Fairgreen International School, The Sustainable City, Dubailand – The Review
“Whatever they may say, it is difficult for any school to know what knowledge children will need in the future. But what we do know is that our next generation of students are likely to be engaged in many different careers. Underpinning the developing 21st century economies will be the need to empower in our children a fundamental sense of purpose in a relatively unstable, rapidly developing world.
At Fairgreen International School, we believe that there are key attributes for the 21st century world facing our children that we have a responsibility to instil.
The generation of children we have now will be career changers. They will need to be adaptable in ways our generation simply did not have to be. Skills like self-discipline, self-management and sheer force of will and determination will become absolutely fundamental.
Our graduating students will need to know what to do when they don’t, in fact, know what to do.
Our graduating students will need to understand how to build generic frameworks to solve problems across industries, specialisms and circumstances that are no longer predictable.
The days of progression and employment in a single industry, in a single country, in a role for life are increasingly over.
We must as educators equip our graduating students with skills to have an open as possible world available to them.
What education cannot be about any longer, as it was historically, is instilling just a basic bank of knowledge. Knowledge and its economies are developing at the speed of thought and basic banks of knowledge may well be obsolete almost from the moment they leave us. Instead, our children must, and will, graduate from Fairgreen International School as internationally focused problem solvers and project managers – able to shift adeptly between sectors and the many opportunities thrown up by the very different world facing them.
Fairgreen is fundamentally committed to delivering for all our children this new, attributes-based education.”
Edward Pearce, Principal and Director, Fairgreen International School
Fairgreen International School is the first, and currently only, International Baccalaureate school in the UAE offering a highly focused sustainability focused education for children and young men and women. The school is the recipient of the SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Award for Best School for Innovation in the UAE 2021-22. The school is accredited to provide the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP), the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Career-related Programme (IBCP), the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) Set. The school offers both Career and Diploma pathways at Post-16 in partnership with the Sustainability Management School of Switzerland (SUMAS)and is one of only ten schools in the UAE to offer students all four International Baccalaureate® programs and the only IB school is the emirates with a core focus on, and expertise in, the Environmental and related Sciences.
Fairgreen International School aims to equip its students with skills in the new sustainability employment area by developing their skills, interest and knowledge in disciplines as diverse as climate change, food production, sustainable building architecture and power systems technology.
As the hub school for Sustainable City, a global centre for research and industrial development in this area, students have a unique opportunity to build a bank of skills that are likely to be of significant interest to future employers and universities.
If this is the bigger picture, there is much to recommend Fairgreen across traditional areas of school provision. This is, by UAE standards, a small, hugely warm and intimate school – and one richly embedded in its community. Current school enrolment is around 500 students across 60 nationalities with expected growth to a capacity of 1150 students over the next few years. With the teacher-student ratio of around 1:13 children have exceptional levels of both academic as well as whole-child care and attention. Given the reputation of the school and its pioneering focus, Fairgreen has also attracted a very high calibre of teachers – and across subject areas (more on this below).
It is worth noting that for parents seeking a pure British, rather than IB based, sustainability-focused education, Dubai also offers the Furjan-based Arbor School, reviewed here.
Location, Grades and Teaching faculty
Fairgreen School, based in Dubailand, currently offers a Pre-KG to Grade 11 education with Grade 12 opening in September this year (2022). The school opened with Pre-KG to Grade 9 classes in September 2018. Parents should note the rare confidence shown by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools in granting permission for ESOL to initially open the school to Grade 9. This sort of agreement for extended grade opening is only awarded by the KHDA to schools with proven experience of operating high calibre schools.
Teacher nationalities mirror the diversity of the student role. Key faculty are drawn from Belgium, South Africa, Australia, America, Canada and Great Britain. Teachers have been sourced globally through word of mouth, industry recommendation and reputation. We rate teaching calibre very high. The minimum qualification held by faculty is a Bachelors degree whilst many teachers have advanced diplomas, Masters and/or doctorates. The school invests significantly in professional development (more below). Average teaching experience is in excess of four years plus and teacher turnover is 0%.
The cutting edge, radical, scientifically focused education on offer here can in fact trace its history back through traditional top-tier British and American schooling.
In the UK schools like the historic Lancing College, reviewed on our sister site, here, make a point of operating with an integrated British farm to provide children with an education rooted in conservation, sustainability and the land. There are more than 116 schools in the UK operating with integrated links to farming and countless others which can trace their conservation and sustainability focused grounding through generations.
Similarly, in the US, so called “Farm Schools” and the broader farm school movement counts around 50,000 schools in its number across all 50 states.
To some degree this is a simple case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
The difference, however, from Fairgreen’s historic counterparts in the UK and US, is the absolute focus on contemporary sustainability – and the hard science behind it. Ahead of its students lies a rapidly growing sustainability economy and the now widespread integration of sustainability metrics in global business.
Where once sustainability was driven by reputation management, today global companies integrate sustainability as a primary means to reduce costs and increase efficiency. There is huge demand for experts in these and related sectors. Students immersed in an understanding of sustainability across all its aspects, it is argued, will find open doors to future employment and skills simply not available to students at traditional schools in the UAE which are simply being left behind by the march of progress.
“One of very few schools of its type and quality worldwide, the Fairgreen International School project initiates an important and necessary evolution for K-12 education.”
Walid Abushakra,Chairman. ESOL Education.
If there is one key message here it is that an education rooted in sustainability is about the hard dynamics of skills for the 21st century – as well as the noble and necessary ambitions of guiding our economies to a better world for all.
So what is on offer at the Fairgreen International School?
The Sustainable City
First, context. As above, uniquely the school sits as the educational hub of The Sustainable City. It was designed within the master-plan to “set a standard for world class education that integrates sustainability in all its forms (environmental, social and economic) through the highest academic standards and innovative teaching.” Ground up the school has been designed to integrate with and provide the educational foundations of the Sustainable City.
On a small scale, examples like this can be found in its basic build and master-planning. Classrooms open out naturally onto shaded areas naturally vented by the City’s wind towers. The design allows for the natural environment of the City to flow into the school, including its flora, fauna and wildlife. Fairgreen’s campus is designed to minimize the school’s environmental impact, utilizing solar power for all its energy needs, recycling all its water for agricultural use, and implementing waste separation and wind energy generation.
The Sustainable City itself is, theoretically at least, a self-sufficient community. Built on a 46 hectare, 5 million square feet plot, the City is demarcated by a 30-metre wide, three tier buffer zone of forest comprising some 2500 trees, these including at their inner layer dates for harvesting. The forest’s layers are designed to blend seamlessly to inspire wildlife and reach up to 10 metres. Within the City Car Parking is restricted to defined areas and alternative transport is integrated including dedicated horse-riding, cycle and Electric (solar) Vehicle [EV] routes. The 4KM of cycle track includes storm water capture to re-energise the ground water table. A landmark Equestrian Centre is easily accessible for children attending Fairgreen International.
Of all features of the Sustainable City the standout, for children at The Fairgreen School, is probably The Farm. This delivers over 3,000 square metres of urban farming and includes 11 biodomes, one of which is managed by the school and its children. A community Box Programme, increasingly common in the UK, allows the school and resident access to “home grown” fruit and vegetables that have been produced within the farming belt of the City. The water used for the farming is all recycled greywater, processed within the City.
The Diamond Innovation Centre at the heart of The Sustainable City houses R&D programmes in conjunction with sustainability players including the diversity of California. It is also the region’s first carbon negative footprint building: over its lifetime it will produce more energy than that required to both run and produce it. A Junior Innovation Centre showcases, from a child-focused perspective, the importance and impacts of sustainability and the science that underpins it. The headquarters of the Emirates Wildlife Fund-WWF is also based within the City and works with the City to tackle climate change, promote solar power and develop best practice within the field of energy conservation.
The Sustainable City also includes the most advanced Paediatric Centre in the UAE specially designed to offer the spectrum of child medical and related specialist services offering easy and highly accessible links for children with specialised SEND requirements including autism.
Residential and leisure aspects of the city are structured around these core elements – and the point, for children at Fairgreen International School, is to be able to understand in microcosm how global cities of the future can become self-sustaining. On a more holistic note, the opportunities for children of a school to be intimately embedded within the context of a community rooted in conservation and sustainability has numerous knock on impacts on health, well-being and simply on being grounded.
It is easy to forget, in a world of supermarkets and plastic packaging, where food, and the power we use to build our cities, actually comes from …
The Fairgreen International School curriculum: International Baccalaureate + Sustainability + STEAM
The International Baccalaureate curriculum, it is argued, perfectly lends itself to the cross curricular opportunities presented by the Sustainability City. At its simplest, it is one thing to read about solar production in books – quite another to be at the centre of its production. Surrounded by R&D hubs seeking solutions to global problems, the integral problem-solving approach of the IB – together with its project approach to teaching, can draw from the Sustainable City on-the-doorstep access to technology, academic development and multi-disciplinary innovation to bring education to life.
Because sustainability has been completely integrated within the curriculum from “Day One”, the ambition is for the school to contribute in its own right in helping the UAE achieve its sustainable development goals (SDG’s) as outlined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the Dubai Plan and the UAE’s National Committee on SDGs.
“From the campus and architecture to the curriculum and activities, the entire school will adhere to a ‘sustainability first’ ethos with the aim that Fairgreen shall become one of the world’s foremost models of an integrated sustainable school, enabling students to fully envision and tackle the global challenges posed by climate change, the impact of conventional energy sources and food scarcity.
Our graduates will understand the urgency and importance of sustainable living, which will guide their academic and career choices.
They will be pioneers of renewable energy research and urban agriculture, eco-entrepreneurs and public policy change makers.”
Walid Abushakra,Chairman. ESOL Education.
Fairgreen International School offers the complete International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum of education, comprising the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), and, as above, Fairgreen International School also offers students the choice between both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) and the International Baccalaureate Career-related programme (IB CP).
We rate the the IB CP programme very highly – our view is that all IB schools should be offering this choice for students to ensure that any school can meet the needs, abilities, potential and ambitions of every child.
“Personally I believe this, the Career-related Programme, is the qualification that has, in far too many IB schools, been missing. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is certainly not for all children I think it is vital we have multiple alternative pathways for students. We want programmes that offer children choice to meet the demands of industry, broader employment and university. The International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme, particularly at Fairgreen with our cutting edge access to research and development in Sustainability, will deliver all of these very powerfully. ”
Edward Pearce, Principal and Director, Fairgreen International School [Emphasis added. Ed.]
The IB CP programme, given the school’s expertise in sustainability, is likely to set a benchmark in the UAE for the quality of its specialised provision – this strengthened by its unique partnership with the Sustainability Management School of Switzerland (SUMAS)
Worth noting too that this is an ESOL school, an organisation with more than 40 years experience of delivering highly successful schools worldwide.
SchoolsCompared.com has been an outspoken proponent of the Career-related programme because, uniquely, it offers a technical stream foundation within its programme for children. As a general rule, we think parents should be focused on shortlisting IB schools, like Fairgreen International School, that offer both programmes. It is hard to think of a more perfect location for running the programme than at Fairgreen, given this location within the Sustainable City.
It is worth noting that the IB, particularly in the Diploma and Career-related programmes has the capacity, at its best, to provide an environment in which young men and women can solve problems, develop patents and provide industry solutions on a global scale.
Fairgreen International School Facilities
Facilities are typically Tier 1 and include the “usual” and expected “suspects” at this level of fees and provision. These include:
- Technology-enabled classrooms
- “State of the art” labs across every component of curriculum provision
- Production and “maker” facilities
- Landmark library
- The full spectrum of specialised Arts and music labs, studios and spaces
- A Tier 1 athletic complex include 25M swimming pool, indoor multi-purpose gym, auditorium, outdoor soccer field, ball courts and playgrounds.
However, for many parents it is the added value of its citing within The Sustainable City that will be the major draw. This is not a school operating in a vacuum. These unique features, as above, include:
- Unbridled access to the Sustainable City’s Innovation Centre, Junior Innovation Centre, Equestrian Centre, biking facilities and jogging tracks.
- Access to one of The Sustainable City’s bio-domes dedicated to the school. The Biodome will serve as Fairgreen’s Health, Wellness, and Learning Centre. Led by Stephen Ritz, the facility is being modelled on the transformational programs he established in New York and will engage Fairgreen’s students in project-based learning through urban and vertical farming.
ECAs reflect this with, for example, unique activities built around the BEITFANN community art gallery and sustainable urban farming programmes – as well as the spectrum of school-standard ECAs from Rugby, football, tennis and swimming to drama and language study.
Established in 1976, ESOL Education operates nine schools across five countries, most recently establishing the American School Hong Kong in 2016, its first school in East Asia. Fairgreen International School is the first in the group to focus on, and build its curriculum around, sustainability.
ESOL will be well-known to many UAE parents for its American International School in Abu Dhabi (AISA), reviewed here, historic management of the Universal American School in Dubai (UAS), reviewed here, and Deira International School (DIS) in Dubai, reviewed here.
Along with Fairgreen International School, ESOL also opened the Dunecrest American School in September 2018. Interestingly, Fairgreeen International School was initially sited at Dunecrest during the finalisation of its build – the net positive impact of which has been positive relationships and exchanges between the schools, and their children, that continue today.
Edward Pearce, Australian by birth, brings to Fairgreen International School, more than two decades of experience in education.
Initially qualified in Applied Science – Environmental Management at the University of Western Sydney, Mr Pearce comes with a background deeply aligned with the ethics, academic specialism and educational framework of Fairgreen. Mr Pearce developed his teaching career in Australia before taking up a post in Nottingham in the United Kingdom between 2001 and 2007.
Between 2008 and 2011 Mr Pearce served as the Deputy Head of Repton Preparatory School in Dubai, prior to joining The Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as Assistant Principal then Acting Principal of Primary education, a position he held until 2015. This was followed by his move to China to lead Nord Anglia Education’s The British School, Guangzhou until 2017. His immediate post prior to joining Fairgreen International School as Principal and Director was as Head of School at Nord Anglia’s The British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park, in the United States, a school with a history in conservation and STEAM and a recipient of the prestigious Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards in 2017 for a film documenting the school’s Floating Gardens conservation project, this aimed at rehabilitating riverbanks and wildlife.
Mr Pearce writes:
“Through teaching I have learnt many lessons on the way children view the world, the way children learn about the world and how we as adults can learn about the world from a child’s perspective.
Learning is a continuous process, both inside and outside of the school walls, and is born of natural curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and a desire to always do one’s best.
Teaching internationally has fed my natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge and I strive to promote such values in the students of any school I am involved with.”
Mr Pearce is currently completing his Masters in Business Administration with the University of Cumbria (UK) and Robert Kennedy College, Switzerland. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Education and accredited school inspector for British Schools Overseas.
Mr Pearce is married to Sarah, herself an educator currently completing her Doctorate in International Education. They have two children, Oscar and Lachlan, both of which attend Fairgreen International School.
“The educational philosophy at the heart of what we are achieving at Fairgreen International School is founded in robust research and our teaching methodology and approach fully supported by recent findings from educational neuroscience.
Throughout their educational journey with us our children are enveloped within a culture of extraordinary care.
Above all, innovation and creativity are the non-negotiables – all our children at Fairgreen International School are encouraged to be courageous and will be inspired to think differently.”
Edward Pearce, Principal and Director, Fairgreen International School.
Mr Pearce is a keen sportsman with particular interests in golf and cricket.
The fee structure for Fairgreen International School has bucked the trend for new ultra-premium schools which we have seen pitching fees beyond 100,000 DHS.
Given the facilities and offer, whilst clearly a fee structure that will not be affordable for many parents, our view is that the ROI value offer here, we rate as high.
The provision of the International Baccalaureate Career-related programme is a particular benefit for children joining the school in the early years, offering the broadest possible choice for them in the final years of their education. Too many schools still limit pupils to the International Baccalaureate Diploma, often with supporting alternatives that offer much less value including limiting alternatives to individual IB courses, or, in American schools the High School Diploma.
The Technical stream opportunities afforded by the International Baccalaureate Career-related programme will be valuable to students who might struggle, or simply not benefit from the academic (and second language) demands of the Diploma. The Career-related Programme is equally valued by top tier universities worldwide – and in some sectors of study or industry is likely to offer students an advantage over the Diploma.
Secondly, Fairgreen is offering a sustainability focus embedded within its programmes that is simply not available currently in any other UAE IB school.
Parents should note that interestingly the standard fees for Fairgreen International School are broadly comparable with those for the Arbor School – a clear benefit ensuring that, as parents, we can make our decisions based on the curriculum on offer rather than the muddling dynamics of fee levels. For parents not decided on a British or IB curriculum, a visit to both schools is recommended.
It is worth noting too that the 3-year Founders discount packages on offer for boys and girls joining Fairgreen International School are generous, and particularly so for those joining at Pre-KG to Year 1 phases. We are pleased to see that the discounts have not been restricted for Pre-KG. A number of schools reduce the discounts for this phase, presumably because it is the year most launching schools faced the highest demand.
Future Developments and Investment
It is telling that, despite being a newer school, Fairgreen International is investing significantly, on an ongoing basis. Considerable future planning is in place. Already we have seen completion of the school’s final stage of solar panel connection. This has resulted in almost complete power independence of the school from carbon with the result that, today, Fairgreen International School is almost entirely solar driven. Other work completed includes enhanced greening of the school grounds and investment in the Fairgreen International School library – with extensive materials to drive research.
Other developments include:
- Growing the internal farming lab, Urban Farm, that opened in September 2019. Fairgreen’s Urban Farm focuses on the scientific biology and ecology of growth from farm to plate. Students will explore where food comes from and factors influencing production as they grow their own herbs and vegetables. The Urban Farm will evolve to see ramped up food production experiments. Currently, produce is utilized for special events and gifted to families within the community. Efforts could evolve to include a commercial venture and additional social responsibility initiatives to give back to the broader community – a central pillar and foundations of the school’s ethical and whole child framework of student character and personal development.
- Continuing enhancement of the “Design Engineer Construct!® (“DEC!”) Learning Programme that launched in September 2019 across Grades 8 and 9. The programme is “transformative.” Developed by Alison Watson MBE in Great Britain, Fairgreen International School’s programme is an international showcase for what can be achieved in education focused around the sustainable built environment.
An example of UK based teaching can be found below:
The programme covers sustainable architecture, surveying, design engineering and construction and sees students receiving a recognised UK Diploma:L3C-and-L3D-COYO-Advice-and-Guidance-document
“Dubai is recognised as the world’s architects’ playground. We have companies in this space ranging from AI companies, construction companies, architects and governments. With the “Design Engineer Construct!® (“DEC!”) Learning Programme, Fairgreen International School will forge links across Dubai and globally – and equip our students with what is currently the best qualification in this space available today.
Importantly, this is a UK founded, built environment, projects-based engineering qualification aimed equally at young men and women.
We will be giving our students a truly fantastic opportunity to engage directly with industry and provide substance, power and depth to the IB Career-related Programme at Fairgreen.”
Edward Pearce, Principal and Director, Fairgreen International School.
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2022
We have engaged with Fairgreen International School since the school was very first mooted by ESOL. Over this period, and following our visit in June 2019, we remain not only hugely impressed by the ambitions of the school and what it is achieving – but also convinced of its importance and potential. This is a game changing school that is equipping its children in a sector that is seeing exceptional demand and growth with the skills that will be critical and invaluable across a very different, much less secure and fixed employment landscape to come.
Fairgreen International is a high integrity, high value school deeply rooted in the IB space – including provision of the outstanding International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme.
For all parents seeking an International Baccalaureate education in the sustainable economy sector, Fairgreeen International School delivers much to be genuinely excited and impressed with.
However, more than this, for all parents seeking a formidable, exciting, entrepreneurial education for their children FULL STOP, one that delivers across subjects, child interests, academics and whole child, Fairgreen International School positively sparkles.
Little wonder Fairgreen International School was the joint winner of the 2019 SchoolsCompared.com Best School Award, with Jumeirah English Speaking School, for its Outstanding Innovation in Technology – and as above, the 2022 Top Schools Award for Best School for Innovation in the Emirates.
VERY highly recommended.
© SchoolsCompared.com. A WhichMedia Group publication. 2023. All rights reserved.
First inspection due 2020
First inspection due 2020
First inspection due 2020
First inspection due 2020
Note: the following are KHDA maximum fees. For discounted fees please see main review.
YEAR 1: 70,000
YEAR 2: 70,000
YEAR 3: 70,000
YEAR 4: 70,000
YEAR 5: 78,000
YEAR 6: 78,000
YEAR 7: 78,000
YEAR 8: 78,000
YEAR 9: 78,000
YEAR 10: 78,000
YEAR 11: 88,000
YEAR 12: 88,000
(1) All-through IB PYP, MYP, IB DP
(2) Provision for Career-related Programme
(3) Exclusive integration of sustainability within the curriculum programmes from entering the school
The Sustainable City, Dubailand, Dubai
+971 (0) 4 349 9989
• Unique in the UAE UK grounded qualification following Design Engineer Construct Programme
• IB Career-related programme
• Visionary school leadership
• Outstanding facilities
• High ROI
• One of few schools built ground-up to offer a curriculum able to meet the very different demands of the 21st century economy and employment
• Small school community dynamics
• Outstanding teacher-student investment and ratio
• Strong, meaningful and genuine investment in care for children - academic, whole child and individual
• Opportunity for families to guide the development, ethos and evolution of a new school
• Hugely warm and caring school dynamics
• Outstanding facilities and ECAs
• Hub school for the Sustainable City with access to cutting edge industrial development and research for children
• 2019 SchoolsCompared.com Joint Award, with JESS Dubai, for Outstanding Innovation in Technology
• Stanford University Pre-Collegiate Programme
• New school in early phase of development – inevitable potential for teething issues