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Dwight School Dubai, Al Barsha South

Dwight School Dubai, Al Barsha South

by Jon WestleyDecember 5, 2017

Updated February 2018 – Dwight School Dubai exclusive interview, scholarships, founding discounts and school profile

“Dwight New York is delighted to extend Dwight’s 150-year commitment to ‘ignite the spark of genius in every child’ to Dubai, where students will be part of one global Dwight family.

Our new school in Dubai will join those in New York, London, Seoul, and Shanghai that share this mission.”

Stephen Spahn. Chancellor. The Dwight Schools



Dwight School Dubai [DSD] is a non-selective KG to Year 12 IB Curriculum school set to open in Al Barsha South in September 2018 offering, on full, all-phase opening, an all-through international International Baccalaureate education for children between 3 and 19 years.

Map of Al Barsha South in Dubai showing the location of Dwight School Dubai launching in September 2018


Dwight School Dubai will initially open to Grade 9 – this in itself a testament to the faith of the Dubai school’s regulator in the ability of Dubai to hit the ground running.

The founding school was established in New York in 1872 by Julius Sachs, a member of the Goldman-Sachs family of bankers. Alumni of Dwight schools internationally include Truman Capote, Paris Hilton, Vin Diesel, John Williams, Michael Mansfield QC, Ray Davies CBE, Sir Walter Leonard Allinson and a “who’s who” of notable figures from politics, the Performing Arts, business, sports and the Sciences worldwide.

An image showing Dwight School in New York which provides the founding heritage and ethos for Dwight School Dubai opening in 2018.

In our December 2017 interview with Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, parents are advised that this is not, first and foremost an American school – the profiile is resolutely International Baccalaureate and International:

“Dwight School Dubai is first and foremost an international IB school.

Yes, it is a true branch of the American IB flagship school, the Dwight School New York, which was the first school in the Americas to adopt the IB programs from PreK – Grade 12.

But an IB education is not an American education.

It is, rather, a genuine and authentic international education that does not lend itself to one single national curricula.

What is unique about Dwight is the school’s solid family history, founded as far back as in 1872, and over the past eighty years being owned and governed by the New York family, the Spahns.

Dwight is the epicenter of modern, progressive international education beautifully cherished and nurtured in a wholesome family cradle, giving the school, as much in New York, as in London, Seoul, Shanghai or in Dubai a unique sense of family belonging and atmosphere.

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai.

Although this will be Dwight School New York’s first venture in the Middle East, parents, we believe, should take confidence from the success of other Dwight sister schools already established in London, Seoul and Shanghai. With all the usual provisos in place about the theoretical risks of any new school, Dwight has a very proven track record of establishing sister schools that deliver, do so quickly – and to a very high standard for their children.

Importantly too, whilst Dwight is an IB through school, parents should not see Dwight as an academic hothouse, or a school established ground-up to be selective for academic children, as is the case for example with North London Collegiate School Dubai reviewed here.

The average IB Diploma score of Dwight school in London, probably the better reference, hovers around the 30 mark – low for an academic IB school – but creditable for an inclusive one and pretty much perfectly aligned with the worldwide average.

What this scoring suggests, given the bigger picture below, is that Dwight offers genuinely inclusive IB schooling – and that requires significant investment and a very high calibre of teachers.


The Super-campus issue

Architectural image of the new Dwight School Dubai which will share a super campus with the new Brighton College Dubai also opening in September 2018

The most important thing that prospective parents should note when considering Dwight follows the somewhat confused marketing of the school. DSD is being marketed as part of a 4,000 student “super-campus” that will also include Brighton College Dubai and the Centre of Excellence for Arabic Language, Culture and the Arts.

We think this is very unhelpful. As is often the case, great marketing can also often be distracting.

These are separate institutions simply situated in relative proximity. This, after all, is true of many schools in Dubai. Just because a school is situated next to another does not make it a super-campus or add any clear benefits. The only link seems to be the provision of

  • a 600-seat auditorium
  • an IAAF-standard running track

which will be shared by Brighton and Dwight (and which at least arguably confuses issues unnecessarily – many parents would assume each school should have these as standard separately.)

So, our recommendation is that prospective should not be swayed by the marketing of a super-campus.

The focus must be, as with all schools, on whether Dwight School, standing alone, will be a good choice for prospective parents: what defines its offer; what gives it uniqueness and makes it stand out – and what type of children will it best suit.

Brighton College, The Centre of Excellence for Arabic Language, Culture and the Arts and Dwight School are completely separate institutions and parents should not be distracted by the marketing. However, the proximity of The Centre of Excellence for Arabic Language, Culture and the Arts, if it delivers on its aims, has the potential to significantly improve the quality of Arabic language provision and cultural education across schools and Dwight is well placed to leverage the dedicated provision and expertise it brings to the region.

“At Dwight we place a significant importance on language learning, by stimulating mother tongue proficiency, our host country language (Arabic) learning and the acquisition of other foreign languages. At the Dwight School Dubai, our students, alongside their teachers, will have access to the Centre of Excellence for Arabic language, culture and the arts. The Centre will provide immersive and language-rich environments for enhancement and language support, art experiences to support development and cultural interactions to understand better the richness of the language they are learning.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai


The Dwight School Dubai offer

So, what makes Dwight School special?

This is where the story gets much more interesting. There is actually substance to the opening of Dwight – and an offer that will be of interest to prospective parents.

There are four key elements, we think, that set it apart:

First, its inclusive role. This is resolutely, and genuinely, not a selective school. We are awaiting details of broader SEND provision but Dwight has now confirmed that the school is bringing the hugely successful Dwight QUEST programme to Dubai together with its expertise in EAL, something showcased and intrinsic to in all its sister schools outside New York. It should be noted that we would hope that QUEST would be intrinsic to the Dubai school, rather than a paid-for add-on as is the case in its other schools and we are awaiting clarification on this. Parents of children in the UAE’s genuinely inclusive schools, except in very exceptional cases, do not  expect to pay a premium for what should come as standard for schools committed to inclusivity. Quest will bring “exceptional individual mentors, tailor-made enrichment, independent tutorials” and a spectrum of support to ensure every child meets their full potential, academic and whole child.

In December 2017, Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, confirmed to

“Admission requirements will not be based on a set academic benchmark – we will consider each child’s suitability carefully based on several aspects, including previous reports, personal strengths as well as academic results to date.  This case by case approach ensures that every applicant is fairly considered and is given equal opportunity to be at Dwight.

Admission to Dwight Dubai is open to students of all nationalities – but they must be able to demonstrate the (potential) ability to access and benefit from the challenging international programs offered by the school.

Should students who demonstrate needs that may not be met by mainstream approaches, apply to attend Dwight School Dubai, we will carefully consider their needs and our ability to meet these – not just at the stage the child is applying for but for their whole schooling life as they progress, feel success and develop skills.

Dwight School expects to offer inclusive entry to students and will be able to support most students to access mainstream education.

Adaptations to classrooms and provision (such as the employment of Special Needs Assistants) may be needed for those with sensory or physical needs and careful assessment of these will be required.

The school will not be an appropriate setting (only) for students with complex, profound and multiple needs.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

Dwight School Dubai has confirmed the QUEST programme will be central to the academic and broader holistic learning at the new school

On the QUEST programme, Ms Aarnaes continues:

“Personalized Learning is one of the three pillars constituting the Dwight educational ethos and is at the core of the development of our Quest program.

QUEST is designed as additional support beyond the provision that the school will routinely offer in terms of differentiation, learning intervention and specialist support.

It is a bespoke program planned in collaboration with the parents and faculty to best meet the learning needs of each individual student.

Our faculty will seek to ignite the spark of genius in every child and customize the IB educational journey for each student based on his or her passions and talents.

Dwight is focused on educating the whole child; to that end, Quest provides students with enrichment, skill development, EAL (English as an Alternate Language) instruction, and a wide-ranging, in-school network designed to support exceptionally talented students.

Quest replaces the need for parents to engage outside tutors to boost academic performance and uses the connections between the Quest mentors and the student’s teachers to enhance learning.

Dwight believes that the task of guiding a child should not end when he or she leaves the classroom, and our Quest programs are key elements in this mentorship.

Quest provides children with strength-based one-on-one/small group academic and organizational training in school.

The program is tailored to identify the needs and abilities of the individual student and to create a personalized learning journey for each and every one.

Our Quest program allows students of determination and students with exceptional talents alike to participate in the mainstream curriculum at Dwight.

When students are helped to overcome their self-doubts and given specific techniques to use in mastering subject matter, their innate talent is able to flourish.

Quest is furthermore an accelerator for students of particular (exceptional) abilities.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

Second, Dwight was the first school to offer the complete IB curriculum in the US (although Dwight in Dubai will not at launch provide the IBCP – see below). Dwight has a special place in the historic evolution of the International Baccalaureate curriculum worldwide as a result.

Third, Dwight, as above, operates a number of sister schools worldwide. This is a school that has a proven history of successful delivery. This will be very important in providing prospective parents some security in choosing the Dubai school for the education of their child(ren).

Fourthly, Dwight Schools in New York and London were two of only 6 original schools (selected from the then 3,700 IB World Schools) to be IB “Open World” accredited to pilot on-line IB course provision worldwide.

What is important about this initiative is that it has enabled Dwight to broaden its curriculum of core IB taught provision by offering internal students supplementary online IB course options. These include:

  • IB Mandarin ab initio (Introductory Mandarin)
  • IB Spanish ab initio (Introductory Spanish)
  • IB Spanish B (Standard Level)
  • IB Business Management (Standard Level)
  • IB Business Management (Higher Level)
  • IB Economics (Standard Level)
  • IB Economics (Higher Level)
  • IB Philosophy (Standard Level)
  • IB Psychology (Standard Level)
  • IB Psychology (Higher Level)
  • IB Information Technology in a Global Society (Standard Level)
  • IB Information Technology in a Global Society (Higher Level)
  • IB Mathematics (Standard Level)
  • IB Mathematics (Higher Level)
  • IB Film (Standard Level)

On-line IB courses are run in association with Pamoja Education – Pamoja have a proven history in Dubai from their historic (and current) partnership with GEMS Education.

In December 2017, Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, confirmed:

“No two students are alike — and no two student journeys at Dwight are the same.

Dwight customizes an educational path for every student based on interests and talents.

Dwight School Dubai is an IB (International Baccalaureate) school.

However, Dwight is in the privileged position of being a true branch of a global network of schools and through our campus in the cloud we can offer to tailor a diploma to the needs and requirements of the individual student. This again due to the fundamental belief in personalized learning. Through Dwight Global Online we offer a range of alternative paths for our students, (including Advanced Placement), customized to meet their learning and/or professional career needs.

So, whilst from the offset, Dwight School Dubai has set out to offer PYP, MYP and DP, this does not however exclude the fact that Dwight will consider including the International Baccalaureate Careers Related Program in the future.

Until this happens, and even with such a possible addition in place, Dwight has the opportunity of offering a wide variety of courses through Dwight Global Online, which provides a more flexible and scalable education path for students who might benefit more from an alternative to the IB Diploma.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

Finally, Dwight School Dubai is being established, through its  ground up focus on preparing students for life beyond school, with many initiatives, delivered through its Spark Tank programme,  you would normally expect to be provided only at later university-level education. With a breadth and depth of provision, if delivered as planned, this is likely to be unmatched by extremely few other schools in the UAE (Brighton College Dubai, reviewed here, is one of the rare exceptions that shares a similar scale of ambition for students):

“Culture, arts, creation, innovation and engineering as integral parts of the programs available to all students (PreK – G12), enhanced by the unprecedented opportunity to develop a unique product from idea to marketplace, adopting skills in industry renowned design-thinking processes with expert mentorship and guidance in our Spark Tank.

While tomorrow’s career paths remain uncarved, we prepare students to embrace whatever opportunities await by teaching them skills that go beyond the traditional academics, mastering the latest technology to provide opportunities for brainstorming, designing, collaborating, problem-solving, and innovating.

Supporting Dwight’s mission of igniting the spark of genius in each and every child, the Spark Tank is an innovative and interactive area designed to support a school-wide program which includes a think tank approach to nurture innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in Dwight’s community.

The think tank encourages students to take ideas they have through development stages such as planning, design and production, before presenting them to a panel of expert judges, put together by Dwight alumni, now successful business owners and corporate experts in their fields, who evaluate the students’’ projects and guide them in translating their ideas into reality.

We empower students to start their own business.

We do not believe that students should have to wait to join the over-18 sector to pursue their dreams.

One Dwight student created a 3D prosthetic hand – and this sort of creativity and development will be equally central to our approach at Dwight School Dubai:

Some of the many elements of entrepreneurship integrated into the curriculum from PreK – Grade 12 include Inquiry, design-thinking, project-based learning, Scratch, coding, programming and microcontrollers, design, invention and innovation, robotics, game design, logo design, web design, app development, digital citizenship, infographics, media criticism, filmmaking, architecture, fashion design, leadership, business development and social entrepreneurship.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai



Architectural render of the new Dwight School Dubai opening in September 2018

Facilities across the 40,000 square metre site will include a 6-8 lane 25M pool, training pool, basketball courts, tennis and squash courts, a full soccer pitch, a 400-meter running track auditorium and a mix of 78 core academic, language, music, performing arts classrooms, specialist labs and centres of learning.


Potential pitfalls for prospective parents

In our first review of potential provision at Dwight, we highlighted our concern that the school does not currently advertise provision of the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP).

We believed this to be an unusual weakness given inclusive of nature of the school.

The IBCP was set up by the International Baccalaureate precisely to expand student choice – and particularly to those less traditionally academic children seeking fast-track entry into business, industry, public service and the broader Arts without necessarily attending university (although many students still do).

Dwight has now confirmed, see above, that it has not discounted providing the Career-related programme at a later stage – and it forcefully argues that in the interim its provision of QUEST personalised learning and access to a spectrum of course options that can be taken in conjunction with, or outside the Diploma, ensures it will meet the academic and whole-child needs of all students.

We asked Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai how many IB courses she would expect young men and women to sit if they did not fit the IB Diploma profile. Her answer, for an inclusive school, was ambitious:

“Our aim is to do our utmost to support all our students in completing their IB Diploma with all its requirements; 24 points minimum, CAS requirements being met, TOK and Extended Essay completed and passed, 12 points or more on HL subjects, 9 points or more on SL subjects.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

This said, we hope that Dwight does positively engage with the Career-related programme in the short term; increasingly it is becoming an accepted standard for inclusive IB schools in provding a credible and secure pathway to top tier universities for students who do not quite meet the profile of the International Baccalaureate Diploma. One leading school ahead of the curve on this is Greenfield Community School and our review can be found here.

With regards to teething issues, on a positive note, we would expect these to be much more limited that a school opening without experience of international launches. Dwight, as above, is very experienced here – and Bloom Education, who are delivering core infrastructure and building, have a very solid reputation in the Emirates for quality and investment.


Fees, bursaries and scholarships.

In our December 2017 interview with Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, it was exclusively revealed to that Dwight, as its worldwide sisters, will be investing in the spectrum of bursary and scholarship provision. “Giving back” is very much part of the DNA of the founding school and intrinsic to the school culture it creates worldwide in all its schools:

“At Dwight School Dubai we will be offering a mix of scholarships and bursaries. These will be based on academic merit and needs.

Scholarships and Bursaries (are not simply one-off but) tend to run the length of a student’s stay at the school, subject to regular review for maintenance of academic performance and any changes in the circumstances of the family.

The rationale for scholarships and bursaries is simply to be able to recruit sufficient numbers of able children who would flourish and be well-suited to the school’s educational offerings (but who, for whatever reason, might otherwise not be able to join us.”

Janecke Aarnaes, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

Fees, prior to founding discounts are in the ultra-premium segment running between 114,000 AED at Pre-K to 130,000 AED in Year 12. This is a very rare approach to fees – and early years learning is expensive. The balance, positively, is that the rise is very gradual to Year 12. Usually there is significant disparity in the fees for Early Years learning and Post-16 provision in particular which can place significant financial pressures on parents.

Founding discounts, in the context of KHDA approved fees, are exceptionally generous. Founding children in Pre-K for example will see a reduction of fees of some 48,000 DHS, representing a circa 42% reduction and the highest level of founding discount we have seen in Dubai to date. In remaining phases to Year 9, the smallest discount is some 29,000 DHS, still an impressive discount around the 23% mark. The school has yet to confirm the duration of Founding Discounts – given their level we would hope they will be continued for founding students for at least the first three years to avoid “fee shock.”


Level Founders Fees (AED) KHDA Fees (AED)
Pre-K 66,000 114,000
KG1 69,000 114,000
KG2 80,000 114,000
Grade 1 80,000 114,000
Grade 2 80,000 114,000
Grade 3 80,000 114,000
Grade 4 83,000 114,000
Grade 5 83,000 114,000
Grade 6 91,000 118,000
Grade 7 91,000 118,000
Grade 8 91,000 118,000
Grade 9 95,000 124,000
Grade 10 95,000 124,000
Grade 11 103,000 130,000
Grade 12 103,000 130,000


Our view?

Clearly this is a preview, rather than review, and a look at a school someway into the distance.

However already Dwight stands out for its expertise in delivering an inclusive all-through IB programme; planned QUEST personalized learning and mentoring programme (we particularly like its clear focus on delivering for all children) and stellar SPARKS programme focusing on a plethora of skills, including entrepreneurship, on a scale and breadth we have not seen in Dubai schools to date.

Impressive too is the commitment to bursaries and scholarships to ensure that gifted and talented young men and women are not excluded from a Dwight education simply because of parental income or other issues outside the control of the child. The commitment to this is evident in the promise that financial awards will not be one-off, but will travel with the child throughout his or her educational journey at Dwight.

We are also fans of the Dwight School Dubai partnership with Pamoja which enables it to broaden subject provision to include on-line options where it does not meet directly subject options internally (which should include AP provision where children do not quite fit the profile for the full IB Diploma). This promises to raise the bar in meeting the interests and abilities of the broadest range of International Baccalaureate students.

Finally, Dwight School Dubai may in future years deliver the Career-related Programme which we think is a perfect, even necessary fit for inclusive schools. Again, Dwight School, in its discussions with us, has shown itself open to modeling its offer around children – wherever that may take the school. You arguably could not want better than that.

For a highly personalised, internationally focused IB education for children, driven by an individually focused mentoring approach that focuses on each child’s individual talents, potential and ambition, the promise is here to deliver an extraordinary education.

Yes, the competition is intense at this premium end of the schools sector, but the scale of ambition – and proven history of delivering at its sister schools, are strong foundations for delivering a truly world class education for children across every phase of education, albeit at a very high price.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.
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Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review

Coming soon.Go
News. Go

Average Cost Per Year

Pre-K: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 66,000 AED )
KG1: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 69,000 AED )
KG2: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 80,000 AED )
YEAR 1: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 80,000 AED )
YEAR 2: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 80,000 AED )
YEAR 3: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 80,000 AED )
YEAR 4: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 83,000 AED )
YEAR 5: 114,000 (Founders Fee discount to 83,000 AED )
YEAR 6: 118,000 (Founders Fee discount to 91,000 AED )
YEAR 7: 118,000 (Founders Fee discount to 91,000 AED )
YEAR 8: 118,000 (Founders Fee discount to 91,000 AED )
YEAR 9: 124,000 (Founders Fee discount to 95,000 AED )
YEAR 10: 124,00 (Founders Fee discount to 95,000 AED )
YEAR 11: 130,000 (Founders Fee discount to 103,000 AED )
YEAR 12: 130,000 (Founders Fee discount to 103,000 AED )


International Baccalaureate KG - Year 12

External Exam Boards

Expected accreditation:
Member of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS)
Council of International Schools (CIS)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Accredited IB World School (five year accreditation visits for the PYP, MYP and Diploma Program.)

IB DipM Pass Rate

New school
London Benchmark
2016: Pass Rate 78%
2015: Pass rate 75%
2014: Pass Rate 79%
2013: Pass Rate 78%
2012: Pass Rate 92%

IB DipM Average Grade

New school
London Benchmark
2016: Average 30
2015: Average 30
2014: Average 31
2013: Average 32
2012: Average 34


Fully inclusive

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published: projected high

Number of Students

2000 (Capacity)

Teacher to Student Ratio

Maximum 1:20
(1) Early Childhood - Grade 12: maximum of 20 students to each class.
(2) Pre-school - Grade 2 all classes include Teaching Assistant

Largest nationality teachers

Note published
(1) Expect significant US/UK faculty

Teacher turnover

New school NA

Year opened

September 2018


Al Barsha South, Dubai

Student composition

New school


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



Dwight School New York
(1) Bloom Holding lease

Web Address

Coming soon: Go


• Genuinely inclusive IB all-through international schooling
• Proven history of international school delivery
• Close relationship with the International Baccalaureate and key player in pilots
• On-line IB and alternative curricular subject options considerably broaden the choice for students
• Outstanding US brand
• Bloom Education backing promising outstanding facilities and build to quality and schedule
• Exceptionally generous founding discounts particularly in Early Years
• Scholarship and bursary programme including means based options for gifted and talented children who would otherwise not be able to attend the school
• Business and entrepreneurship programmes and investment on a scale more usually associated with university level education
• High fees in Early Years reduces the much higher proportional costs parents face in other schools


• No IBCP provision at odds with its inclusive school ambitions - but the school has not discounted it launching later
• High fees at Early Years phases relative to other schools
• Some parents expecting American style schooling will be disappointed - this is resolutely an internationally focused, IB school

Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
In my Top 5
A possibility
No way
About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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