Mirdif American School, Al Mizhar 1 – The Review
Mirdif Private School – Updated September 2019 SchoolsCompared.com change of name, KHDA 2019
“As a parent I’m quite aware of the challenges faced by many parents in selecting a good school able to provide specialized care and a balanced education for their children.
At the same time, a look at today’s youth and children makes us see how they live in a fast–paced, changing world where social and technology pressures push them to grow up too fast.
I believe that our role as educators is to redefine such pressures so that the essence of childhood is kept intact.
Sitting in the classroom quietly, paying attention to the teacher and memorizing facts will never bring out the best in our children.
At Mirdif private School we inspire discovery-based learning opportunities.
We are a vibrant, experimental-based and progressive school.”
Randa Hani Ghandour, Founder and Principal, Mirdif American School
“Mirdif Private School provides an environment which is spacious, secure and stimulating.
There are warm and caring relationships between the teachers and children … The well-being and personal development of all children is a
KHDA Inspections. 2009 – 2019.
Mirdif American School, formerly Mirdif Private School, is a hybrid US-Arabic curriculum KG-Middle School based, despite its name, in Al Mizhar. The school opened in 1995 and has a place in the history of Dubai as the very last villa school to be closed by the KHDA, this taking place in 2009 when Mirdif Private School moved to its current purpose built facility. The school had, since its founding, been operating from a two-story villa educating 200 students in Mirdif. Today Mirdif American School educates 895 students and has a capacity to educate around 1000 children on its approximately 4 acre site.
Mirdif American School Principal, Randa Hani Ghandor, also founded the school – and she has been in post for 25 years. This is a family owned and run school.
Mirdif American School, rarely, offers an education for children between FS1 and Grade 8 (only), this in part to ensure that children are not pressurized into growing up too quickly – a key concern of the school’s founder and Principal. Middle Schools are rare in Dubai – the norm is for either all-through schools, or specialized Primaries offering education to Year 6. There is some history to this. In 2011 the school had extended its Middle School provision to Grade 9 High School. In general terms the school was firing on all cylinders to the point that it achieved Good School status in 2014-15. However, the following year saw significant critique by the KHDA and the then Mirdif Private School again returned to an Acceptable rating, a rating it held for two years. In September 2016 the school closed its High School provision with the ambition that the school will regain its Good School status – or beyond, by focusing on what it does well and not being spread too thin. In this light, it is interesting that historically the school secured good ratings from the KHDA for its later High School provision. For the last two years, to its latest rating in 2019, Mirdif American School has achieved a KHDA Good rating with Very Good and Outstanding features.
The above “Acceptable” rating, in this case, however, tells you little about a school that did present challenges for the KHDA. Mirdif Private School even then did many things not only at a Good standard – but an Outstanding one. And it has almost always done this. Grading a school whose provision veers from the Acceptable to Outstanding in different areas of provision is difficult – and it shows why it is important that parents go beyond the headline rating of a school. To understand its then Acceptable rating, you have to look at scoring achieved in attainment and Progress in Science, English and Mathematics. When these drop to Acceptable, it is not possible for the KHDA to award Good school status – even if the school is Outstanding in other areas of provision.
It is fair to say, in the case of Mirdif American School, that it remains in key areas an Outstanding one – and is better described as a Good with with Very Good and, genuinely, Outstanding features – more on this below.
There are many things at the school we like,
(1) This is a family school. The owners are not distant, but integrated into the school.
(2) Values. The values of the school stem from children, for children. Children are valued from day one and taught that they have a voice. This is a school that believes in whole child development. The school has an absolute zero tolerance policy on bullying with sensitive, well argued and inspiring literature to justify it.
(3) Environment. Mirdif Private School is beautifully maintained, exceptionally safe – and inspirational. The environment is used and built around children. There is a lovely video worth finding on the school’s (excellent) Twitter profile of children reading in the grounds. As parents we all know that it is getting harder to distract children from the world of X Boxes – Mirdif Private School works to build a love of reading within every child on the basis that it is the single key element in later academic and broader cultural development.
(4) Arabic and languages. Mirdif Private School builds a love of languages – English and Arabic, and weights both. This is no small task. Most schools have real difficulty with either English or Arabic. This is a predominantly Emirati school that very cleverly and sensitively melds the teaching of both whilst keeping an eye of the culture and values of the local population and broader Arabic and Islamic historical context. The Emirati presence is around 637 children (70%).
(5) Investment. This is a school that is clearly subject to ongoing investment – particularly in recruiting high calibre teaching staff. KG phases are stand-out.
(6) Parental links. This is a community school and much loved by parents and children. We would, however, like to see parents better integrated and included in School governance rather than their operating separately and independently in Advisory Boards.
(7) Genuine commitment to inclusion with investment in SEND. This is only let down by the lack of a dedicated Gifted and Talented programme.
(8) Communication. The school has an outstanding level of communication, in our view one of the best of any majority Emirati school in Dubai. Information is presented in English and is beautifully clear and inspirational. Investment in Facebook showcases the school well and, as above, Twitter is particularly stand-out. The sports links in the main school web site were not working during our audit, which is a shame because sports facilities and activities are of a high standard and children should be celebrated. Information for parents is particularly clear and transparent:Mirdif Private School GR8-FEB4
(9) Creativity. This is not a school that teaches by rote. Lessons are inspirational and thought provoking particularly at KG phases:
(10) This is a happy school. The value of this cannot be underestimated. This in no small part stems from its scale. With around 800 children this is a small school, with all the relationship strengths that stem from this between both pupils and between children and their teachers.
Fees and Facilities
Fees are mid-tier, running between AED 23,569 at FS1 to AED 34,792 in Grade 8. In terms of value, we rate the school highly. Facilities and resources are excellent and punch above the expected weight of fees. They include independent buildings for Elementary and Intermediate/Middle phases; specialized classroom facilities; fully equipped computer lab; science labs by phase; a dedicated reading room; library and resource center (as with most schools we would like to see greater investment in inspirational Arabic books – this seems to be an issue because there is so much less choice from publishers); music room; art studio; conference room; swimming pool; playing field; football field; basketball and volleyball courts; and a multipurpose hall.
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2019
We have contacted Mirdif American School to arrange a formal visit which we hope to complete shortly. In the interim our view is that Mirdif Private School is a quite unique school, with significant potential.
What Mirdif American School does well, in providing care for children and a happy inspirational school environment it does very well.
There are issues, mainly related to joining up the dots amongst faculty at Middle School phases, improving systems for tracking child progress, ensuring stability in staffing (this is partly an issue arising from fee income in a very small school by Dubai standards) – and “letting go” – because this is a family school and there is so much investment and care in the school by the owners it is understandably much more difficult for them to trickle down and empower senior and middle management. We often find with schools like this that there is a tendency to see things through rose tinted spectacles – it seems to come with the territory of such closely managed family schools with such an obvious direct investment of owners.
The ability of the school to offer an education to Grade 8 only will divide parents. Many parents will prefer the continuity of an all-through education or a dedicated Primary with a natural breakpoint in Year 6. The benefits however, for other parents afforded by a school that can extend the natural childhood of children by those two years before moving to High School will be of greater importance.
The investment at Mirdif American School in English language teaching is stand-out. The school nods to both local history and breathes passion and respect in each child for their shared culture. It is the case that increasingly Emirati parents are sending their children to international schools – and it may be that in some cases there is a price to pay in terms of protecting Arabic culture. We certainly see that in the near universal inability of international schools, however expensive, to deliver an Arabic curriculum effectively. Mirdif American School shines a light in doing this in reverse by bringing English to life without in any way impacting on the celebration of Arabic context.
We think too, that there is something to be said of a family run school. This is not a school run by some impersonal business. Many villa schools closed – their owners not having the ability to make the considerable private investment required by the KHDA in a dedicated high quality, properly equipped school suitable for 21st century learning. The Ghandor family deserve much credit for taking this leap.
Our view is that for Emirati parents, in particular, seeking a small school true to their culture but with a genuine commitment to providing the international context for children so important to their futures, Mirdif American School deserves a visit. This is a school with its heart absolutely in the right place – and one, for the most part, that delivers where it counts. Questions do need to be asked about slipstreams from Grade 8, but the promise of a school built around the needs of younger children to Grade 8 may well, deservedly, prove to be irresistible to many parents.
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Acceptable with Good, Very Good and Outstanding features
Acceptable, with Good, Very Good and Outstanding features
KG 1: 24057
KG 2: 25203
GRADE 1: 26348
GRADE 2: 27495
GRADE 3: 28640
GRADE 4: 29785
GRADE 5: 30930
GRADE 6: 32077
GRADE 7: 34368
GRADE 8: 35512
YEAR 9: NA
YEAR 10: NA
YEAR 11: NA
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA
Arts and Design: California Curriculum standards
Music: based on California Visual Arts and Performing Standards for Music
(1) Candidate school for the Council of International Schools
(2) Candidate school for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges
(3) Next Generation Science standards
(1) Academically inclusive
(2) Welcoming to children of all nationalities
(3) Welcoming to children with Special Educational Needs
(1) 45 nationalities
(2) 75% Emirati
(3) 2% North America
(1) 24 + teachers recruited from North America
(1) Relocated to its current new purpose-built campus in 2009
Al Mizhar 1, Dubai
Emirati (largest nationality)
+00971 (0)4 288 3303
• Small school intimacy and dynamics
• Family owned
• Rare provision to Middle School only with a n environment designed to protect childhood
• Strong care culture and zero tolerance for bullying
• Outstanding communications
• Happy schooling
• Strong, well-balanced English and Arabic language curriculum provision
• Affordable, high value fees
• Very good facility and resource provision
• Strong parental partnerships
• Academically inclusive with a genuine commitment to SEND
• Year 8 may not be the optimal break for children in moving to High School
• More resourcing of inspirational Arabic books required
• FS provision is good – later provision is playing catch-up
• No G&T provision - and resourcing needs to be put in place for enhanced accessibility to upper floors for children who use wheelchairs.