What is the purpose of education? As an institution, Choueifat, and the SABIS model it is based upon, asks exactly that question. While it is very clear in its answer, not everyone is convinced although enough are to make this a very popular school.
The International School of Choueifat Dubai has been rated Acceptable for the ninth year in a row in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed once the full report has been published.
The story so far...
Located in Al Sufouh, the original Dubai branch of the International School of Choueifat was established in 1994. A second branch aimed at meeting the consistent demand (and long waiting lists) opened in Dubai Investment Park in 2012.
A review of The International School of Choueifat, Dubai could easily be a debate on the purpose of education: Is a school primarily a mechanism to achieve academically and get into a good university, or is there something more holistic than that - to develop the mind, intellect, curiosity and the person?
Being a second year university student, I see students from different schools struggling with the work load. One question I’m met with everyday is “How do you manage..?”. My answer: “Choueifat” - See reader comments for more.
The Dubai school takes on children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in 123 classes across the year groups with some 4,000 students attending in total. The majority of students learned Arabic as a first language. Arab students comprised by far the largest group, with significant numbers of Emirati, Indian, Pakistani, US, Iranian, Canadian and UK students.
There are approximately 160 teachers, and a teacher-student ratio of one teacher to twenty seven students (high). The KHDA notes that class sizes are often large. Teacher turnover, at 25%, is also on the high side.
The majority of teachers are recruited from Ireland. Class sizes are quite large, with a teacher to student ratio of 1:27 (outside of KG). KG class sizes are also large with 1 teacher to 22 children (2014/15 figures).
What about the curriculum?
The school offers both UK and US based curricula. IGCSE, AS and A-levels are based upon the National Curriculum of England and Wales, while AP and SAT tests were of US origin. However the teaching methodology is based on the 130 year old SABIS system - the differentiating factor for all Choueifat schools.
Choueifat is well known for its prescriptive form of education, and has remained immune to the fashion sweeping across the education world for child led learning through discovery as embodied in philosophies such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia.
In fact, Choueifat in Dubai is one of a select few schools that has moved down the KHDA's ranking largely because it is impervious to requests for change. This is particularly so in the context of individual student assessment and curriculum adaptation, and all the more so in the context of the Dubai Schools Inclusive Education policy - the school does not acknowledge the need to additional inclusive support for children with additional learning needs.
Note, not all students choose to take external examinations. Most students complete their education in Grade 12, with only a few completing a 13th Year.
What about academic achievement?
One suggestion we have for the school is to publish its academic results, and where students go to university. On the web site, the marketing copy includes references to the likes of Oxford and Harvard - but given the size of the school and decades of students, if someone had not entered an Ivy League institution that would have been something of a surprise. The school's web site is very backwards about coming forwards, really it tells you nothing.
To back up its claim to achieve academically we would advise the school publishes its results transparently each year, along with the university destination of its students. This is after all its primary selling proposition. At the moment we have to take their word for it, which, when you are talking about something as important as your child's education, is just not good enough.
What the inspectors say
For the last nine years now, including the latest inspection report for 2018/19, Choueifat, Dubai has been ranked Acceptable, below the Good rating that the KHDA, Dubai's education regulator, deems to benchmark for schools in the emirate.
From the 2012/13 report: "The school had made little other progress since the last inspection because it did not take action on the report’s recommendations."
From the KHDA 2012/13 report: "The SABIS organisation ensured the continuity of the school’s educational values but it did not allow the school freedom to innovate or develop...Recommendations from the previous inspection had not been addressed. The school remained non-compliant with the Ministry of Education curriculum requirements for Islamic Education and Arabic. It was the policy of the school to minimise parents’ involvement in their children’s learning and contact with teachers. The school did not take into account, or act on, views of stakeholders. The school functioned satisfactorily on a day to day basis but its evaluations of its own performance were inaccurate."
Subsequent reports have largely followed in the same vein. That the school disregards outside influence in spite of the pressure to conform, is in some ways impressive. The KHDA itself notes that the school's "promise to parents that every student would achieve a place at university was true for most of the children who stayed (note, not all do) to Grade 12." 'Under performing' children need to take extra lessons over the weekend to get them up to scratch'. This is clearly a school that does not like academic failure.
The question is whether less prescriptive forms of education can achieve as much academically, while liberating the child's mind for more innovative, less restricted thinking. Clearly the KHDA thinks so stating that while the school’s methods of education were suitable for the oldest students to acquire a good enough knowledge and examination technique in a limited range of subjects, its methods of education were much less appropriate for younger students, especially the children in Kindergarten.
"At this level, the restricted range of subjects and activities in the curriculum did not allow students to develop their own individual skills, talents and creativity." Perhaps most telling, displays and activities - the sign of child led learning are minimal at the school.
There are many parents - and students - that swear by the Choueifat, SABIS methodology, and there are many adults in Dubai that have graduated from the school and gone onto great things in the business world, and beyond. However, what is clear is that the Choueifat approach is traditional, strict and quite 'closed', and it has to be one that you think is right for your child.
Choueifat international school are also located Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah, Ruwais, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain.
Fees at Choueifat Dubai range from AED 19,833 in KG1 to AED 37,958 in Grade 12/Year 13.
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