American International School, Al Ghusais School Zone, Al Qusais
Updated December 2016
American International School Dubai is a private for-profit school, educating 2364 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 (ages 3 to 18). Student numbers have been broadly static over the last two years, although up 650 over the last three years. The school employs 143 teachers (and 17 teaching assistants) giving it a relatively weak teacher:student ratio. The school follows an American curriculum, culminating in the awarding of the US High School Diploma. Student intake is impressively inclusive and draws a predominantly Arabic student body. The school is co-education to Grade 3 at which point boy and girl provision continues is delivered separately in parallel streams.
The school was founded as Al Andalus School but changed its name in 2006. AISD has a sister school, The Modern American International School (MAIS), which opened in Sharjah in 2015.
School facilities are basic and functional, including lockers; a library; classrooms; 2 computer labs for boys; 2 computer labs for girls; KG computer and activities room; cafeteria and clinic. A new KG building was constructed in 2015.
Advertised Extra Curricular Activities [ECA] include sport; home economics (cooking); “yearbook”; visual arts; crafts; newsletter production; music; and drama.
The school does not provide bursaries but (impressively) advertises some scholarship provision for students according to their academic attainment and outstanding attendance record. The school does not advertise the number of scholarships awarded or the level of fee remission. Scholarships, when awarded, are not means tested.
The school does not allow girls or boys to wear any jewellery, including ear studs, although a simple wrist watch is permitted. Children with tattoos are not allowed to join the school. Students are required to speak English on the school premises except when they attend Arabic classes or the Islamic program.
The school is not transparent and does not publish the examination performance of its students. Information is minimal for prospective parents from the school’s web site and information provided for current parents compares poorly with other schools in its sector despite improvements to on-line infrastructure – see below.
The school has secured an “Acceptable” KHDA rating for the last 7 years. This rating borders an unsatisfactory rating in which the KHDA places schools in special measures. Whilst a KHDA rating can only provide a snapshot of a school over a given year, a protracted seven-year consistently acceptable rating is suggestive of a school that does not have the capacity to improve beyond a basic level of school provision or does not see it as necessary.
With ongoing very significant improvement across the Dubai educational sector, driven by the UAE Vision National Agenda, increasingly Tier 1 schools are competing with the best schools globally on an international stage. That progress is feeding down across all sectors, including the value fees sector, and AISD faces a risk of being left behind, and leaving its children behind, without considerably increased investment in facilities, staff and leadership.
Established KHDA weaknesses result from a mismatch between the school’s inflated, exaggerated and unrealistic perception of its performance, and its reality.
The school’s leadership believe that AISD is providing an outstanding level of education. The KHDA believes that in key areas it is at best adequate and worse failing children.
Weaknesses identified include:
- Serious failures in provision for children with Special Educational Needs [SEN] acutely disadvantaging AISD’s most vulnerable children. Children with SEN are not identified properly, and the curriculum is not modified to meet their needs, both of which result in restricting their development.
- The school wrongly focuses on SEN as a medical, rather than educational issue.
- The school had, at the time of the last inspection, not met the recommendations from the previous inspection which urged it to “introduce more rigorous procedures for the early identification and support of students with special educational needs, including more able students.”
- School leadership are not even aware of the “extremely poor levels of support” for students with SEN.
- The school does not invest in teacher development sufficient to give them “clear and specific guidance on how to improve teaching.” Teachers’ subject expertise is variable and lesson planning of just an “acceptable” standard. Lessons are rushed causing frequent “student anxiety.”
- The school does not fulfill the requirements of its stated US curriculum.
- Some teachers lack basic competence in the English language – this in a school that insists that English is the only language spoken outside Arabic and Islamic studies.
- The curriculum is confused and is aligned to too many curriculum frameworks, including the Common Core State Standards for English and mathematics, Next Generation Science, AERO for French, art, and music, and Indiana state standards for physical education. Intentions are good, the outcomes are chaotic.
- The curriculum, as it stands, does not provide enrichment, cross-curricular links, independent learning, research opportunities, opportunity for high order thinking, or inspire creativity.
- The school lacks expertise in the US curriculum and subject coordinators do not understand how to deliver it across different subjects.
- Curricular options and extra-curricular activities provide few opportunities for students to fulfil their talents, interests and aspirations or build stronger links with the wider community.
- Staff-student relationships are not consistently positive or courteous.
- Classrooms are over-crowded leading to breakdowns in discipline.
- Whilst school leaders show commitment to improving the school, efforts have “limited impact” with insufficient investment in improving teaching and learning for all students
- Governance is poor and the board does not sufficiently hold the school accountable. It has had “no significant impact on the overall performance of the school.” The financial inputs of school Governors are “few.”
There are positives. American International School’s management of attendance and punctuality is consistent and effective. Teaching staff are qualified and well deployed. School premises are clean and well maintained and learning resources are “sufficient. Academically, students’ attainment and progress in Arabic as a first language reach a good standard in the elementary, middle and high phases of the school and, within the metrics of whole child development, students scored highly in demonstrating an outstanding level of community and environmental responsibility in the high school phase.
Improvements made by the school since the last inspection included introduction of “effective” weekly on-line reports given to parents enabling them to monitor their children’s progress, and the school has introduced an expanded professional development program for its teachers, although with limited success – see above.
Independent WhichSchoolAdvisor.com feedback has been mixed, but consistently feedback focuses on the disparity between what the school says, and what it does.
It is an uncomfortable reality that schools in this sector to a greater degree must function with one hand tied behind their backs. Financial resources and investment are in limited supply and this is exacerbated where schools are for-profit and must return value to owners and/or investors. The KHDA realises that it is increasingly up to Governors to step in and plan for investment. Where schools have weak governance, schools can find themselves in a position where they simply have nowhere to turn despite excellent, highly detailed Action Plans from the KHDA detailing how to transform schools to Good or Outstanding school status.
In opening its sister school in Sharjah, it is clear the school’s owners do have the capacity to invest.
The challenge for American International School Dubai seems to lie elsewhere in facing the reality of areas in which the school is failing.
When it does things well, as in inspiring a sense of community and environmental responsibility in its students, it shows it has the capacity to be outstanding.
Recognition of failures is the first necessary step to putting things right. Believing everything is perfect risks doing too little, too late and getting too far off track. If that happens it would be more than a shame. In a failing school it is the school’s students that ultimately pay the price.Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
YEAR 1: 11,965
YEAR 2: 11,965
YEAR 3: 11,965
YEAR 4: 12,891
YEAR 5: 12,891
YEAR 6: 12,891
YEAR 7: 14,978
YEAR 8: 14,978
YEAR 9: 14,978
YEAR 10: 16,316
YEAR 11: 17,263
YEAR 12: 18,165
YEAR 13: NA
High School Diploma
Advanced Placement [AP]
New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC)
Not published (WSA projected MEDIUM)
(Changed name from Al Andalus School Dubai in 2006)
Al Ghusais School Zone, Al Qusais, Dubai
Arab (largest nationality)
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 92
KG-Grade 3 Mixed, co-educational
Grade 3 - Grade 12: separated boy and girl educational provsion
Mohammed bin Sulayem (unconfirrmed, wikimapia)
+971 (0) 4 29 88 666 Ext. 207
• Value fees
• Inclusive intake dedicated to the welfare and education of all children
• Outstanding building of student’s sense of community and environmental responsibility by teachers at high school phase
• Ongoing incremental improvements including on-line parental portal development, staff development and capital build
• Impressive stated commitment to scholarship provision
• Overcrowding leading to breakdowns in discipline – unacceptable in any school
• Seriously failing SEN provision impacting on vulnerable children
• Extremely high levels of staff turnover with turnover of 37% impacting on the stability of provision
• Confused curriculum driven by good intentions but too complicated with a lack of teachers able to understand it or deliver it
• School leadership refusing to accept KHDA inspection findings or action plans
• Weak governance unable or unwilling to stand up against the school leadership to ensure standards are improved
• Lack of school transparency rendering it impossible for prospective parents to benchmark the school
• Consistent inability or refusal by leadership to improve over 7 years of inspections
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