American School of Dubai, Al Barsha – The Review
Updated August 2019 – American School of Dubai SchoolsCompared.com verdict, winner Best American School in the United Arab Emirates 2019.
The American School of Dubai [ASD], previously known as the Jumeirah American School, is an independent not for profit community school located on a 1 million square foot facility within Al Barsha. The American School of Dubai remains the only US not-for-profit and was the first American curriculum school in the Emirate.
The American School of Dubai was awarded the SchoolsCompared.com 2019 Award for the Best American School in the United Arab Emirates. It is a genuinely fabulous, quite exceptional, phenomenal school for its children.
It is also, however, a very unusual school for two reasons. First, because it is, to all intents and purposes, an Outstanding one, but also one rated only Good by the KHDA because of its disregard for Arabic subjects. Second, because it is one of an extremely small number of pure US curriculum schools that does not blend its curriculum with either A Level or the International Baccalaureate. Instead, the American School of Dubai focuses on providing an outstanding choice of Advanced Placement subjects to ensure that students can access top tier universities worldwide.
Recognized for its outstanding whole child development and academic programmes The American School of Dubai remains controversial for its refusal to embrace the core Arabic curriculum and the priority it affords in entrance to US and Canadian families, albeit this exclusivity has now been diluted since the move to a much larger campus at Al Barsha in 2010. Today 23% of the school is non-US and drawn from more than 50 countries.
The American School of Dubai pays the price, as above, of a distinctly average “Good” rating from the KHDA inspectorate for the weakness of its Arabic provision and the sense of a school functioning as an American enclave in Dubai divides parents on both sides, drawing acclaim and frustration in equal measure.
According to our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, it is important that prospective parents do not focus exclusively, however, on the headline KHDA headline scoring; The American School of Dubai is without doubt one of the highest performing American schools in the Emirates outside the Arabic core curriculum.
For a not-for-profit, school fees are high. Significant controversial recent changes, in which a refundable deposit (effectively a debenture) was replaced by a non-refundable joining fee, together with a fixed annual “seat” charge for each child simply to attend, pushes the real fees to a fixed non-rising 87,417 AED from Grades 1 – and this excludes the further one off 22,000 joining fee (branded by the school a “capital fee”) paid on each child’s entry to the school regardless of year.
This level of fees certainly pushes the American School of Dubai into the premium plus fees segment – and in competition with the most outstanding schools in the emirates. To generate income for development (including for a new 600-capacity, HOK designed 20,000 square metre Middle School extension), The American School of Dubai was left with little choice but to pass on the costs with the fee structure.
You do get what you pay for. Facilities are Tier 1 and include digital classrooms; a secondary school library; separate elementary school library; STEAM Design Studio; 630 seat performing arts theatre; separate, dedicated black box theatre; dance studio; music rooms; multiple meeting spaces; extensive security systems; and two cafeterias.
Sporting facilities at The American School of Dubai include a field house; multiple running tracks; a regulation soccer field; extended playing fields; elementary gymnasium; separate senior gymnasium; two swimming pools including a learners’/toddler pool; elementary play centres and (beautifully) landscaped courtyards and spaces with water features. Core sports include volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball, track and field, badminton, forensics, swimming, wrestling, cross-country, tennis, as well as the broader performing arts. The school is a member of the Middle East South Asia Conference (MESAC) and take part in High School level MESAC sports across the Gulf.
Currently, The American School of Dubai High School section has an enrollment of 585 students with a intake of around 130 students per year. These are supported by 59 teaching staff giving an excellent student to teacher ratio of just under 1:10. 70% of al staff hold post-graduate qualifications. The school is impressively transparent across the board, including in its publication of pay scales. The importance ASD places on the quality of teaching staff, the most expensive single cost of any school, is, for whichschooladvisor, a defining feature of the school. The school is intensively academic, but meets the needs of the spectrum of abilities through an innovative 8-day timetable that ensures 4, 80-minute teaching blocks per subject per day.
Like the other Tier 1 US schools, The American School of Dubai offers the College Board Advanced Placement programme [AP] – impressively in around 18 of the 37 subjects available. These include:
- European History
- US History
- World History
- Economics (Macro & Micro in 1 year)
- Physics I
- English Literature and Composition
- English Language and Composition
- Calculus AB
- Calculus BC
- Spanish Language and Culture
- French Language and Culture
- Studio Art 2D and 3D Design
- Music Theory
- Virtual High School (VHS)
- Capstone – Seminar and Research
As above, the school also offers both seminar and research AP Capstone programmes pursuant to the awarding of the Capstone Diploma.
We cannot overstate how important we consider Advanced Placement provision within US schools. Few schools offer Advanced Placement at all, and in terms of its outstanding breadth of subject offer – and commitment to the AP, The American School of Dubai absolutely shines. For us, this is very significant strength of the school, albeit one that it has to deliver to compensate for the lack of an alternative IB or A Level programme.
Elsewhere the core American curriculum offers a seamless pre-K (FS1) through to grade 12 education to a currently 1650 capacity whole school student body organized into three divisions: Elementary School (K1-Grade 5); Middle School (Grades 6-8); and the High School (grades 9-12) culminating in the US High School Diploma.
Prospective parents should note:
(1) that, very unusually for a Tier 1 school, The American School of Dubai does not modify the curriculum at all for students with Special Educational Needs [SEN]. Parents of children with SEN requirements from either side of the spectrum might be advised to look for alternatives;
(2) ASD Islamic Education is weak, and not up to KHDA requirements. If cultural context is important then there are much better options available.
(3) Arab students cannot take Arabic as a first language – The American School of Dubai does not even offer it as a subject choice. Whilst Arabic as an additional language is provided in Grades 1 to 5 and is an elective in Grades 6 to 9 the “curriculum is inadequate” and student’s attainment “unsatisfactory.” [KHDA]
For WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, the American School of Dubai is only just short of being an outstanding school across the board. But, hugely over-subscribed, for many parents it will be just that, outstanding without any sort of qualification. For others, however, whether Arabic, European, Asian or American, particularly when they are now increasingly presented with very stiff competition from other equally successful, equally impressive Tier 1 schools, an education rooted in local culture, rather than deliberately outside it, will prove to be the better, more whole-child, cultural option for the education of their children.
The school’s decision to push children with Special Educational Needs [SEN] through an unmodified curriculum is unusual and we strongly advise prospective parents to think carefully before shortlisting The American School of Dubai for such children.
Finally, values. It’s the last, but absolutely not least part of the American School of Dubai equation. ASD Core Values – Compassion, Excellence, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility are empowered and brought to life throughout every aspect of each child’s development – they are not a bolt on but intrinsic. And it really shows in the whole child development it provides for all its children and the rounded, creative, thoughtful and responsible young men and women that graduate.
The American School of Dubai is a genuinely outstanding school and one of the most inspiring in the UAE – for some children.
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Good with Outstanding features
Good with Outstanding features
Good with Outstanding features
Good with Outstanding features
FS1: 59,255 + 22,000 Capital Fee
YEAR 1: 93,844
YEAR 2: 93,844
YEAR 3: 93,844
YEAR 4: 93,844
YEAR 5: 93,844
YEAR 6: 93,844
YEAR 7: 93,844
YEAR 8: 93,844
YEAR 9: 93,844
YEAR 10: 93,844
YEAR 11: 93,844
YEAR 12: 93,844
High School Diploma
US Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
Advanced Placement (A Level equivalent) courses offered in:
Economics (Macro & Micro in 1 year)
English Literature and Composition
English Language and Composition
Spanish Language and Culture
French Language and Culture
Studio Art 2D and 3D Design
Virtual High School (VHS)
Capstone - Seminar and Research
Not published (WSA predicted LOW)
1:10 High School
1:11 average all phases
(New Al Barsha campus 2010)
Al Barsha, Dubai
23% Other nationalities drawn from 53 countries
+971 4 395 0005 Extension 1550
• Best alumni of the US Schools in the Emirates
• Fabulous, academic curriculum with breadth and choice of subject provision
• Outstanding academics at Post-16
• Tier 1 facilities
• A perfect choice for parents of academic children wanting culturally US prevalent schooling for their children
• Outstanding range of Advanced Placement
• Rich, inspiring value-rich education
• Outstanding Performing Arts
• Special Educational Needs (completely unmodified curriculum)
• Islamic education (not provided)
• Native Arabic language provision (not provided)
• Arabic secondary language provision (limited provision)
• Extraordinarily high fees
• Waiting lists