The International School of Choueifat Sharjah is an all-through school that offers both elements of the National Curriculum for England and the American school system. The International School of Choueifat Sharjah is a member of the SABIS® global education network.
“I once was told putting your kids in this school is a long term investment which you will never regret as your kids will be benefiting from this school a lot. I will never regret having put my children in The International School of Choueifat Sharjah.”
The International School of Choueifat Sharjah (ISC-Sharjah) opened in 1976 with just 118 students – today, ISC-Sharjah is a multinational, non-selective, co-educational, independent, English-medium day school serving both the local and multinational communities in the emirate. The Choueifat name has a long history in the Middle East, and ISC-Sharjah was the first Choueifat school to open in the Persian Gulf region.
ISC-Sharjah’s mission focuses on the following key areas:
The driving force behind this is the SABIS® global education network, which has an active presence in twenty countries on five continents. SABIS® schools educate over 70,000 students, and all of them benefit from “a long tradition of excellence in education” and “a reputation that is rooted in a well-developed philosophy that seeks to provide students with a top-quality education that prepares them to meet the challenges of a changing world”.
A SABIS® education is grounded in a set of shared values that encourage students to:
ISC-Sharjah’s specific approach to education is designed around three core pillars – academic excellence, life skills, and personal well-being – and aims to provide students with a holistic school experience. Central to this goal is the warm, happy, secure, and caring environment that ISC-Sharjah seeks to offer, thereby allowing students “to discover and reach their full potential in their personal field of endeavor – be it academic, athletic, or artistic”. To this end, all leaners within the community are encourage to DREAM:
Currently, ISC-Sharjah educates over 3,900 students of 64 nationalities. Its teaching staff is made up of over 350 individuals, who boast 29 different nationalities. Over 45 years of experience, ISC-Sharjah has produced over 3,500 alumni, and has had more than 260 universities accept graduates in more than 40 countries.
A second SABIS® school is set to open in Sharjah in September 2021, called SABIS® International School – Aljada.
The curriculum at ISC-Sharjah is based on both the American and British educational systems, where students have the option to choose between AP exams and A-/AS-Levels. ISC-Sharjah strives to offer an international learning experience with academic excellence at the core:
“Our students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 receive a premier education in a vibrant, international community that is committed to helping all students aim for and achieve their full potential. It is in this inclusive, collaborative environment that we empower our students to succeed in a constantly changing world that requires a variety of skills rooted in academic competencies.”
The curriculum at ISC-Sharjah covers a broad range of academic subjects, with a strong emphasis on English and Maths (Sciences become another focus in Secondary School). Students also have the chance to develop fluency in English, Arabic, and French, in addition to taking subjects such as Social Studies, Music, Fine Arts, Physical Education, Psychology, Business & Economics Studies, and Computer Studies. A number of more non-traditional subjects, such as Robotics, 3D Printing, and Web Development, are being increasingly integrated into the curriculum as they become relevant in an ever-changing world.
ISC-Sharjah (and the Choueifat brand in general) is well-known for its traditional, knowledge-based approach to teaching. As the school itself explains, in every subject and at every grade level “our academic approach to learning provides students a structure that promotes the mastery of essential concepts”. There is a strong emphasis on frequent assessment, as well as comprehensive support and follow-up, which “provides a 360° view of individual progress to keep students, teachers, and parents/guardians informed at all times”.
The educational journey at ISC-Sharjah starts with the school’s Kindergarten, which seeks to provide “a wonderful introduction to learning and socialization within a warm and friendly international environment”. The Kindergarten is located in an independent section of the school campus and offers students a tailored space to learn, play, and discover the world around them. Dedicated Kindergarten teachers and Kindergarten assistants run each group, preparing students for future schooling by introducing basic concepts such as reading, phonics, language, mathematics, and Arabic. Children also enjoy art, music, and PE, introducing them to the foundations of each subject they will study going forward.
Moving on to the Lower School, ISC-Sharjah believes that developing a child’s positive attitude towards learning in the early years is key to academic achievement. To this effect, “the ISC-Sharjah Lower School Program balances academic progress with developing social, physical, and emotional maturity”. The school tries to ensure that each student is welcomed and supported by dedicated teachers, and uses subjects such as art, music, and PE to stimulate a healthy, eager, and happy attitude towards future learning.
Once students reach Middle School, ISC-Sharjah “offers a challenging, structured, and well-rounded program”, which centres on a mastery of the basic concepts and core knowledge required for Grades 9 to 12. While students enjoy a diverse program for arts, sports, and computing, the curriculum of the ISC-Sharjah Middle School focuses predominantly on core academic and personal growth:
“The academic coursework is integrated, sequential, and age-appropriate in skills, knowledge, and values. Academic objectives include providing a well-rounded education based on a mastery of English, Arabic, and Math, and training students in logical reasoning and critical thinking while generating excitement for lifelong learning.”
Once students begin Grade 9, they enter a four-year cycle that prepares them for a High School Diploma and leads to external university entrance qualifications and graduation. Students can choose to take the IGCSE qualification in Grades 10 and 11, and are also prepared for a wide range of internationally recognised standardised examinations, such as the SAT and the TOEFL exams.
ISC-Sharjah is accredited by Accreditation International, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and the National Council for Private Schools Association. The school is also a US State Department-approved school, which means that the ISC-Sharjah High School Diploma is recognised by colleges and universities both in the US and in other countries worldwide. The AP Program is offered by The College Board in the US, and fulfils entrance requirements at universities in the US, Europe, and beyond. AS- and A-Levels are recommended for students looking to join universities in the UK.
In order to support students on whichever path they choose, the SABIS® Network, and by extension ISC-Sharjah, has a long-standing commitment to the research and development of new technologies. ISC-Sharjah offers students “meaningful experiences with modern, up-to-date methods and technologies used to improve and enrich their day-to-day learning experience, enhance their academic performance, and challenge the boundaries of traditional learning environments”.
Technology is central to the school’s operation, and teachers work to ensure students have access to the technological tools that facilitate learning. State-of-the-art technology is integrated into classrooms, and is designed to complement the teaching methodology – currently available tools include eBooks, an integrated learning system called the SABIS® Digital Platform, and an integrated testing system.
The SABIS® Digital Platform, which provides web-based teaching and learning, forms a fundamental part of the school’s educational approach: students can do practice questions on unmastered learning points; sample quizzes allow students to test their knowledge; On-Demand Tutoring videos are available to watch; exam material and homework assignments can be downloaded; and both students and parents can receive important communications from the school. E-learning is available for all students, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and can be accessed both in school and at home.
This structured, easily-measured approach to teaching blends well with ISC-Sharjah’s emphasis on testing and results-driven instruction – when working at home, the data from homework and regular assessments can be sent to teachers, allowing them to assess each students’ progress and performance and then follow up with them accordingly.
As we can see from the curriculum structure and the focus on using technology to streamline learning and testing, the SABIS® teaching methodology is all about the well-structured, systematic, and efficient:
“In every subject, in every level, SABIS® has precisely identified measurable learning objectives, called ‘learning points’. During every class, teachers present one ‘point’ at a time, and then ask the class to demonstrate their understanding of the concept, actively engaging students in a community of learners”.
This means that Choueifat students are trained to excel in terms of subject knowledge and testing ability, but may perhaps struggle with the more creative applications of knowledge and cross-curricular skills required at university.
However, while Choueifat schools have long been known for their rote, testing-based approach, the SABIS® group does say that “in an ever-evolving world, qualities and skills such as leadership, critical thinking, communication, perseverance, grit, creativity, and teamwork are among the keys to success now and later in life. For this reason, embedded into the curriculum at ISC-Sharjah is a strong, student-led component of the school day”.
This is where the SABIS® Student Life Organization (SLO) comes in, a student-led mini-society “that empowers students to get involved in the day-to-day experience at their school and offers countless academic, social, and emotional benefits for everyone involved”. Through the promotion of participation in a wide variety of activities, the SLO is considered the heart of the school and a pillar of the SABIS® Educational System, doubling as both an extra-curricular program and an approach to academic development.
The SLO is divided into nine different departments “that offer all students interesting and captivating opportunities to make a difference in their school and larger community, improve their academic performance, join and/or lead activities they enjoy and excel in, and create the appropriate school atmosphere conducive to learning, all while having fun”. And rather than being just an optional extracurricular activity, the SLO is integrated into students’ schedules as a weekly period, called ‘the SLO period’.
The nine departments of the SLO are:
The Academic Department
Aims to build students’ confidence and develop their academic skills. Activities provided include peer tutoring, academic competitions, study groups, and shadow teaching.
The Discipline Department
Helps ensure a safe environment within the school by teaching students how to abide by school rules, how to resolve any differences in a peaceful manner, and by raising awareness through bullying prevention campaigns.
The Management Department
Responsible for effective communication regarding all student life matters, as well as managing and maintaining the school premises.
The Sports Department
Promotes an appreciation for sports and encourages students to get/stay in shape. Activities include friendly sports tournaments and games.
The Wellness Department
Helps promote a healthy lifestyle by organising events and campaigns that provide the necessary tools and tips to maintain a well-balanced life. This department targets students, staff, and the wider community.
The Activities Department
Provides an outlet for students to explore, share, and teach others their talents and interests. Involves clubs and/or events, and can often be tied to breaktime, after-school, or weekend activities.
The Outreach Department
Ensures that both new and returning students are fully integrated into school life. For new students, this department arranges ambassadors to get them settled, while returning students benefit from events and campaigns which encourage them to help other students.
The Lower School Department
Dedicates time and effort into organising trips, events, and daily clubs (both academic and non-academic) for students in the Lower School. This department works to provide cohesion and positive relationships between Lower and Upper students.
The Social Responsibility Department
Helps to motivate and inspire students to give back to their community through various charitable and environmental projects.
By encouraging students to volunteer under one of the nine departments, ISC-Sharjah looks to involve students in their own education process, create a positive school culture, and allow students to experience real life skills such as responsibility and accountability. The SLO even has its own honour code, which sets the tone for the school and encourages students to:
For students who exemplify these qualities, ISC-Sharjah offers SLO Prefect roles. Prefects are appointed to relevant positions of responsibility and are assigned duties within the SLO that contribute to the efficiency and success of the school. This is a great opportunity for students to take responsibility for not only their own emotional, social, and moral growth, but the growth of members of the larger community. The Prefect role offers students real-life experiences, opportunities for personal development, and a platform to acquire and refine skills, attitudes, and attributes. Of course, this is precisely the kind of thing that may make a student stand out when it comes to university applications.
However, not all students may be inclined to take on leadership roles, so ISC-Sharjah ensures that there are plenty of opportunities for students to develop confidence and skill in areas of personal interest. The school operates a variety of clubs at breaktimes which allow students to spend their free time on something fun: Music Club (Grades 3 to 12); Chess Club (Grades 3 to 12); Art Club (Grades 3 to 12); Origami Club (Grades 5 & 6); Football (tournaments for Grades 3 to 12); Basketball (Grades 5 to 12); Dodgeball (Grades 9 to 12); Cricket; Ballet; Gymnastics (Grades 1 to 6 for Boys and Grades 1 to 9 for Girls); and the Champs Ahead Basketball Academy.
For students in Grades 7 to 12 who cannot attend breaktime clubs, a selection of after-school clubs also run, as well as paid weekend activities. These weekend activities are held on Saturdays and include Football, Basketball, Tennis, Taekwondo, Swimming, Violin, Guitar, Computing, French, Arts & Crafts, Oil Painting, and Costume & Jewellery Making.
For students with sporting talent, there are numerous teams for students to join in Grades 1 to 12 (e.g. Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Swimming, and Athletics), as well as inter-school tournaments for those in Grades 3 to 12.
The most notable of these is the SABIS® Regional Tournament, which brings together over 1,000 students from 24 participating SABIS® schools in 13 countries in 4 sports categories: Basketball, Football, Swimming, and Athletics.
As a whole school, ISC-Sharjah also offers many opportunities for students to come together and showcase their talent and interests throughout the year at art exhibitions, concerts, and numerous sporting events:
In order to help students achieve academically, ISC-Sharjah prioritises health and wellbeing both at the smaller, classroom-based scale, and at the larger, whole-school scale. Within day-to-day lessons, the teachers and staff “take an interest in each student's strengths, weaknesses, and needs with the goal of helping the student optimally participate and benefit from our rich and engaging learning environment”. The wider school, meanwhile, has a number of support services in place to ensure that all students can get the help they need, whether it be in terms of general health and fitness, university applications, or academic progress.
It should be noted that the website makes no mention of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provisions, so if this kind of specialist intervention is required, the school should be contacted directly.
General learning support is provided throughout the school, beginning in the classroom. As the school website explains, each student’s progress is closely monitored and “when learning gaps form, students, working together with their teachers and school administrators, can together focus their efforts on filling the gaps through additional support channels at the school”. Additional support includes teacher-led study groups (which review the key concepts taught in class) and Prefect and Group Leader roles (which can be assigned to students in order to encourage them to be more responsible, attentive, and confident).
Further support is provided through the Academic Department of the SLO, which offers mentors who are available to offer help during breaktimes, free periods, weekends, or after school. The support provided by the SLO includes:
ISC-Sharjah also provides Advisory Classes, starting in Grade 4, where students have weekly sessions designed to provide them with a safe space to discuss contemporary themes of importance to their lives. Previous topics have included peer pressure, organisational skills, personal hygiene, health and exercise, conflict resolution, problem-solving, time management, and exam preparation techniques. As students progress through the school, these sessions may also cover topics such as IT safety, cultural understanding, interview skills, and career and university counselling.
University counselling is an area of particular focus, as ISC-Sharjah aims to help students meet the admission requirements of the most competitive universities in Europe, the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, the Middle and Far East, and Australia. ISC-Sharjah has a dedicated University Counsellor who helps students to:
University counselling is offered from Grade 9, and starts with general interest surveys to engage students in discussions about their career interests. The Counsellor, in conversation with parents/guardians, helps students to narrow down which subjects they might wish to study at university and the countries in which they want to study. The Counsellor also helps students to carry out guided research and begin to plan for post-school.
By Grade 11, students are expected to have more precise ideas about their university options, and the Counsellor will look into the interests and academic performance of each student. The Counsellor can then work with the individual students to agree on a range of suitable universities, so that at the beginning of Grade 12 these students can begin to prepare their university applications.
Unfortunately, as with many schools in the UAE, ISC-Sharjah has not made any of its academic results available to the public.
Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis; while there were a few instances of inspections being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, schools did not generally publish the outcomes. With the initiation of SPEA (Sharjah Private Education Authority), the intention is that schools will be inspected using the common framework already in place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
However, SPEA has decided to seek a collaborative approach with the schools for this process, and although we understand that initial inspections did take place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, results of these inspections have not been published.
As a result of the pandemic, Sharjah schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations (DLE), implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). In its most recent Distance Learning Review Report (2020), ISC-Sharjah’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Partially Developed.
Inspectors found ISC-Sharjah to be “successful in encouraging students’ attendance and participation in distance learning lessons and ensuring that all individuals behave well and conduct themselves respectfully in online sessions”. They noted that students were working appropriately to sustain the continuity and momentum in their learning, and that teachers were ensuring all students had access to the required resources, even when studying from home. Inspectors were also satisfied that a range of assessment approaches were being used to monitor students’ learning.
In terms of school leadership and management, the evaluation found ISC-Sharjah’s short-term planning to be “responsive, with appropriate adjustments made to ensure the ongoing development of distance learning approaches”. The report also commended school leaders for keeping distance learning approaches under constant review, and for ensuring that students and teachers had all the necessary technology resources needed to sustain online learning.
However, the report also offered a number of areas for improvement. For example, the report suggested the school work to develop students’ knowledge about what to do and who to contact if they have any safety concerns when working online. The report also recommended that staff closely monitor the balance of learning methods and approaches in place to support student learning across the school, as well as increase the opportunities “for students to interact fully with each other in lessons”. The balance between academic and non-academic activities was also a suggested area of review, to ensure both were evenly weighted for every grade.
While short-term planning was included as a positive feature, it was suggested that long-term planning should be developed in more detail, “to ensure it considers the different possible future scenarios”. Finally, the report suggested ISC-Sharjah reinforce their communication with parents, focusing on two main outcomes: to ensure parents had full understanding of distance learning processes, and to ensure parents understood the importance of their roles in supporting and monitoring their children’s online learning.
If you would like to read the full inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.
ISC-Sharjah is situated on a spacious campus and has a number of indoor and outdoor facilities available. All main classrooms for students from Grades 1 to 12 are equipped with Interactive Whiteboards, and KG students enjoy their own independent building with colourful hallways, bright classrooms, a large playground, and a special car track.
Sports facilities include a state-of-the-art sports field and an all-season running track, as well as two semi-Olympic-sized swimming pools. There are also two large and well-equipped sports halls, along with a dedicated KG gymnasium and outdoor basketball courts.
ISC-Sharjah has a school theatre with professional-quality sound and lighting systems, as well as facilities for presentations and assemblies. Individual departments have specialised facilities, such as the dedicated art room and two music rooms. Other specific departments include the Science Department, which is comprised of three well-equipped science laboratories and two computer science rooms with state-of-the-art computing equipment.
The school library is open to all students, and includes a suite of computers where older students can research online or complete school assignments; it also offers a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books in English, Arabic, and French. Other facilities include a bright and modern cafeteria where students can enjoy food brought from home or can purchase sandwiches and fresh fruit. The campus also has two doctors on site at all times, who work out of modern, spacious clinics on-site.
The most distinctive learning feature at ISC-Sharjah is the SABIS Integrated Testing and Learning® (ITL®) Hall, which boasts 580 computers, is used to assess students on a regular basis, and can be used to revise and review material learned.
Choueifat schools have long been difficult to judge in terms of popularity, as they tend to be very polarising. On the one hand, the strong focus on testing and exam achievement make Choueifat schools highly-favoured by some. But on the other hand, the very traditional focus on rote learning and the neglect of more cross-curricular skills means that students may miss out on the independent learning practice they need to succeed at university.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received only 7 reviews for ISC-Sharjah. As a result, while the rating of 2.0 out of 5.0 suggests that ISC-Sharjah does not perform too well in parents’ estimations, it is important to remember that this is only a very small sampling of opinions. In addition, parents should keep in mind that the school’s approach does not fit everyone, and that those parents who are fans of the school are very loyal.
Many of the reviews on the survey show responses at both ends of the scale for each question – something that one parent criticises, another parent praises, all at the same time. For example, when reviewers were asked how concerned they were about bullying at the school, 29% said not at all while another 29% said extremely. Similarly, when asked if ISC-Sharjah has improved their child’s confidence, there was an even split across ‘a great deal’ (29%), ‘none at all’ (28%), and ‘a little’ (29%).
There are other areas, however, where responses seem a bit more definitive. Only 33% of reviewers expressed satisfaction with the school’s disciplinary policy, compared to a clear majority of 67% being unsatisfied. 100% of reviewers felt that the school improved students’ public performance and speaking skills, but only for those who explicitly sought to improve, and 100% agreed that they felt no need to offer additional tutoring to their children outside of school hours.
Another potentially divisive area is parent satisfaction. For example, 43% of reviewers totally agreed that ISC-Sharjah offered good value for money considering the level of education offered, but another 28% only agreed partially, while another 29% totally disagreed. And though a majority (43%) did express a slight sense of confidence in the school’s ability to meet their child’s specific learning needs, the same majority (43%) reported being unsatisfied with their child’s academic performance (only 29% reported being satisfied and 28% partially satisfied). 43% also claimed to be unsatisfied with the feedback level from the school, compared to 29% being satisfied and 28% being partially satisfied.
Opinions are also split in terms of student experience. When asked if their child felt a sense of belonging at the school, 29% reported ‘quite a bit’, while the same amount reported the exact opposite, ‘a little bit’ (‘a tremendous amount’ and ‘none at all’ also both received the same amount of votes – 14%). Meanwhile, 50% of responders said their child enjoyed going to school ‘a little bit’, with an even split of remaining votes across ‘not at all’, ‘quite a bit’, and ‘tremendously’.
As can be seen from the results, opinions differ wildly even in the same areas when it comes to Choueifat schools – people love it or hate it.
Perhaps the most telling questions on the survey ask if parents have considered moving their child from the school (86% report yes) and if parents would recommend the school to another parents (a majority of 57% say no, compared to 29% yes and 14% not sure). ISC-Sharjah is certainly not the easiest school to assess in terms of popularity, so parents should bear that in mind when hearing opinions, and are perhaps best to decide for themselves.
If you are a parent, teacher, or senior student at ISC-Sharjah, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by taking part in our survey.
Annual tuition at ISC-Sharjah starts at AED 20,000 for KG1 and reaches up to AED 34,000 for Grades 11 and 12. These tuition fees do not include the cost of books, transportation, uniform, extra-curricular activities, or meal subscriptions, so the school should be contacted directly for further information.
The SABIS® Educational System describes itself as being “highly academically-oriented without being highly selective”, although the criterion for acceptance is academic attainment rather than age (age can however be a limiting factor). As a result, it is possible to find up to a two-year age range among students in the same class, although generally any student who is willing to learn can be accepted.
For prospective KG1, KG2, and Grade 1 students, there are no academic requirements for acceptance. However, students at these levels are interviewed, and must be toilet-trained, able to speak, and able to follow simple instructions. Students in all other grades must take an entrance exam which consists of diagnostic tests in core subjects, to determine if they have attained the minimum expected standard for each.
Final placement decisions are made by the school, but in some cases prospective students will have the option to attend extra lessons or intensive classes in a specific subject, to bring them up to the required level. When parents are informed of their child’s result, they may receive the following evaluation: Accepted; Needs to Be Retested; Needs to Attend Accelerated Courses; Accepted to a Lower Grade; Rejected.
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