• Stabilised, much improved school since significant teething problems over first years following launch
• KHDA Good school rating – with provision at the minimum expected standard for any school operating in Dubai
• Very good relationships with parents and broader community
• Smaller school intimacy
• Low teacher:student ratio
• Solid performance in core subject attainment
• One of very few ICSE schools
• Some capacity to improve and on-going gradual year-on-year improvement
• Very limited facilities with many activities delivered off-site
• Older school buildings with few bells and whistles
• Relatively young parent organisation
• Drastic cuts to the number of children admitted with SEND
• Growth to expand limited by the size of campus
• Limited subject choice, particularly for the ISC in Grades 11 and 12.
The Ambassador School – Dubai presents quite a complicated picture for review. As it stands, in isolation, it is a KHDA “Good School” with children achieving a “Very Good“ level of attainment and progress across core subjects in English, Science and Mathematics. Care and protection of children is “Outstanding.” It is worth however understanding some of the background to the school to put this in context. Overall, the picture is a good one.
First, the school traces its roots back to a different school, established in 2010, under the franchised brand GIIS in association with the Kalwani family.
GIIS provided the basic expertise for the Kalwani family to establish the original GIIS Dubai school in a refurbished old government building. The inherited buildings are good in design, but basic.
However, clearly there was a breakdown in the relationship with GIIS that led to the school becoming independent of the group in 2013. GIIS has now (2017) established a different, completely unrelated school in Abu Dhabi in phased launch. Our review can be found here.
The history of the Ambassador School has, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a result been a mixed one. From its launch GIIS Dubai/Ambassador was graded a basic KHDA “Acceptable” school and it is probably fair to say that the owners were finding their feet in an educational market within which they had relatively limited knowledge (the Group are also franchisees of Scoreplus, a company that specialises in cramming ie preparing students for a spectrum of examinations generally for admissions to graduate study.)
The school struggled for around five years as the owners built up expertise and capacity and there have been many significant changes in staff and investment over this period. For the last two years the school has secured the higher rating and now functions at the minimum level expected of any school operating in the UAE with the Good rating. Prospective parents should note that the school clearly has the capacity to improve, and has been improving incrementally over a three-year period.
It is also probably relevant to note that Kalwani family have also now launched an Ambassador School in Sharjah which opened in 2016. This is relevant because the hope is clearly that the income generated from a larger group will enable greater investment in the Dubai school. Notwithstanding improvements, the school needs further investment, particularly in facilities. As it stands, the Dubai school is at capacity and further increases in numbers would push the school into overcrowding.
The biggest changes over this period have been in facility provision, inclusion (particularly Special Educational Needs) and teaching. In all of these areas the school had originally struggled.
So, if this is the somewhat muddled background, prospective parents, particularly given that the Ambassador School has now stabilised its performance over a two-year period, can probably look at the school as it is today.
The school’s core differentiator is its provision for an ICSE based education. There is exceptionally limited choice in Dubai for parents seeking an Indian education outside the CBSE. Parents seeking the CISCE curriculum have extremely limited options – only two other schools in Dubai, apart from the outstanding GEMS Modern Academy (reviewed here), offer it: The Ambassador School (which also has an ISCE Kindergarten feeder) and JSS International School. Our review of JSS International School can be found here.
Our CISCE Indian School Certificate Guide (ISCE) can be found here and Indian School Certificate in Secondary Education Guide (ICSE) here. A Guide to the alternative CBSE based All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE) can be found here and the All India Senior School Certificate (AISSC) here.
To give some context to the choice faced by parents seeking an ICSE based education, GEMS Modern fees run between 26,780 AED and 60,000 AED, JSS International fees run between 13,000 AED and 33,920 AED and Ambassador fees between 20,700 AED and 36,550 AED. JSS International and Ambassador operate just below mid-tier fee levels and, for an ICSE education, there is currently no affordable fee option for prospective parents in Dubai. It is fair to say that GEMS Modern operates in a completely different, significantly higher performing space to both JSS International and Ambassador and comparisons are not fair. With fees no object, and ICSE a must, GEMS Modern is, in our view, leagues apart the better school option for prospective parents.
However, JSS International and Ambassador, in fees and grading, operate in a broadly comparable space so parents are likely to be focused on these two schools if ICSE and (relative) affordability are the key issues. One key difference between the schools is scale – Ambassador is a relatively small school with a role of around 750 children, this comparing to a school size at JSS of some 1800 children. The feel is very different. One obvious trade off comes with facilities which are of a higher standard at JSS International – for example, JSS International offers the benefit of a pool, its own auditorium and much newer infrastructure. More substantially, in subject choice, JSS International offers a much greater breadth of subject provision at all phases and particularly in Grades 11 and 12.
Whatever our view, given that we are looking at a pool of only two ICSE schools to choose from, prospective parents are advised to visit both schools to understand which, if either, will offer the better fit to their child(ren).
Facilities at Ambassador are basic but well looked after. They include a plethora of classrooms assigned to different functions/lessons (including a Dance Room, a Music Studio, French Centre, Sports Room), Counsellor’s Room, a central library, shaded (primary) play area, general Science labs sports and an (artificially floored) area for basketball and other field sports. Prospective parents should not expect facilities to be anything more than this. The school has no auditorium. Instead – Ambassador has partnerships with other schools and organisations when it requires use of a given facility. Swimming, for example, takes place off-site at Al-Nasr Leisure Island and cricket at the nearby Zabeel Park. ECA provision is god and wide-ranging – and follows this off-site model as required.
As above, what parents are paying a premium for here is relative small-school intimacy and good results in core subjects. Teacher turnover is finally stabilising and reasonably low by Dubai standards at 13% and the teacher:student ratio is very good at 1:10 (JSS, for example, is 1:12).
One note of caution to parents is in the area of SEND. The number of children identified with SEND has dropped very significantly over two years from more than 140 children to just 36. This is suggestive that the school, despite its stated inclusion, is now limiting applications. SEND provision is good at the school for those limited number of children identified on the spectrum.
The school also no advertised scholarship or bursary provision.
In one sense this is quite an easy school to provide guidance for. Because there are only two schools at this fee level to choose from operating within the ICSE space, it must fall to parents to visit both schools. In the round, we would like to see the owners significantly investing in the school. We know that it does have the expertise now to do this – and much could be done with what the school has in place. Strategically, for example, the school could begin to specialise far more in technology and leverage far more some of the types of investment we have seen in Sharjah in terms of STEAM. This would not require more space – just much greater investment in technology and specialist teaching staff. Ultimately the school is bound by the size of its campus in the types of investment that would ideally take place, particularly in sporting facilities. This said, it has built a network of partner organisations and fills the gaps as well as this sort of half-way house arrangement can. The benefit of course to children in the limits of its campus size lie in the intimacy that comes from its smaller scale.
We cannot see, without much greater investment, the school being able to achieve much more than it has. It needs to sharpen teaching best-practice, particularly at lower phases. There are “Very Good” schools operating at lower fees, so it is hard to make the case that the value proposition is particularly good. But neither is the return poor. Ultimately this is a Good school delivering at the standard expected. The owners do deserve praise too for getting the school to where it is today. In the ICSE space however, with GEMS Modern, there is a much better school – but it comes at a price.Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
FS1: 20,700 (slipstream fees at the Ambassador Nursery and Kindergarten)
FS2: 20,700 (slipstream fees at the Ambassador Nursery and Kindergarten)
YEAR 1: 19,976
YEAR 2: 21,072
YEAR 3: 22,169
YEAR 4: 22,169
YEAR 5: 23,268
YEAR 6: 23,268
YEAR 7: 27,658
YEAR 8: 29,700
YEAR 9: 33,800
YEAR 10: 34,100
YEAR 11: 36,450
YEAR 12: 36,550
YEAR 13: NA
(2) Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)
Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
(1) Grades 1 - 5: written assessment in English and Mathematics
(2) Grade 6+: written assessment in English, Mathematics and Science.
(3) KG: Automatic entry from slipstream Ambassador Nursery and Kindergarten
2010 (2013 re-launched independently)
(1) Formerly known as the Global Indian International School - Dubai (GIIS Dubai)
(2) In 2013 the school re-launched as The Ambassador School independent from the original GIIS parent company/brand
(3) Separate feeder nursery/KG phase school (Ambassador Nursery and Kindergarten, Al Mankhool)
Al Mankhool, Bur Dubai, Dubai
Indian (largest nationality)
(1) SEND: 36
(2) Emirati: 0
(3) KG: 0 (Separate slipstream KG)
(1) Hukumat Kalwani, Founder and Chairman
(2) Kamal Kalwani, Vice-Chairman
+971 (0)4 398 3535
60% (at Feeder school Nursery/KG)
66.6% (at Feeder school Nursery/KG)