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Swiss International Scientific School, Dubai Healthcare City 2, Al Jaddaf
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Review

Swiss International Scientific School, Dubai Healthcare City 2, Al Jaddaf

by March 25, 2016
Strengths

• Likely to be a top school in the Emirates if it delivers on ambition
• Hugely impressive quality and breadth of facility provision
• Arguably already the finest multi-language school in the region
• Phased opening ensuring steady, safe provision and the opportunity for founding parents and students to shape the school from launch
• Significant promised scholarship provision established within the founding DNA of the school
• SEN provision
• Boys Boarding provision from September 2017 and Girls boarding from September 2018
• World class sporting provision
• Swiss Matura and International Baccalaureate Diploma

Weaknesses

• Scale and ambition suggest many learning opportunities and teething pains
• The school has yet to open to full phases
• Cost – this is an expensive school

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

• Hugely impressive school on paper
• A very good start
• Time will tell

A
Our Rating
A-
User Rating
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Top of shortlist
54%
In my Top 5
21%
Shortlisted
13%
A possibility
8%
Pass
4%
No way
4%

Updated January 2017

Launched in 2015-16, the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai [SISD] is a premium plus, Tier 1 through-school undergoing phased opening to Grade 12. The school currently (2017) offers the full continuum International Baccalaureate (IB) programme from Pre-KG to Grade 10.  Located near the Business Bay bridge, the 67,845 square metre Dubai Creek waterfront campus makes a striking impression from all sides.

Taken as a whole across its facilities, curriculum and architecture, the school represents one of the most ambitious educational projects undertaken in the UAE to date.

SISD will be the first day and boarding school in Dubai to really focus its offering on languages with multi-lingual educational provision in French, English and German with Arabic. Students can choose from three streams: bilingual English-French, English-German or English taken with an additional language (French or German with Arabic).

SISD_External View SISD_TV_1_External

The Primary School delivers the PYP (Primary Years Programme). The school argues that the strength of the programme lies in its focus on each child’s active engagement in their own learning. The PYP itself is designed to balance the acquisition of knowledge, conceptual understanding and development of core learning skills with the broader whole child skills for life beyond the classroom.

The MYP (Middle Years Programme), in distinction, is subject-based. In the bi-lingual sections, Language and Literature, Sciences and/or Humanities are taught in French or German. Mathematics, Arts and Design, and Physical/Health Education are taught in English. In the English+ section, all subjects are taught in English, with additional French or German language acquisition.  Arabic and Islamic Studies are an integral part of the MYP.

Prospective parents should note that SISD intends to offer the Swiss Baccalaureate from Grade 9 in 2018-19.  This programme will mainly target Swiss students.

This is quite unique in Dubai and one of many firsts defining the school’s offer to prospective parents.

SISD has now opened registration for full boarding for boys (January 2017) for entrance in September 2017.  Girls boarding will follow and open in September 2018. SISD is anticipating 30 founding boy boarders joining the school in September 2017.

It is anticipated that there will be 4 dedicated staff at the Boarding Houses including a Housemaster, Assistant Housemaster, and Matron. It is expected that Resident Teachers from SISD will stay overnight on occasion to assist boarders with their studies.

Swiss International Scientific School Dubai is only the second school, after Repton, to offer boarding facilities in the Emirates and the only full IB boarding school in the region.

 

Standard day Fees are premium plus, currently ranging from 60,000 AED in Pre-KG to 110,000 AED in Grade 9. We expect  fees to top 120,000+ AED (excluding boarding fees) when the school opens Grade 11 and Grade 12 provision in 2018, although the school is insistent that we make clear that this is speculative as it has as yet not defined the fee levels for these phases. This places SISD competing with GEMS Nations Academy, Al Barsha to be the most expensive school in Dubai and the wider Emirates. This said, SISD fees are inclusive of Early Years Childcare, language support and after-school activities, this not true of its GEMS counterpart for which these are additional, paid-for options.

Full boarding push these to a starting level of a quarter of a million dirhams each year in Years 6-8 to 300,000 AED in Year 12. Currently, advertised fees only marginal reduce for weekly boarding where parents wish their children to return home for the weekends, ranging between 245,000 AED for Years 6-8 rising incrementally to 290,000 AED in Year 12. The school has asked us to emphasise that weekly boarding fees are currently being reviewed and we will update our review when we receive confirmation of any revisions to the fee structure.

As it stands, fees are very significantly  up to 157% higher than Repton’s full boarding fees which range, for identical like-for-like provision  (including a visa) between Years 7-13, between 152,000 AED and 170,759 AED each year. Repton will exceptionally take children from one year younger and we now understand that SISD too will also consider applications from younger children subject to their maturity and after consideration of other factors, including whether the child(ren) have singling(s) at the school.

At first glance, when you calculate the proportionate like-for-like boarding fees excluding tuition, SISD is charging in a comparative Grade 10 100,000 AED more than at Repton (Repton charges a boarding premium of 70,000 AED,  SISD charges for that same boarding element 170,000 AED).

Following our visit to the school, however, to understand this very high differential in boarding costs we understand the following key differentiators of SISD provision which re-balance the equation – particularly for children requiring English as an Additional Language (EAL) support:

  • SISD pricing is fully inclusive of all major options. There are only very limited bolt-on options to be added to their boarding fees, which they argue can significantly increase the baseline boarding costs published by other schools. Their aim is complete transparency with parents so that they can understand the true and comprehensive costs without unfair surprises after their children have joined the school.
  • SISD Boarding fees include school tuition fees; accommodation; all meals; airport transfers; medical insurance; student visa(s); after-school activity programmes; weekend activities, trips and excursions; uniform; evening tuition – and English as an Additional Language [EAL] support (including all extra EAL tuition as and when required). We understand that the majority of this is currently charged for by alternative boarding schools with fees charged for extra EAL amounting to more than 50,000 AED alone in some cases. Other schools, it is argued, charge up to 50,000 AED as a boarding deposit, more than 12,000 dirhams for medical, visa and uniforms – and charge for school activities and programmes separately. On this basis, SISD argue, their fees are relatively lower and offer significantly better value than competitors. Parents who wish to pay for the boarding fees in full also receive a 50% discount on the registration fee which equates to approximately 25,000 AED.
  • SISD boarding facilities are also designed to be of a significantly higher standard, they argue, than that of other schools. They have a maximum occupancy of two students per room to Grade 10 (designed to ensure children are not alone at younger ages) and each child has their own room in Grades 11 and 12; all rooms have en suite bathrooms; dedicated lounge/kitchen; and games areas are provided for all boarders. SISD points out too that boarders also have full access to Main Campus facilities. The school does not have dormitories which are a lower cost feature of competitive boarding schools.
  • The standard of boarding provision, SISD argues, follows the higher order Swiss model and is comparative to a 4* hotel standard of provision, rather than the more basic deliberately lived in “guest house” feel and charm of facilities characteristic of British boarding schools. Differentiators include much larger rooms and the quality of provision and finish across all common areas. The intention for SISD boarding is quite different to other schools and aims instead to deliver a smart a smart, sustainable, stylish – and inspirational – space for children.

For balance, it is worth noting that of the top 10 most expensive boarding schools in the world, Swiss schools take eight of the places. These are however, all located in Switzerland, have a history and alumni featuring a who’s who drawn from the world of politics, royalty and business – and most have extraordinarily low teacher:student ratios.

Prospective parents set on a UAE based boarding school education for their child(ren) will need to take a considered view whether a Swiss boarding school experience justifies the significant hike in fees over the very creditable Repton. Our review of Repton can be found here. It is clear that for children requiring EAL support, SISD would appear to offer very good value and the school remains the only option for full continuum IB.

It is also worth noting that SISD fees are around a third more than any of the top 10 UK-based boarding schools including Eton, Cheltenham, Hurtwood, Harrow, Wycombe and Malvern.

As the school launches its provision we will be able to better guide parents as to the benefits of their two Dubai options.

Swiss International Scientific School Full Boarding Fees 2017-18

Facilities at SISD are very high Tier 1 premium, including a fully digital campus; Tier 1 premium grounds and buildings design/architecture/landscaping with “stunning” three story oval atrium entrance/lobby reached by a double height curving bridge to the first floor; independent Primary and Secondary buildings; 50-metre Olympic swimming pool; landmark hybrid indoor-outdoor 16M swimming pool; KG Library, Primary Library, Secondary Library; two basketball courts, four tennis courts, dedicated football/rugby pitch; indoor and outdoor running tracks and runway; 550-seat auditorium, theatre and concert hall; media centre; climbing wall; gymnasium; dance studios; multi-purpose sports hall; fine arts centre; media centre; indoor FS soft play centre; recording studio; green-screen production facility; prayer rooms; (multiple) language labs; dedicated boarding houses for 350 boys and girls and Dubai Creek based water sports programme delivered from the adjacent new Dubai Creek extension.

The planning and investment around its state-of-the-art (a term over-used but accurate here) sports complex demonstrates not only a benchmark for sports delivery, but the commitment of the school to providing academic and enrichment balance. Extract the facility from the school and you have what is, to all intents and purposes, a sports facility that would not be out of place in an Olympic’s athlete’s village.

The Sports facility is now complete and undeniably impressive. The large double pitch indoor sports hall includes a galleried viewing area which doubles as an indoor running track (single lane) – and the same area doubles as an indoor spectator area where it overlooks the external facilities including a real grass pitch and 2 tennis courts on the rooftop. The external multi-lane running track encompasses the pitch area.  The Olympic 50M 10 lane pool includes dive blocks at both ends of each lane.  There is an indoor mirrored Dance Studio, very well equipped Cardiovascular Room and separate gym with an extensive number of treadmills and full weight training facilities.   The position of the school on the creek would also lend itself to a boat house in future which may well prove an opportunity for development that is hard to resist.

SISD is also the first school in the GCC to provide a sustainable school environmental architecture founded on energy efficient technology and design accredited to Swiss Minergie standards.

Outside facilities and design, the core curriculum is equally radical, based around weekly language blocks in which students are taught in English for week one and then in the second language of choice for week 2. Aside from specialist Performing/ Fine Arts and Physical Education lessons, all subjects are taught as part of the bi-lingual programme. English is the main language of the school, and for non-native English speakers, there is additional English Language Learner support which forms the second language stream. All KG children are offered Arabic as an after-school activity, this one of many additional language options offered as part of Swiss Scientific’s Extra/Co Curricular Activity [ECA] programmes.

The school’s trilingual  “English+ additional languages programme” will see students studying core English, combined with 5 lessons per week in French or German, and 6 lessons per week of Arabic.

The school offers extensive Special Educational Needs [SEN] provision across both sides of the spectrum including Gifted and Talented [G&T] programmes, although the school does not cater for higher order SEN including Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD); ADHD requiring a shadow teacher; Learning Difficulty 2 or Profound and Multiple (PMLD) Learning Difficulties. As a language school, SISD cannot accept children diagnosed with semantic pragmatic disorder or language processing disabilities. Otherwise the school is fully inclusive welcoming applications from children with mild social / emotional / sensory / physical / communication / interactive / general learning disorders and the spectrum of medical conditions that fall short of requiring dedicated individual staffing.

Interestingly Swiss Scientific argues in its WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Q&A that its expertise in the dyslexia and dysgraphia aligns with its belief that “learners with dyslexia and dysgraphia, however, may well be successful in multilingual programmes.”

English speaking teachers are recruited from the UK, Australia, USA, Canada, Ireland and S. Africa; French teachers from France and Switzerland; German teachers from Germany and Switzerland; and Arabic teachers from Iraq, Syria and Egypt. The school sets a fundamental requirement that teachers of languages must be native speaking in their core specialism.

Both we and our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor, have long campaigned for the provision of bursaries and scholarships within the educational sector, a call mirroring that within the Dubai Awqaf & Endowment vision announced by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, through the Mohammed bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy. SISD makes a published, impressive commitment to scholarship provision for students in the areas of “Academic Excellence”; “Excellence in other fields” and “for Equal Opportunity” in order to “give back to the community” and to support its mission to ensure “every child regardless of nationality, culture, gender, language or religion, should have access to high quality education.”

“The school has a higher goal and while we need to have a financially sustainable model to finance the infrastructure I am able to offer scholarships to a large amount of our community members thus having a direct and quantifiable contribution to the community.” Omar Danial, Founder, Swiss International Scientific School Dubai.

However, as of March 2016, Ursula Sommer, Swiss Scientific’s Head of Admissions, confirmed to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that: “we are [still] in the process of setting up the scholarship schemes and not yet able to communicate any details.” Following our visit in January 2017 we can confirm that SISD “will have a scholarship programme” and the school is considering applications from six families currently. Scholarship decisions will be based on completion of a formal application process and the school genuinely welcomes applications from families who would not otherwise be able to afford the fees. Our advice to prospective parents is to ask for details at the time of visiting the school. As scholarship provision beds in, we will be able to report back to parents more broadly on what sounds like a very promising and (very) impressive commitment by the school.

Swiss International Scientific School Dubai founder, Omar Danial, is a four-times offshore powerboat world champion, former president and current vice President of the Manotel Hotel Group in Geneva (of which his company, Finial Capital, is a major shareholder), and founder of Swiss Education Partners, a company specialising in education from which SSID evolved. Swiss Education Partners was established to invest in projects that “create tangible, socially responsible impacts with sustainable values.” Both Mr Daniels youngest children are now being educated at Swiss Scientific.

The school’s founding Head, Beat Sommer, is Swiss educated, with experience drawn from across Brazil and Switzerland. Following three (“exhilarating”) years as a language teacher in Brazil, Beat established a girl’s boarding house in the traditional “boys only” Lyceum Alpinum of Zuoz, this followed seven years later by a headship of the Freies Gymnasium in Zurich, again a(this time Protestant) traditional school ripe for, but not yet ready for change.

Prospective parents, with SISD (and unlike many schools which continue to publish outdated and far too limited information for prospective parents), will find a web site replete with information, including extended bios of key members of staff. We would just recommend that the school considers making its prospectus openly downloadable – not everyone wants to pass on their details prior to their school research.

The school is on track for a strong role for the start of the academic year 2017-18, with 650 students having confirmed places as of January 2017. More than 60 nationalities are enrolled at the school, with students from France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the US and Canada significantly represented.

Swiss3

It is too early for a completely definitive view of the school, but Swiss International Scientific School Dubai is setting an abundance of new benchmarks for the sector. Only the second school in the Emirates to offer boarding; the first to offer its sheer scale and anatomy of language provision across curriculum, time-tabling and breadth of subjects; one of only two Tier 1’s to offer an Olympic standard 50M pool; the first Minergie certified school; promised generosity of scholarship provision (rare in Dubai and rarer still within the sector as a whole); the first Swiss curriculum school and, as it stands, the most expensive boarding school in the Emirates (albeit with the caveat that its fees include options that are charged for elsewhere). More important, and perhaps easily overlooked, is the sheer scale of project and ambition SISD represents for its founder – and, we believe, there can be no more certain an expression of confidence than that the founder educates his children at the school.

Highly recommended.

Note: scoring is projected and based on whichschooladvisor inspection, review and feedback data; published school information and KHDA certified fee structure. Prospective parents should note that our comparison of boarding provision and fees offered by Repton Dubai and Swiss International Scientific School Dubai is provisional and subject to on-going review when SISD launches its boys boarding facilities in September 2017.

Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the TOP 5 NEW SCHOOLS on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the BIG FIRST DAY on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the ONE YEAR ON on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

Pre-KG: 60,000
KG1: 67,000
KG2: 67,000
YEAR 1: 80,000
YEAR 2: 80,000
YEAR 3: 80,000
YEAR 4: 80,000
YEAR 5: 82,500
YEAR 6: 95,000
YEAR 7: 95,000
YEAR 8: 95,000
YEAR 9: 110,000
YEAR 10: On-stream 2017-18
YEAR 11: On-stream 2018-19
YEAR 12: On-stream 2019-20

Curriculum

International Baccalaureate:
Primary Years Programme [PYP]
Middle Years Programme [MYP]
International Baccalaureate Diploma [IBD] OR Swiss Baccalaureate (Matura / Maturität) [Zug] (Bilingual)

External Exam Boards

International Baccalaureate Organisation [IBO]
Kanton Zug
Gemeinde Cham

IB DipM Pass Rate

On-stream 2019-20

IB DipM Average Grade

On-stream 2019-20

Selective

Academically: Yes. interview and assessment test "to ensure that he/she is capable to access the school’s curriculum within the levels of support that are available."
Nationality/race/gender/language/religion: inclusive.
Special Educational Needs: subject to levels of support available but excluding Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD); ADHD requiring a shadow teacher; Learning Difficulty 2 and Profound and Multiple (PMLD) Learning Difficulties

Waiting list

No

Value Added

Not published (whichschooladvisor projected MEDIUM)

Number of Students

2442 capacity (2018-19)
(currently 520+ students to Grade 6 on phased opening 2016-17 )

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:7 - 1:11 (maximum - each class has one teacher and one support teacher)

Largest nationality teachers

Teaching staff are international, recruited from the UK, US, Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia and Ireland.

Teacher turnover

Not published (whichschooladvisor projected LOW)

Year opened

2015-16

Location

Dubai Healthcare City 2, Al Jaddaf, Dubai

Student composition

French, German, Swiss, British, Canadian, US (largest nationalities)
50+ nationality student body

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Swiss Education Partners
Omar Danial, Founder & CEO

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 375 0600

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Attainment Pri SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Attainment Sec SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Attainment Post-16 SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2019-20

Progress Nur SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Progress Pri SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Progress Sec SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Progress Post-16 SEM

Launch phase - full grading due 2019-20

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

Launch phase - full grading due 2019-20

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Islamic St. Primary Results

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Islamic St. Secondary Results

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

Launch phase - full grading due 2019-20

Leadership

100%

Community

100%

Facilities

100%

Quality of teaching

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Student personal responsibility

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

Quality of curriculum

100%

School Governance

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

SEN Provision

Launch phase - full grading due 2017-18

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Acting Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and the International Editor of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. 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