome limitations presented by the school site through careful planning of lessons. Facilities are due to be upgraded in a major rebuilding programme". They also identified the need to invest in a good range of books and technology resources to support students’ research skills. 

Overall, areas for improvement identified by the Inspection team were to: 

  • Further raise achievement in all subjects, and particularly in Arabic as a second language and [the] primary phase by: ensuring teachers in all subjects improve their use of assessment data [and] plan to consistently meet the needs of different groups of students, especially the more able and G&T students; improving teaching in Arabic through more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning, and the sharing of good practice from other departments; increasing the rigour of curriculum review in Arabic to improve provision; ensuring good practice in teaching in middle and high phases is shared further with primary phase teachers; [and] developing additional opportunities across the curriculum to challenge more able and G&T students.
  • Improve students’ enterprise, creativity and innovation skills by: providing additional opportunities across the curriculum to develop these skills; ensuring teachers’ planning consistently challenges students to make full use of opportunities for independent learning; [and] broadening the range of resources in classrooms, including new technology, so that students have extended opportunities to research using a variety of sources.

Whilst many of the improvements in the first recommendation may well be achievable by the current staff and resources of St. Joseph's, the second recommendation requires not only potential teaching and curriculum changes and staff development to achieve these, but also a not inconsiderable investment in physical resources, and specifically IT, which is costly.  St. Joseph's has already committed to significant improvements to the school site; it will be interesting to see if the Church and school are able to make the funds available to invest further in the resources of the school - bearing in mind that ADEK deems its fees to be Very Low.

Fees range from AED 5,800 in Grade 1 to AED 10,000 in Grade 12.  This is a remarkably low level of fees for a school that consistently delivers academically (albeit with limited subject options).

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