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Dubai International Academy Al Barsha – The First Review 2020
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Dubai International Academy Al Barsha – The First Review 2020

by Jon WestleyOctober 27, 2020

Updated October 2020: First review of Dubai International Academy Al Barsha. Confirmation of planning for IB Career-related Programme and investment in BTEC. Significant commitment to Scholarships. verdict 2020.

Photograph of Poonam Bhojani, CEO of Innventures Education and Founder of Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills - the first all-through IB school in Dubai

“I was heading IT for ABN Ambro Bank and made the decision to put my career on hold to look after my young children. They needed my care as a Mother at that point. I felt there was no point in having a high flying career if that meant leaving my children at home neglected. I became their Mum, chauffeur, butler, party organiser, their everything. These were the best years of my life.

I started visiting their schools and became obsessed with the conviction that they needed more challenge in their education. I wandered the corridors of their schools questioning everything, asking why things were not better.

I knew that things had to change.

We started the first full International Baccalaureate school, Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills, in Dubai on September 10 2005 and I have never looked back since then.

Our ethos is simple. We ensure that every single student gets the best possible education available at any school wherever that may be – and that every decision we make has our students at the core of that decision.

Outstanding, inspirational, passionate and motivated teachers are the single most important part of delivering world class schools for children. This is the largest investment we make at every one of our schools.


You can get rid of everything else but without extraordinary and outstanding teachers you have nothing, the children have nothing.

You will find those outstanding teachers in every one of our schools today and at the heart of the new Dubai International Academy Al Barsha.”

Poonam Bhojani. Founder. Dubai International Academy. Chief Executive Officer. Innoventures Education.  

The original Dubai International Academy, at Emirates Hills, was established in 2005. For over a decade it has celebrated its status as an IB World School and the first in the UAE to be authorised to offer the continuum of the three IB programmes – Primary Years, Middle Years and IB Diploma.

The new Dubai International Academy Al Barsha builds upon this legacy of success and quality.

Our school is founded upon the core values of DIA and the IB but with its own uniqueness and character.

My focus is upon strong academic outcomes and the outstanding holistic development of every DIA child.

Our facilities are recognized as among the best of any school in the UAE.”

David Hicks. Founding Principal. Dubai International Academy Al Barsha.


Background. Dubai International Academy Al Barsha.

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Children at Dubai International Academy Al Barsha reading in class

Dubai International Academy Al Barsha is a premium Tier 1 International Baccalaureate school located at the heart of Al Barsha 1 with a catchment area attracting parents from The Palm, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Village Circle, Arabian Ranches, The Greens and Jumeirah Lakes. Al Barsha holds the greatest concentration of premium Tier 1 schools in the UAE.

Map for parents showing location of and directions to Dubai International Academy Al Barsha in Dubai

Considered one of the best locations in Dubai, Dubai International School Al Barsha took over the 1 million sft2 former site of the premium GEMS Dubai American Academy prior to its merger with GEMS Nations. Today, the expansive 23 acre campus hosts a cosmopolitan international role of around 900 children drawn from 133 nationalities. The school is currently open to Grade 11 with Grade 12 due to open in phased launch from 2021-22. As an IB World school, a complete IB education will be offered to students between the age of three and nineteen years.

Dubai International Academy Al Barsha is part of the Innoventures Education Group of schools:

List of all Innoventures Education Schools in the UAE

Its founding namesake school in Emirates Hills pioneered the International Baccalaureate in Dubai and is consistently ranked a Very Good School with Outstanding Features by the KHDA, Dubai’s Inspectorate of Schools. Our review of the founding school can be found here.


School Leadership

David Hicks Founding Principal Dubai International Academy Al Barsha

We met David Hicks first following his appointment when he was preparing Dubai International Academy Al Barsha just prior to its launch. Intelligent, exceptionally compassionate and deeply committed to his school, Mr Hicks spoke to us at length about his ambitions for DIA Al Barsha:

“This role sees me taking the brand of the best IB school in the emirates and working to improve on that very high bar.

We have one of the best resourced campuses in the UAE here in Al Barsha and Innoventures’ expertise in delivering the IB is second to none.

What makes us different is our ability to be inclusive and welcome every child to the Diploma programme and then see them succeed.

It’s quite something.

Innoventures effectively established the full IB programme in Dubai – this extraordinary new campus in Al Barsha is the natural next step in that story of outstanding academics, inspirational whole development for every student and caring, happy school dynamics.”

A computing and mathematics graduate by training, Mr Hicks studied at Swansea before completing his NPQH in School Leadership and Masters at London University, the latter focused on Applied Educational Leadership and Management. He brings to Dubai International Academy Al Barsha  more than two decade’s experience as an educationalist, latterly as Principal of the IB curriculum Emirates International School in Jumeirah.

His research paper on Dubai education and inspections has been cited by both the World Bank and CfBT. Mr Hicks served as a Member of the IB Regional Council (representing Africa, Europe and Middle East) between 2015 and 2017 and a member of the Steering Committee  for the KHDA’s ‘What Works’ programme to inspire sharing of best practice across UAE schools. A keen sportsman, Mr Hicks has been a coach for the Dubai Hurricanes Rugby Team since 2013.

Mr Hicks was shortlisted for Best Principal in the UAE at the Top School Awards and, under his leadership, Dubai International Academy Al Barsha was shortlisted for the 2018-20 Award for the Best New School to have opened in the the Emirates.



School facilities at Dubai International Academy Al Barsha are premium Tier 1. They include:

Academics and the Performing Arts

  • Landmark Auditorium
  • Fully Networked Library
  • Specialist rooms for Design Technology, Computer Technology, Art, Drama, Music and Language learning
  • Music and movement sprung-floored room for Kindergarten
  • Fully equipped Science Labs
  • State-of-the-art ICT Labs
  • Specialist Design Technology Labs
  • Outdoor learning areas
  • Examinations Hall


  • 3 fully climate-controlled, multi-purpose halls for a wide range of sports and other activities
  • 2 swimming pools
  • Running track
  • Tennis courts
  • Cricket nets
  • Full outdoor football playing field
  • Shaded play areas
  • Shaded outdoor basketball courts


  • 2 Cafeterias serving hot food



Photograph of children at Dubai International Academy Al Barsha engaged in a chemistry experiment as part of studying Science for the International Baccalaureate

Dubai International Academy Al Barsha currently differs from other schools in the Innoventures Group by its launching with a focus on developing all children for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. For a genuinely and unambiguously inclusive school this is a brave and ambitious move. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is academically stretching and places significant demands on second language ability unlike the alternative International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme. The argument put forward by Innoventures historically, and one based on a proven history of achievement for children, is that the level of investment in outstanding teachers ensures that every child is able to achieve highly under the Diploma.

Positively, Dubai International Academy Al Barsha has confirmed to us (October 2020) that it will be seeking candidacy for the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme immediately the the Diploma Programme is fully established. This should see the IB CP launched at the school by September 2022 or earlier. Extensive discussion on the proposed subject breadth of offer for BTEC is already underway.

We believe that all IB schools should be offering the technical stream IB Career-related Programme pathway as an alternative to the Diploma. BTEC, the standard foundation for the Career-related programme, is recognised for its powerful fit for many children. More on this issue can be found here. It is hugely creditable that the Career-related Programme is being strategically mapped so early in the school’s journey.

It is worth noting that both IB programmes are recognised by Tier 1 universities worldwide including Oxbridge and US Ivy League universities including Yale and Harvard. Also worth noting that the founding DIA school has a proven Oxbridge slipstream.

Dubai International Academy Al Barsha offers the full IB Diploma Programme, this traversing the:

  • International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme [IB PYP],

  • International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme [IB MYP];  and,

  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme [IBDP].


As above, the IB Career-related Programme should follow in September 2022.

We rate subject choice at Dubai International Academy Al Barsha outstanding with 21 full subjects offered as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma pathway. Higher Level Mathematics, Computing, Robotics and STEAM learning options are fully integrated in the curriculum.



Fees are Tier 1 premium but fall some 20% below the highest fees for an IB continuum school in Dubai. Given the breadth of facilities, breadth of subject choice, proven delivery and calibre of teachers we rate ROI as strong.

2020-2021 Fees for New Students
Grade/Year Level Fee for 2019-2020  Fee for 2020-2021  Registration Fee Term 1 Term 2 Term 3
Pre KG / FS1 45,604 41,500 2,075 14,525 12,450 12,450
KG1 /FS2 51,431 46,500 2,325 16,275 13,950 13,950
KG2 / Year 1 51,912 49,500 2,475 17,325 14,850 14,850
Grade 1 / Year 2 58,787 55,240 2,760 19,336 16,572 16,572
Grade 2 / Year 3 58,787 55,240 2,760 19,336 16,572 16,572
Grade 3 / Year 4 58,787 55,240 2,760 19,336 16,572 16,572
Grade 4 / Year 5 58,787 55,240 2,760 19,336 16,572 16,572
Grade 5 / Year 6 58,787 55,240 2,760 19,336 16,572 16,572
Grade 6 / Year 7 68,110 62,320 3,115 21,813 18,696 18,696
Grade 7 / Year 8 68,110 62,320 3,115 21,813 18,696 18,696
Grade 8 / Year 9 68,110 62,320 3,115 21,813 18,696 18,696
Grade 9 / Year 10 75,469 68,970 3,450 24,138 20,691 20,691
Grade 10 / Year 11 75,469 68,970 3,450 24,138 20,691 20,691
Grade 11 / Year 12 79,955 75,470 3,775 26,413 22,641 22,641
Grade 12 / Year 13 79,955 75,470 3,775 26,413 22,641 22,641

A significant scholarship programme operates across all Innoventures schools: the ACES Programme (Academic and Co-curricular Excellence Scholarships). At Dubai International Academy Al Barsha, fourteen students in 2020 received Awards across subject areas including Sport, the Performing Arts and for outstanding academic ability and potential. 


Bottom Line? The Verdict on Dubai International Academy Al Barsha 2020

A new school currently in phased launch, we would generally caution parents on the inevitable teething problems faced by even the most well led and financed schools. Dubai International Academy Al Barsha however brings to the table the experience of one of the most experienced schools groups in IB education operating in the UAE, together with very high calibre school leadership. Independent feedback to from parents and teaching faculty, together with supporting independent feedback to our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor, supports the view that this is already a school firing on all cylinders for its children. The DIA brand carries significant weight in the market, but it is also a brand that is closely aligned with the reputation of Innoventures Education – its investment here is necessarily high. It must ensure that this school is no less than trailblazing.

The quality and breadth of facilities here is Tier 1, subject breadth competes with the best IB school in the Emirates and the founding school competes in the top 5 schools in the UAE for results. In terms of the number of students entered for the IB Diploma, the founding school ranks second in Dubai. The commitment to introducing the Career-related Programme is particularly stand-out. The happy school dynamics and culture of kindness that underwrites this is a stand-out feature of the school and feedback from parents is definitive on the school’s commitment to community and building strong parent-school relationships.

It’s interesting that even at this stage, the founding Dubai International School in Emirates Hills has built itself some very powerful competition to reckon with. This is a school alive with potential. Could it beat its founding school to outstanding school status? On the basis of its achievements for children to date, we would not bet against its doing just that.

Highly recommended.

© 2020. All right reserved.


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Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

New school - first inspection due 2021-22

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating


Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

Pre-KG/FS1: 41,500
KG1/FS2: 46,500
KG2/Year1: 49,500
Year 2: 52,240
Year 3: 52,240
Year 4: 52,240
Year 5: 52,240
Year 6: 52,240
Year 7: 62,320
Year 8: 62,320
Year 9: 68,970
Year 10: 68,970
Year 11: 75,470
Year 12: 75,470


International Baccalaureate:
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme
International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme
International Baccalaureate Diploma
International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme in planning for launch in September 2022

External Exam Boards

International Baccalaureate

IB DipM Pass Rate

New School
Reference Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills Pass rate 2020: 100%

IB DipM Average Grade

New School
Reference Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills Average Grade 2020: 35

Number of A Levels offered

21 International Baccalaureate Diploma Subjects


Fully and unambiguously inclusive

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Capacity: 2500

Teacher to Student Ratio

Average class size: 18
Maximum capped class size: 25

Largest nationality teachers

British/International (UK/Ireland/South Africa)

Teacher turnover


Year opened

September 2018


Al Barsha, Dubai

Student composition

(1) 133 nationalities
(2) Male:Female 5:4


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



Innoventures Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 524 4800 / 4900

Web Address

• Outstanding school leadership
• shortlisting for Best New School in the UAE 2018-20
• Outstanding subject choice with 21 subjects offered under the Diploma pathway
• Deep commitment to scholarships for students to ensure that highly performing children across Sport, the Performing Arts and in academic disciplines are able to access a Tier 1 education
• Commitment to later introduction of the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme and BTEC technical stream subjects
• Proven Innoventures Education management
• Premium DIA brand
• Happy school dynamics
• Outstanding independent feedback from teachers and parents.

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Fabulous, Tier 1 IB continuum school approaching full all-through opening in 2021-22. The combination of outstanding school leadership, expansive campus, tier 1 facilities, significant investment in teaching faculty and happy whole child dynamics make Dubai International Academy Al Barsha a very attractive proposition for parents seeking a top tier education for their children. Highly recommended.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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