A "hidden gem" according to our reviewer, Victoria International School Sharjah, established in 2007, teaches the Australian curriculum in conjunction with the IB Diploma program.
Victoria International School Sharjah (VISS) is a true hidden gem. And, if prospective parents can look past the incredible sea-front plot with jaw-dropping uninterrupted views of the lagoon and acres of spacious landscaped grounds, they’ll discover this impressive Not for Profit, Australian/IB Diploma school, boasts some of the best resources and facilities in the UAE.
Located in the Al Tuwaan district on the Dubai border, VISS is not only a Sharjah school, but should clearly be on the radar of those in Dubai seeking the IB Diploma, a Not for Profit ethos and highly experienced staff.
VISS was created by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to be a ‘lighthouse school that would act to support improvement and development in education in Sharjah.’
The process began back in 2005, when an agreement was signed between His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the then Victorian Labor government of Australia, to establish of Victoria International School of Sharjah.
To create the Victorian model school, Victorian firm Taylor Oppenheim Architects designed the campus, while Victorian Rob Blachford was appointed founding principal and the entire teaching team also arrived straight from Victoria.
VISS now has over 1,500 students and is considered the preeminent provider of Australian education in the Middle East, and regularly works with external bodies to promote Victoria and Victorian education in the region. The school has developed strong relationships with a number of bodies, both in the Middle East and in Australia.
Today, the teaching team is a little more international, however, it is still lead by a Victorian, Dean Pyrah, previously of GEMS Wellington International School, Dubai who is now in his fourth year as Principal, although he has been with VISS since 2010, originally as Deputy Principal and Head of Secondary, before assuming the Executive Principal post in 2014.
Many of the staff are still Australian and all those tasked with teaching the IB Diploma have relevant experience and qualifications.
A vast community and sports centre with indoor pool, indoor and outdoor courts, pitches and athletics facilities, a brand new innovation centre (offering STEM, robotics and digital technologies), a dedicated library building, a 500 seat auditorium and drama department, large technology centre, canteen serving hot meals, plus three separate and dedicated phases and buildings for Early Learning, Primary and Middle/Secondary students.
Given the school's impressive sporting facilities, VISS not only encourages participation in sports and is an active member in various leagues and competitions, it often plays regular the host.
Student Attainment and Results
VISS has provided WhichSchoolAdvisor.com with the IB Diploma results for 2018 - something we very much welcome. 32 students took the Diploma exams and of these, 27 (84.3%) successfully passed. The average points scored by students was 30 - in line with the global average - with the highest points awarded to a single student being 41. Further details of current and previous years' results can be found in the Q and A section here..
Graduating students have gained university entrance in the UAE, Australia, Canada, and USA, in courses including medicine, law, health sciences, business/accounting, science, engineering, design and aircraft pilot school.
The framework used for Pre-KG – KG1 is called the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. From Prep (KG2) to Grade 10 the curriculum framework followed is the Victorian State curriculum and then as students enter their final two years of school, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is taught, meaning that students can graduate with an IB Diploma, provided they pass their IB assessments.
In its most recent review of Victoria International School, the Sharjah Education Zone found the school to be Highly Effective across the board, the equivalent of an Outstanding rated school in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
"Teachers [make] sure that all students participate in curriculum activities that [are] suited to their abilities and interests. In most instances, the subject topics [are] modified through questioning and curriculum activities that suite the abilities of all students with teachers ensur[ing] the curriculum delivers an excellent balance of activities that promoted students’ resilience, independence and study skills very well."
Areas for focus and improvement include monitoring improvements in primary mathematics and reviewing and adapting the Arabic curriculum to meet students' needs. However, the report rates the school's ability to meet recommendations as High.
The classroom climate at Victoria International School was found to be positive with students engaged in collaborate learning as well as independent learning. "Teachers ensure that students [are] aware of the high expectations and standards expected for each unit of study."
Leadership at Victoria International School is also Highly Effective. The report notes that leadership has a clear vision for school improvement as well as the role of international students in the 21st century. Leadership also focuses on the development of teaching and learning through professional development opportunities for teachers.
As the report explains, "School leaders ensure that professional development activities [have] a positive impact on improving teaching, learning and leadership within the school and across the emirate of Sharjah. Teachers [are] encouraged to try new methods and techniques in their classrooms."
Interestingly, Victoria International School has no parent-teacher association. This has been listed as an areas where the school can improve. A Parent Association has been formed at the school and is involved in a range of community activities and events, although they are not represented in terms of Governance of the school.
Classrooms are well resourced with smartboards, data projectors and learning resources.
Music at VISS
Music lies at the heart of VISS and as such the school offers every child additional music instrument tuition from Primary through to Senior school. Lessons do cost extra however, there are 16 instruments available to learn, everything from electric guitar to French horn.
In addition, the school offers all students the opportunity to participate in various musical productions and activities throughout the year, these are free of charge and available to all.
During the 2014 Sharjah Education Zone inspection, inspectors found all indicators at VISS to be Highly Effective, noting the clear leadership vision and clear enthusiasm for teaching.
Fees start at AED 28,350 for Pre-KG and runs to AED 72,000 for Grade 12, and parents can pay in three-installments.
VISS has impressive sibling discounts too, with the second child receiving 10 percent off fees, and the third and additional children receiving 20 percent.
There is an additional AED 500 registration fee plus a "Resource Levy," that increased for each grade, topping out at AED 1,800 for Grade 12.
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