The first International School of Choueifat started in Choueifat, Lebanon in 1886 and later spread to various parts of the Gulf region. The first Choueifat school in the Gulf opened in Sharjah, UAE in 1975 and subsequently others opened in other cities across the Middle East.
The International School of Choueifat - Lebanon is the mother school of the SABIS group of schools. It was established in the village of Choueifat, Lebanon, in 1886 by Tanios Saad and Louisa Procter, an Irish woman who was teaching in the area. The first building to be used as a school campus was an original mill factory. It was originally for girls only.
Only the Dubai school has a KHDA rating and has been rated Acceptable for the last 6 years. The Dubai school had 3965 students registered at the time of the inspection, the majority of them Arab nationals, with approximately 7% Emirati. The school had 153 teachers and 31 teaching assistants, with the majority of teachers hailing from Ireland.
The SABIS approach
The promise of the SABIS approach is that university is reachable by the majority of students, "not a select few". It is an admirable philosophy, and it would be good to see SABIS publish the results of external based examinations, something its schools, certainly in the UAE, do not do.
Presently it is not possible for parents assessing schools to see whether the teaching style actually works in practice.
The style is a quite traditional, and an increasingly unique teaching methodology, for schools offering Western based qualifications.
SABIS has not adopted the learning through play, child-centred style of education adopted by newer teaching methodologies, but maintained a rigorous approach of classroom teaching (i.e. not child centred), tests, monitoring and group class based teaching.
Monitoring is used "to prevent the development of knowledge gaps during their learning process".
According to SABIS: "Unlike one-to-one or individualized teaching, where each child is taught for a limited amount of time, the SABIS Point System of teaching is an interactive approach that involves the whole class in the learning process. When in class, students learn actively.
"They do not simply listen to lengthy explanations or take dictated notes. SABIS teachers list the concepts to be taught and introduce them one "point" at a time applying the cycle of Teach, Class Practice, Individual Practice, and Check.
"The teacher explains the point to the class, gives an example in which the point is used, and then assigns a written activity to check for individual student understanding. Group work is then used to complement the SABIS Point System whereby students work in small groups to check their work and provide additional support to their classmates.
"This time also gives the teacher the opportunity to visually survey the learning in the room and assess the need for immediate re-teaching. The teacher moves to the following point only when practically all students show in writing - and not just orally - that they have a firm grasp of the 'point' taught.
According to feedback to Which School Advisor, the approach is intensive, and demands motivated students. Saturday school is required, especially for those with identified knowledge gaps and homework can be considerable, which is something to keep in mind as more and more schools move away from assignment homework and move more towards task and project based learning.
In their report, the KHDA finds that attainment and progress is acceptable in almost all key subjects in the Kindergarten and primary phases whereas in the high school, attainment and progress is higher in English, mathematics and science."
In terms of the students' social development, the report notes that the behavior of the students in the high school is very good and almost all students throughout the school are well behaved in lessons; however, when unsupervised, the behaviour of some students is not as strong.
Although the curriculum is rigorous, the teaching style is noted to be inflexible, which can create challenges for students who require modifications or adaptations to suit their learning needs. As the KHDA explains, "Teaching [is] acceptable overall but it [does] not meet the needs of all groups of students." They find that activities lacked creativity and did not always motivate students to make good progress, which is a key indicator of achievement. Teachers do not use assessment information effectively to plan lessons that build on students’ knowledge, understanding and skills, which again, is part of why Choueifat is ranked acceptable.
On a positive note, the report finds that students’ attainment and progress in mathematics and science in the high school is very good and the personal and social development of students in the high school, particularly through their involvement in the ‘Student Life’ organisation and in high-quality sporting events is also very good.
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