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iCADEMY Middle East, Dubai Knowledge Village
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Review

iCADEMY Middle East, Dubai Knowledge Village

by September 5, 2016
Strengths

• Exceptionally targeted curriculum designed around individual children
• High value fees that could deliver a world class, balancing enrichment programme
• A solution for many students in a vast number of circumstances including where mainstream education simply does not fit, or is not available for a limited period
• Proven delivery with around a decade’s experience in the Middle East and full support of a heavyweight US on-line education provider
• KHDA accreditation – unique for this type of schooling
• Children can simply, and seamlessly, transfer in and out of the curriculum to mainstream alternatives

Weaknesses

• Outside the norm for many parents for whom the option will be automatically discounted
• Perceived risk
• Parents will need to invest in after-school activities to provide balance

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
A-
B
Value
B+
A+
ExtraCurricula
C+
A
Languages
B+
A
Sports
C+
A
Arts & Drama
C+
A+
Teaching
A-
A+
Communications
D+
A+
Warmth
B+
A+
Differentiation
A+
A+
SEND Provision
A-
A
Scl Community
B-
A+
Scl Facilities
B-
A+
Opportunities

• An education with very significant potential for very many children. It is a choice however that requires significant thought – and not a little courage. The eventual decision made by prospective parents, on whichever side of the balance of benefits and trade-offs it is eventually made, will have life changing impacts. And for that reason, it is one worth making.

B
Our Rating
A
User Rating
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Top of shortlist
33%
In my Top 5
33%
Shortlisted
0%
A possibility
33%
Pass
0%
No way
0%

Updated November 2016

iCademy Middle East is the new name/brand for the K12 International Academy, a ‘school’ first established in Dubai in 2008.  Our focus here is on the blended programmes offered by iCademy which combine the on-line teaching of a traditional K-Year 12 US curriculum with a physical location in which students can learn “together”, based in Dubai Knowledge Village.

The blended programme has local teachers (“On-line Learning Coaches”), each holding a minimum Bachelor’s degree and full teacher training qualification, however their role is better described as coaching/motivational/organisational. Core instruction is carried on interactively online with live US teachers and pre-constructed on-line generic lessons.

Whilst students learn together in the same room, they do so intellectually separated with headphones and a screen. Learning is an individual not shared experience – and each student studies bespoke programmes, these defined by their ability, interest, ambition and rate of learning.

At first many prospective parents will find the concept of quiet classrooms, without a shared teaching experience, odd. There are, however, some exceptionally important benefits of this model of teaching.  

For most traditional schools, seeking to deliver an outstanding education, the ambition is to deliver as far as possible an education targeted to the needs of each child. Inevitably though in any traditional school, based necessarily on shared classes led by a single teacher, the educational experience is uniform, with classes of children sharing the same learning experience, curriculum and a standardised lesson experience.

Whole child development is, as a result, focused much more on ECA provision and enrichment within traditional bricks and mortar schools. The best Tier 1s offer greater subject choice – but even the Tier 1 premiums cannot afford, or logistically manage, to provide individual curriculums tailored to individual children. That would require at its most extreme each child being taught separately with huge numbers of teachers determined by the breadth of subject provision on offer. More  ‘progressive’ schools try to do this with new school, Clarion, being an example in the UAE.

iCademy does not suffer any of these limitations because children learn in isolation according to curriculum content directly related to their academic profile and needs. Because that content is pre-recorded, subject choice and options are, as a result, potentially/theoretically unlimited. The result is that iCademy is able to deliver programmes tailored to the whole spectrum of child abilities, needs and ambitions, including students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and the Gifted and Talented child. The school also extends education to 21 allowing programmes to be modified according to each child’s speed of learning.

Small class sizes (online they are effectively 1:1); exact matching of education to the child; programme adjustments in rate and breadth -traditional schools cannot even come close to matching it.

The trade-off, and price paid, for this approach is, however, that learning is an isolated experience. There is interactivity with “live” on-line teachers – and the blended program does offer at least physical proximity to other students and the presence of a teaching co-ordinator to guide and motivate (unlike pure on-line, generally home based variants on offer), but the core experience is individualised rather than shared.

This is, we believe, the core choice facing prospective parents. No review can guide a parent here. The balancing equation will lie in the degree to which parents can provide an after school life for their children rich in social activities with other children – and whether that can meet the broader social needs of a child’s education.

There is another key point too that should be made in support of iCademy in the context of its US curriculum. Our US Curriculum Guide can be found here. iCademy sets itself apart in providing the spectrum of Advanced Placement courses, examinations critical for students seeking Tier 1 university placements.

In terms of fees too, measured solely on the quality of course provision, parents are securing a premium education (and in terms of individual child modelling significantly in excess of this) at significantly less than the equivalent premium plus schools. Of course, the comparison is not a fair one – this is a very different education and there is no comparison with facility provision or breadth offered by the best traditional schools. Fees for the fully blended programme in Dubai Knowledge Village too  are premium (more than double the on-line-only home school option), running, according to the programme chosen, to between around 60,000 AED and 70,000 AED. This does, however,  provide for what is effectively a 1:1 education.

And the savings on fees compared with a Tier 1 Premium could enable parents to build a world class enrichment programme for children outside school – and one engaging parents too in the growing up of their child(ren).

The fundamental point here is that an iCademy education should not be dismissed out of hand. Many parents will do this because it is so outside the normal parameters of what we generally think of as a “normal” education. If this review achieves nothing else the above should provide enough food for thought to hopefully give parents the opportunity to weigh its merits and trade-offs in the balance.

Bottom line? For many children, iCademy will automatically fit. One example is for parents waiting for a place to become available in a traditional school. Another is almost certainly for children with Special Educational Needs for whom a mainstream education may well simply not be able to match the tailored, individually focused offer of an on-line curriculum.

But there are also many parents for whom the opportunities here may well inspire a different way of looking at education. The savings alone (over a Tier 1 Premium) would pay for an enrichment programme that would exceed any possible offer by even the best schools to provide the best of both worlds.

This said, all children are different. Choosing this model of education will inherently be a risk. And that might be sufficient to dissuade many, despite the many opportunities it offers.

If after reading this, however, parents have had the basic tools to have made that choice, we will have achieved something important.

Prospective parents should note that fees for blended programmes have been weighted as premium, but given the predominantly on-line basis of course provision with teachers operating in a supporting capacity, it could be argued that they are premium-plus. Parents will arguably need to build a supporting after-school enrichment programme to balance the inherent isolation of core learning. Prospective parents should also note that it has been exceptionally difficult grading this school comparatively because, to some degree, any comparative scoring for such a fundamentally different type of education must be inherently subjective.

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Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: NA
FS2: 18,332
YEAR 1: 18,332
YEAR 2: 18,332
YEAR 3: 18,332
YEAR 4: 18,332
YEAR 5: 18,332
YEAR 6: 18,332
YEAR 7: 18,332
YEAR 8: 18,332
YEAR 9: 25,672
YEAR 10: 25,672
YEAR 11: 25,672
YEAR 12: 25,672
YEAR 13: NA
Note: these fees are for the on-line only non blended programme. Blended programme fees run to between 60,000 AED and 70,000 AED according to the curriculum/support mix chosen.

Curriculum

United States:
High School Diploma (HSD)
Advanced Placement (AP)

External Exam Boards

Advancing Excellence in Education (AdvanED)
New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC) candidate application 2017
College Board

Selective

Exceptionally academically inclusive

Waiting list

No

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

711
Notes:
(1) 110 students in Blended Learning programmes based in Knowledge Village.

Teacher to Student Ratio

K2-Year 2: 1:6
Year 3 - 5: 1: 7 (Blended)
Year 6-8: 1:8 (Blended)
Year 9-12: 1:10 (Blended)

Largest nationality teachers

US (on-line) / International (local)
Notes:
(1) All local teachers ("On-line Learning Coaches") hold a minimum-Bachelor's degree and full teacher training qualifications)

Teacher turnover

<10%

Year opened

2016: iCademy
(2007-8 K12 International Academy))

Location

Dubai Knowledge Village, Jumeirah 2, Dubai

Student composition

110 students
Nationality: Western (largest nationality grouping)
Special Educational Needs (SEN)10% High School/30% Middle School/50% Elementary School

Gender

Mixed, co-educational (iCADEMY Middle East)

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Pansophic Learning, Virginia, USA.
Ron Packard, Founder and CEO

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 444 01 212

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Attainment Pri SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Attainment Sec SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Attainment Post-16 SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Progress Nur SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Progress Pri SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Progress Sec SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Progress Post-16 SEM

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

Insufficient published information to determine score

Islamic St. Primary Results

Insufficient published information to determine score

Islamic St. Secondary Results

Insufficient published information to determine score

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

Insufficient published information to determine score

Leadership

100%

Community

100%

Quality of teaching

100% (dependent on child)

Student personal responsibility

100% (dependent on child)

Quality of curriculum

100%

School Governance

NA

SEN Provision

100% (dependent on child)
Notes:
(1) On-line programmes have been reported to offer a good fit with a high percentage of children on the mild to moderate Special Educational Needs spectrum and particularly, in relevant subjects, for children with autism.

About The Author
Jon Westley

Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities