The Philippine School in Dubai is a relatively low cost school offering the Philippines curriculum to Filipino students. The school was established in 2008, and is located in Muhaisnah 2. A sister school exists in Abu Dhabi.
The story so far...
The Philippine School (TPS) was established in February, 2008 and formally opened for its first academic year in September 2008. Originally located in Al Twar, the school moved to Al Rashidiya in 2010 and made its third relocation, in January 2017, to its current building in Al Muhaisnah 2.
The school's relatively new (and not fully developed) website tells us its Philosophy.
The Philippine School is a leader in academic excellence and values formation that provides quality education in a multicultural learning environment. Similarly, its Vision-Mission Statement notes that "The Philippine School nurtures students to be holistically developed and globally competent citizens in the service of mankind".
Whilst the Vision-Mission statement may well ring true, the school's philosophy does not - we can only assume that this statement is aspirational!
The school's past performance, based on the KHDA's annual inspection programme, had, for a number of years, indicated despite its aspirations, the delivery of academic excellence was something of a challenge. In 2018-19, it was one of only six schools in Dubai (including one that has now closed) to be rated Weak - the lowest ratings achieved by any of the close to 180 schools inspected that year - a rating that it had achieved in the three prior years also.
It seems, however, that the arrival of a new Principal, in the person of Jonathan H. Esguerra, who joined the school in September 2018, has created the impetus for TPS to improve significantly - so much so that in the most recent inspection which took place in December 2019 - just ahead of the cancellation of all inspection as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic - TPS was awarded the Acceptable rating. The achievement of this rating 15 months after the arrival of Mr. Esguerra is clear evidence of substantial improvement, although there is clearly still much to be done. Find out more about the reasons behind the rating here.
According to the 2019-20 inspection report, TPS educates 2,331 children from KG1 to Grade 12. Student numbers vary from 200-250 per grade in the KG and Primary sections of the school to between 120 and 180 in the higher sections. All students are Filipino, as are all of the staff (122 teachers, 15 teaching assistants and 5 Guidance Counsellors). There had been significant increases in staffing over the past year which have clearly contributed to the improvements.
The teacher:student ratio at 1:22 had been very much on the higher side, meaning that there is not necessarily the degree of individual attention and adaptation of the curriculum to meet individual students' and group needs. This ratio has now fallen to 1:19.
Staff turnover, at 26%, is above the average for international schools in the UAE of 20-22% - meaning that the school is replacing a quarter of its staff annually. This is not usually a good sign as staff instability can cause major issues. However, the 2018-19 KHDA report noted that the Principal (who appears to have relocated from the Abu Dhabi sister school) has clear plans to improve the school and these staff changes may therefore have been as a result of the actions being taken by the leadership.
What about the curriculum?
Following its opening, the school received the Philippine Department of Education recognition for being an accredited Philippine school overseas, and it is also registered with the Dubai Schools Regulator, the KHDA.
The school offers programmes from Kindergarten 1 to Grade 12. TPS has aligned its curriculum to that in the Philippines to provide easy transition for students needing to relocate back home. Additional subjects, including Arabic as a Second language, Islamic Education and Social Studies are offered to comply with the requirements of the UAE Ministry of Education. The majority of teaching is in Filipino, with English instruction as an additional language.
In the KG section, the core subjects of Filipino, English, Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies are taught, based on the Standards and Competencies for Five-Year Old Filipino Children set by the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd). These standards and competencies are Socio-Emotional Development, Values Development, Physical Health and Motor Development, Aesthetic Development, Mathematics, Physical and Natural Environment, and Language, Literacy, and Communication.
From Grades 1 to 6, in addition to the core subjects, subjects include Practical Learning Time and Reading (for Grades 1 to 3 only), Home and Livelihood Education (for Grades 4 to 6 only), Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health, Values Education (for non-Muslim students), Moral Education, Information and Communications Technology, Arabic as a second language, and Islamic Education (for Muslim students).
Students from Grades 7 to 10 again follow the core programme offered from Grade 1, with Arabic as a second language until Grade 9, and an additional (unspecified) Elective (for grade 10 only). Students in the Senior High School study fifteen core subjects and sixteen track subjects, (seven applied and nine specialized subjects), mandated in the Senior High School curriculum of the Department of Education, Philippines, together with Moral Education prescribed by the United Arab Emirates.
What about facilities?
TPS Dubai is located in a modern, four storey building with outside space that includes a covered multi-sports court and plentiful outdoor activities. Classrooms are large and bright. Specialist facilities include computer and science labs, a music room, and school canteen. Facilities and resources are described by the KHDA inspection team as adequate.
The most recent inspection of the school took place in December 2019 and brought with it good news in the achievement of the Acceptable rating - the minimum expected by the KHDA who goal is that all schools should achieve at least a Good rating.
Summarising their findings, the inspectors noted that in the Kindergarten (KG), progress in English was good, but attainment was acceptable. In the other phases, attainment and progress were generally acceptable in English, mathematics and science. Attainment and progress were good in Filipino and in the senior high phase English and mathematics. One key concern of the inspection team - and an issue upon which the school will need to focus - was that attainment and progress were weak in Arabic as an additional language. All ratings for Student Achievement were found to be at least Acceptable, with the exception of Arabic as an additional Language in the Elementary and Junior High sections where it was rated Weak.
Students’ personal development and their understanding of Islamic values and cultures were good in the KG and in the elementary phase and very good elsewhere. Students demonstrated positive attitudes and behaviour at school. Their social responsibility and environmental awareness were good in all phases. Their attendance and punctuality were very good, and their innovation was found to be emerging.
Teaching was found to be good in the senior high phase but variable across the rest of the school. The school follows the Philippine curriculum. Due regard is given to Islamic education and Arabic. Teaching and Assessment were all rated at least Acceptable (with 6 of the 8 measures having improved compared with the previous report).
The curriculum design and implementation had improved across all four sections of the school and was rated Acceptable in KG and Good in the other sections. It was found to be enhanced through a range of enrichment activities. However, modifications to the curriculum for students of determination and for those with gifts and talents were not always followed through in lessons
The protection of students was good throughout with the school providing a safe and supportive environment. Safeguarding and child protection procedures were effective. Students had access to an appropriate range of academic, social and emotional support. Older students received well-judged guidance on career pathways and transition arrangements. Finally, the report noted that leaders and governors have set a clear direction and vision for the school and relationships were found to be professional and constructive.
The inspection team summarised the strengths of TPS Dubai as:
In terms of areas of focus for improvement, the inspection team recommended that TPS should:
This is a much shorter (though still challenging) list of recommendations and it is evident that the Principal, who came from the Abu Dhabi branch which is currently rated Acceptable, has been able to harness the support of his leadership team, staff and community to make the step changes that were needed. It is to be hoped that this positive direction has been maintained during the period of the pandemic.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - go here.
In common with all UAE schools, The Philippine School Dubai participated in a mandatory Distance Learning Evaluation in May/June 2020, designed to ensure that schools were in a position to support their students online as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
TPS achieved a rating of Partially-Developed - the second of three possible ratings. There were clearly areas that needed to be developed in order to ensure adequate provision. You can read the report here.
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Interestingly a massive 855 students participated in the KHDA's Well-being Survey and were generally positive about their school. Most said that they felt safe, happy and optimistic. They persevered with their studies and enjoyed positive relationships with their teachers and with their fellow students. Students’ participation in music and art was much higher than that of other students in Dubai, though their participation in sports was much lower.
Over 880 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey - a substantial number. Of these, 92% strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the quality of education at TPS Dubai. This should be encouraging for the school's leadership, given that they will be reliant on parental support.
Almost all parents who responded to the survey were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. Almost all agreed that their children were safe at school. Most indicated that school leaders and staff listened to them and acted on their views. A few written responses suggested that it was difficult for parents to contact teachers. Almost all agreed that they had access to all the information they needed to help their children in their education. Written responses praised the dedicated teachers and are positive about recent changes.
Realistically, Filipino families seeking a Philippines curriculum school will continue to support The Philippine School Dubai irrespective of the views of the KHDA's inspectors - after all options are limited in this context, and fees are often a major consideration. However, the fact the school itself has recognised and engaged fully in the process of improvement is a key one. We would hope (and have the firm impression that) continuous improvement will remain the focus under the current leadership and this can only be a highly positive step for everyone concerned.
What about fees?
Fees at TPS are on the moderate end of the scale. KG fees start at AED 5,956, rising to AED 7,013 from Grades 1 to 3, AED 7,681 from Grades 4 to 6 and then rise quite steeply to AED 9,128 for Grades 7 to 8, AED 10,241 for Grades 9 and 10, and AED 13,100 for Grade 11 and a significant AED 15,065 for Grade 12.
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