The International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi opened its doors in November 1978 in a temporary site before moving to its current site in Khalifa Bin Muhammad Street, Al-Mushref, in November 1979. ISC-Abu Dhabi is built on a large area of 35,000 m2 and caters for over 3,600 students from the age of 4 to 18. After having achieved a Good rating in the 2015-16 inspection round, the latest ADEK inspection has rated the school one grade lower at Acceptable.
The largest nationality group of students at the school comes from Jordan (14%) who have overtaken students from Lebanon (13%), the home of the Choueifat group, SABIS, followed by Egyptians (10%). UAE Nationals also make up a sizable part of the school's population, also with 11% of the total. The origin of students is important - most pupils entering the school have little or no English.
The school's curriculum is "SABIS International", its home grown system, but to ensure the hard work is recognized students sit more globally recognized exams - GCSE, IGCSE, A’levels for entry into UK /European universities, and AP and SAT for US universities. The school also offers TOEFL, the teaching of English as a foreign language to non native speakers - which would be the majority at the school.
The International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi currently employs 148 teachers, and 38 assistants. The number of teachers has actually reduced by 3 since the last ADEK inspeciton report, although student numbers have grown by around 200. For a school with mid-range fees its teacher:student ratios are fairly high at KG/ FS 1:13,and in other phases, 1:24. Teacher turnover is currently running at 27%, on the high side for the UAE.
The school has as its aim to "qualify every student for entrance to university, provide a well‐rounded education based on mastery of English and mathematics, enable acquisition of a second language, train students for logical reasoning and critical thinking, prepare students for sustained intellectual effort, and generate excitement for life‐long learning."
Choueifat in general is known very much for the first part of the stated goal - getting students to be exam ready. It is less well known for its broader development of the child and his/her critical reasoning skills. More on this here.
According to ADEK's most recent inspection, overall this is a performing school and rates "Good" for protection, care, guidance and support of students, and for student personal and social development, and their innovation skills. The latter is a reduction from Very Good in the previous report. More worrying perhaps for parents and students at least (although on past evidence and the current report's comments, the school itself does not seem concerned), the overall rating has been reduced from Good in 2015-16 to Acceptable in 2017-18.
In terms of actual attainment, again the school achieves an Acceptable rating for both progress and attainment for English, Maths and Science, across grades, a reduction from Good in the previous report. For parents that weigh importance to Arabic (as either a first or second language) the level of attainment is very good in Arabic as a first language in the kindergarten (KG), but for other grades, and for Islamic Studies and Social Studies the school delivers only Acceptable performance for progress or attainment, in any phase. Indeed, it appears that the school is not adhering to ADEK/Ministry of Education requirements in relation to the teaching time for Arabic as second language, as per the curriculum requirement.
The inspectors note that students’ strong work ethic and resilience contribute to their success. Their personal and social development is good and students attend well and support one another with their learning. However, they have limited opportunities to follow their own interests and use the learning skills that underpin innovation in lessons.
The overall quality of teaching and assessment was also found to be acceptable. Teachers have good subject knowledge and present lessons at a brisk pace. However, their understanding of how to deliver effective lessons is inconsistent. The school’s rigorous approaches to assessment promote students’ achievement of curriculum outcomes. However, these are not supported by effective use of assessment to adapt lessons to meet students’ needs.
Having said this, the school consistently ranks highly in PISA and TIMSS examinations. Across subjects, most students reach and a large majority exceed curriculum standards in both MOE and SABIS examinations. Those students who sit international examinations including IGCSE, A-level, SATS and AP qualifications consistently perform above curriculum standards. All students passed the TOEFL exam enabling 98% to access university courses. However, the inspectors note that these standards are not borne out in most lessons, particularly in the Primary phase. Students’ achievement in the Senior School is generally better than at other phases in the school though there is no significant difference between the achievement of boys and girls.
The SABIS curriculum offers a broad range of subject choices, enriched by extra-curricular activities and was also found to be Acceptable. However, the time devoted to examinations and testing (for which Choueifat schools are known) reduces teaching time in a minority of subjects. Teachers closely follow material provided to support the SABIS curriculum which gives students the knowledge they need to pass the examinations, but only a minority of teachers enhance explanations to broaden students’ learning beyond the curriculum.
Curriculum adaptation to meet the individual needs of students in lessons is underdeveloped and the delivery of the curriculum does not nurture students’ individual talents sufficiently. The school does not enrol students with special educational needs (SEN) and low attaining students are not always identified and supported effectively in lessons. In terms of changing speeds of the education your child receives, SABIS schools are in general not set up for this - there is little differentiation allowed. Instead your child will need to get up to the speed of the rest of the class (though extra classes or home tuition), or to just slow things down. That can be equally hard either way.
Across all subjects ADEK's inspectors comment that students’ knowledge is stronger than their skills, which are mainly developed in activities out with the classroom. This suggests that independent learning, which is key to life and work beyond school, may well be something of a challenge for some students who are used to being "taught to the test".
Having said this, the school provides a good standard of protection, care, guidance and support to students. Rigorously applied policies and procedures ensure students’ health and safety. Older students benefit from effective academic guidance which helps them to secure positive post-school destinations.
The ADEK report notes a number of areas for improvement. These include the need for increased levels of support and challenge in lessons so all children make the progress they are capable of by improving teachers’ skills and techniques for gauging students’ understanding during the course of lessons; using resources to support students who are struggling in lessons; developing more challenging tasks for students who are competent at the level of the lesson and developing the use of technologies for independent learning.
Teachers need to broaden the range of teaching strategies to support younger children with their learning including providing facilities for learning by discovery and enquiry during play and introducing collaborative and practical activities in lessons to help students to develop their conceptual understanding and apply their learning.
If you are a parent who likes to be involved in your child's education, note "the SABIS system does not involve parents in decision making". Parents and students can access information about the school and their child’s performance from the ‘Web school’.
Fees at The International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi are not listed on its web site, but range from AED 19,600 – AED 34,600 - mid range for an Abu Dhabi school, but perhaps on the value side given the examinations offered (and its relative success) and the school's central location.
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