Based in Al Nahda, Dubai, The Central School is located close to the Sharjah border and attracts students from across Dubai and the Northern Emirates. It follows the CBSE curriculum, blended with Montessori in the KG section.
The story so far...
Established in 1980, The Central School (TCS) is part of the NIMS Group of Schools, which includes the New Indian Model School Dubai, New Indian Model School, Sharjah, New Indian Model School, Al Ain and The Model (New Indian) School in Abu Dhabi. All five schools in the group are noted for their low fees.
The school's vision is Providing Our Best In Education, For As Many As We Can.
Its mission is to provide a Holistic Education In An Environment Most Congenial And Innovating, Where Virtue Is The Strongest Shield.
In order to add some further substance to its goals, TCS also publishes its "Central Philosophy" which includes
The Central School is a mixed school, taking children from 3 to 18 years of age. It presently has 3021 students on its register, a reduction of some 200 since its previous inspection, driven almost certainly by economic circumstances.
Though strongly discouraged by the regulator, The Central School runs two separate sessions in order to be able to meet the demand of parents. A morning session is provided for boys and girls from Kindergarten to Grade 2 and for girls from Grades 3 to 12. The afternoon session consists of boys classes from Grades 3 to 12. The school employs 172 qualified teachers and 18 teaching assistants - slight reductions in numbers presumably reflecting the lower student numbers. This means that a staff:student ratio of 1:18 has been maintained. In common with other schools in the group, TCS is particularly supportive of Students of Determination, with close to 500 children identified with Special Educational Needs.
There have clearly been issues with teacher retention in the past, with some 38% of staff having left the school in 2015-16, but this trend appears to have steadied, with the turnover in 2016-17 having reduced to 16% and that for 2017-18 having increased to the norm for the UAE of 21%. However, having to replace one-fifth of the teaching staff is inevitably disruptive. The majority of staff and students come from Indian and sub continent expat families.
What about the curriculum?
TCS students follow the Indian-based National Council for Education and Research and Training syllabus (NCERT) until Grade 9, and complete the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) examination syllabuses for Grades X and XII. TCS follows the Montessori approach in KG. The school offers both a Science and Commerce stream - in common with most Indian schools, there is little provision for Arts within the main curriculum.
In addition to Hindi, Bengali and Urdu, the school offers Malayalam or Tamil as an additional language. Computer is taught as a subject from Std. I onwards to provide students. Co-scholastic activities include The Science Club and a Debating and Dramatic Association (LDDA), whilst students may also prepare for Qirat. Hifz-E-Quran classes are conducted at the school for Hifz (ie memorization of the holy Quran). Other activities include indoor games, such as tennis, chess and carom, and karate training, as well as audio-visual programmes, fine arts and project works which also take place.
Sports provision is limited - cricket, throw ball and athletics are offered, while special training is given for Basketball, Football and Volley ball under the supervision of trained coaches of the game.
What about Academic Achievement?
Unfortunately, TCS provides very little information about the achievements of its students - and what little it does publish on its website relates to male students only. According to the school 100% of students passed their Grade 10 and 12 CBSE examinations. However, it is not clear how many students were involved and the Toppers scores of 93.2% for Science (followed by 85% and 81%) and the Commerce Toppers (all in the 80% area) are certainly on the low side compared with the level of academic achievement attained by other CBSE schools in Dubai - including TCS' sister school, the New Model Indian School in Dubai.
What about facilities?
The school houses a range of facilities for its students, with separate labs for Computer science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Home science. Two Computer labs (for Senior and Junior students separately) are enabled with updated computers. The school has a fully equipped library with a reference section and a reading room area, stocked with books in various categories and a number of periodicals. A school clinic, canteen and store are among other facilities. Outside, a large play ground, Basketball and Volley Ball courts and a Cricket Pitch provide ample facility for games and sports. A separate play area for the primary section and another for the Kindergarten section are equipped with play items suitable for the younger children.
What the inspectors say
The school is ranked Acceptable by the KHDA, a grade it has held for the last ten years - since inspections began. This is an achievement it shares with both the New Model Indian School in Dubai and The Model School in Abu Dhabi.
The inspection team was positive about the fact that in terms of Student Outcomes, all aspects of students' attainment and progress are now rated Acceptable or Good - although the vast majority are rated Acceptable. Students also have very well-developed personal and social skills. They particularly noted the very positive way in which the school empowers girls to be confident and self-assured.
The quality of assessment by teachers in order to determine students' development needs has improved since the last inspection, but the quality of teaching remains only Acceptable in the KG and Primary school sections, although it is Good in the Secondary school. The inspectors also noted that the curriculum is adapted to an Acceptable level to meet students' needs, but does not fully cater to students who are Gifted and Talented, although support for students with SEN has improved, though remains "just adequate" in the Primary and Middle school sections. They also noted that the curriculum design is Good in the Secondary school with a range of course options.
The appointment of a new Principal and her early impact on staff were also greeted positively by the inspectors. She has managed to improve teamwork, the school's self-evaluation and assessment. A key focus of this process have been a recognition of the need to ensure consistency in results, particularly between girls and boys.
The key areas of focus for the school identified by the inspection team are:
While the school claims its facilities are "state of the art, worthy of high class academic institution", according to its KHDA report the level of student resources supporting learning (such as the provision of computers) is merely adequate.
Students who responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey were mainly positive about TCS with 54% feeling Happy and a further 26% being Medium happy according to the Well-being census. Over 900 parents responded to the survey and whilst the vast majority (93%) were satisfied with the quality of education provided by TCS, a few felt that bullying is an on-going issue at the school.
It is clear from the 2018-19 inspection report that TCS still has a long way to go in its improvement journey. However, there clearly are positive changes afoot under the leadership of the new Principal. It will be interesting to see how far the school has come when the next inspection takes place in 2019-20.
Fees for the school are comparatively very, very affordable, which will be the major draw for families with incomes at the lower end of the spectrum. They range from AED 3, 643 per year at KG 1 and 2 grades, to AED 6,412 for Grades 11 and 12. There are a range of additional fees for Medical and Activity fees (AED 100 and 200 respectively) and Lab fees (AED 100 and 200 for Grades 9-10 and 11-12 respectively). This level of fees will however put financial constraints on the school upgrading its facilities, teacher resources and recruitment, arguably something the school greatly needs.
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