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How on Earth are Parents supposed to Work Out Which School is Best for their Child during a Pandemic? Swiss International Scientific School Dubai No Holds Barred Q&A.
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How on Earth are Parents supposed to Work Out Which School is Best for their Child during a Pandemic? Swiss International Scientific School Dubai No Holds Barred Q&A.

by Jon WestleyMarch 14, 2021

Introduction: Just How on Earth are Parents supposed to Work Out Which School is Best for their child during a Pandemic? We look to Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai for the answer…

Visiting a school is so important for parents to really understand, and feel, whether the fit of a school will be right for their child.

All children are different. They have different needs, skills, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions…..

Some children thrive in large schools, others need a village school dynamic….

Some students need one-to-one attention, others are self managing…

Some develop early, some late.

Reviews, then, however independent, can only ever be a guide, never a “bible.” The same is true of parent recommendations. There is no such thing as a catch-all, perfect school for every child. 

In fact, an outstanding school for one child, may well be a disaster for another. 

SOUTH_VIEW_DESKTOP_MPU

But, with the Covid 19 pandemic, visiting schools, let alone having the opportunity to understand how they work for children in an environment not driven by the pandemic, has become difficult – if not impossible.

Even communicating amongst ourselves as adults has been made complicated by the need to wear masks – it certainly does not help decision-making in probably the most important decision we shall all of us ever make as parents – getting the right school for our children.

In the following Q&A we have tried to investigate the Swiss International Scientific School forensically, exactly as if we were a parent under pressure to develop a shortlist in a pandemic.

We have asked every possible question, no holds barred, that we can think of in the hope that, as a parent, you can use these questions, and the answers, to work out whether Swiss International Scientific School can pass the first test of being potentially the right school for you and your child – and, indeed, to give parents not looking to change schools, a simple way to work out how their current school measures up.

There is no marketing speak in what follows – we have asked one thing of the school – honesty.

We have explained that there is absolutely no point in being anything other than transparent – because at the centre of everything is giving every parent the chance to know, accurately, whether the school could be the right one for their child. To do this parents need facts and transparent comparative data.

We think, hope….., that in the following, there is enough to guide you as a parent. We have tried to cover all bases – and particularly so when the following is read in conjunction with our full independent review of Swiss International Scientific School, here, and our interview with the new Principal of the School, Ruth Burke, here.

The following Q&A is lengthy. We make no apologies for this because it is necessary to cover as many of the questions that we know that parents ask when visiting a school.

We also believe that the following will be useful to all parents as a yardstick to benchmark the different offer, ethics, strengths and weakness of their/other schools.

Of the many impacts of Donald Trump’s presidency, the importance of an independent media and accurate factual reporting, has never been clearer or more urgent

We hope that in the following there is something for all parents to guide them in understanding both this school, and others, better.

 

Where do the families live that attend Swiss International Scientific School?

“Our families come from all over Dubai. We offer over 30 different bus routes daily covering the full extent of the emirate.

Many of the families that choose us because we are a boarding school too, are expat families from other GCC countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Europe, and India.”

 

What are the top 5 features of Swiss International Scientific School that distinguish it from other schools? What really makes your school different and stand-out for parents looking for the best possible education in Dubai for their children.

“These are the five features of the Swiss International Scientific School that I think stand-out and bring to life our school for parents:

  1. European / Swiss culture – languages are a major key for opening doors to top tier universities and industry. SISD is European in its outlook and European / Swiss in its approach – there isn’t anything comparable from a culture perspective in the UAE.
  2. Bilingual language programmes – we can ensure that every child becomes proficient in a second language. Few if any other schools guarantee this. Immersive language education from age 3. Full bilingual programme for students through to age 18 (English / French, English/German and English/Arabic (Early Years). One of the only schools offering this level of language acquisition and immersion – unique co-teaching model is used from KG1 – Grade 4. No other school in Dubai offers this.
  3. Full spectrum of IB World Programmes – it’s an IB school through and through – IB in mindset, IB in educational spirit, IB in culture and values, and this is different from the other UAE schools that only offer the IBDP in the Sixth Form – ‘this only pays lip service to the IB’ and does not instill the IB values into students. Schools use the IBDP as a way of getting students into the top universities – this is very different from the SISD approach – our education is about instilling an IB philosophy for life – doing the right thing by students, and preparing them for life, not just for university… Only 45 schools in the world are full IB continuum schools. Bilingual IB programmes available which offer students a bilingual IB Diploma – think we are the only school in the UAE offering this.
  4. The world-class facilities – students have access to some of the best sporting and educational facilities in the UAE (see list below), and the school hosts a number of competitive sporting events for other schools and sporting organisations – eg DASSA
  5. Boarding – one of only 2 boarding schools in Dubai, the UAE and the GCC– it is a premium boarding school, luxury en-suite rooms, purpose-built boarding houses, dedicated boarding team, and world-class fitness and sporting facilities for boarding students to use in their spare time.

 

Facilities are one way parents can work out whether a school can meet the needs of children – and whether the fees really stack up. What facilities, in full, do you offer for students at Swiss International Scientific School? 

“It is quite a long list:

  • Tier 1 premium, fully digital campus;
  • Extensive landscaped grounds, buildings and a setting designed to inspire students;
  • 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 – temperature-controlled to allow swimming all year round. (rare even in the extraordinary breadth of facility provision across UAE schools)
  • Landmark hybrid indoor-outdoor 16M swimming pool for younger students
  • KG Library
  • 10 lane 50 metre Olympic Pool
  • 6 lane 400m rubberized track
  • 2 indoor sports halls with provisions for:
  • 2 full sized basketball courts
  • 2 indoor Indoor tennis courts,
  • Adjustable basketball hoops
  • Indoor climbing walls
  • 2 outdoor tennis courts
  • 2 outdoor Padel tennis courts
  • 1 beach volleyball court
  • Outdoor Climbing wall
  • 550-seat auditorium and stage;
  • Theatre and concert hall;
  • Media centre;
  • Gymnasium and cardio suite
  • 2 x Dance studios;
  • Multi-purpose sports hall;
  • Fine arts centre;
  • Media centre;
  • Indoor FS soft play centre;
  • Recording studio;
  • Sensory Room;
  • Green-screen production facility;
  • Prayer rooms;
  • (Multiple) language labs;
  • Dedicated boarding houses for 350 boys and girls
  • Two medical clinics operated by a DHCC registered team which includes 1 full-time doctor and 3 registered nurses.

 

School leadership matters. She, or he, guides the ship. The Principal chosen by a school to lead it tells parents a lot about the ambitions of a school for students and its ethical values. Please can you provide a bio of your Principal that sets the scene for parents?

“Current Principal – Norbert Foerster (retiring Summer 2021)

Qualifications:

  • Diplom-Psychologe (Master in Psychology), University Bonn
  • President of the SFPS (Swiss Federation of Private Schools)
  • Former President of the AGEP (Geneva Association of Private Schools)
  • Fluent in German, French and English; basic Spanish speaker

Norbert Foerster is SISD’s Head of School. Norbert took up his position in August 2018 having previously been Head of the Institut International de Lancy in Geneva, Switzerland.
Before joining SISD, Norbert held numerous educational leadership positions spanning more than three decades. He started his career as a psychologist at a Catholic Center for Children and Adolescents, after which he spent 13 years between 1985 and 1998 as the director of a Psycho-Educational Counseling Center in Germany, in which he worked with children and families, as well as conducting counseling for parents, teachers, and educators.

In 1998, Norbert was appointed Director-General of Institut International de Lancy. Over a span of twenty years, he developed the school from a French Programme School to an IB World School teaching 1500 students.

Between 2006 and 2014, he held the position of President of the Geneva Association of Private Schools (AGEP) and in 2014 he became President of the Swiss Federation of Private Schools (SFPS).”

New principal – Ruth Burke (joining August 2021)

The full, world first exclusive interview by SchoolsCompared.com with Ruth Burke, the new Principal of Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai can be found here.

 

The nationality of teachers does matter, not because any one nationality of teacher is better than another intrinsically, but because recruiting top tier, experienced teachers is expensive and is, at the least, indicative of the investment made by any school in teaching. In all schools teacher salaries make up at least 75% of the overall costs. What is the nationality make-up of teachers at Swiss International Scientific School. 

“We have a very strong bias towards recruiting from European and UK countries – Swiss, French, German and UK
In total we have 23 nationalities of teachers.”

 

A school can only ever be as good as its people. The qualifications and experience of teachers is important for parents. What are the absolute minimum qualifications required to teach at SSID?  What qualifications and experience does the most qualified teacher have?

“The minimum requirements is a Bachelor in Education or Degree in the subject to be taught plus a professional teaching qualification.

We have many teachers who have a Masters in Education and are IB examiners, Consultants, Workshop Leaders, Site visit leaders

However, our most qualified teacher has a Masters, PhD and was a Postdoctoral Research Scientist.”

 

Parents want to understand the environment of a school – its “feel”. One thing that they look at is how international a school is. Can you provide a breakdown for parents of the nationalities of children at Swiss International Scientific School?

74 nationalities: The largest nationalities are: French 12%, Swiss 9%, German 8%, British 6%, Canadian 7%, Italian 5%, Belgian 3%, American 7%.


In the direct words of the school’s Principal, with just 30 seconds in an elevator to convey to a parent who did not know the school, can you let us know what they would say to “wow!” them. And yes, we know 30 seconds is not easy….

Norbert Foerster (current principal):

‘”So what does make SISD so special and unique?

Our approach to learning reflects a sincere commitment to a Swiss vision in excellence of education – developing bilingualism, diversity, creativity, problem solving and good decision making – all underpinned by the values, ethos and principles of the IB.

The combination of SISD’s inspiring campus, and its thriving bilingual international community, provides a first-class, 21st century education in a caring, nurturing and supportive environment.

I am very proud to lead such a visionary, dynamic school, and excited for the generation of global citizens and leaders that we are creating at SISD.”


Ruth Burke (new principal):

‘’The SISD Education is unique: global in its outlook, bilingual in its approach, Swiss in its culture, and yet also rooted in the local community of Dubai.

I am passionate about the IB, it is absolutely the gold standard of education – and it is what employers and universities are now looking for.

When combined with the level of languages, the STEAM education and the numerous pathways that SISD offers, I have no doubt that we have developed something very unique for our students.

This is a school for families who want globally-minded rounded children – there really is something for everyone at SISD, and our inclusive approach wholeheartedly supports this.”

 

Parents want to understand how big schools are. Will their children get lost? Be just a number? With some schools topping 3000 students in the UAE, and others with a role under 1000 students, where does Swiss International Scientific School fit in this Picture? 

“Our current school role is 1250 students.”

 

Parents also want to understand how successful schools are at getting students into the next step of their life journeys after leaving school. For many students this will mean university. What sorts of universities does a Swiss International Scientific School education secure for students when they leave you?

“As the school is only 5 years old, and started with primary only, we only have one cohort of students who have graduated from the school.

The destinations were: Trinity College Dublin, Les Roches, University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen, Brunel University, University of Exeter, École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Glion, Michigan State University, University of Birmingham, University of Plymouth.

IB students tend to opt for more global and diverse university destinations than British curriculum schools.

The IBDP is very well sought-after in Canada and the US particularly, and the school has developed some very good relationships with international universities seeking IB students.”

 

When parents choose a school for younger children they cannot know how their child will develop. This is why when looking at all IB schools, SchoolsCompared rates much more highly those schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme, as well as the now standard International Baccalaureate Diploma. We want to see schools investing in breadth of qualifications and subject pathways so that schools can prove to us and parents that they can meet the needs of the broadest range of students. We know that Swiss International Scientific School does, creditably, offer the IB Career-related Programme. Can you ask the leaders of both the Diploma and Career-related Programme to state their case to parents?

Why is the IB Career related Programme so important for schools and students?

Martin Keon – International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme Coordinator:

‘’The IB CP is the newest programme in the IB continuum in response to meet the needs of a changing world and to meet the individual needs of students. 

The Diploma Programme is a well-established and respected programme but it is rigid in its requirements and is a generalist pathway.

The CP allows students to follow a course that is tailored to their own interests and aspirations. 

This suits some students well as they can acquire the knowledge and skills they need for their future needs and often helps them to get the third level course of their choosing and in some cases advanced credit. 

It is important for a CP candidate to be sure of what they want.  Then they can gain the most out of their programme of study.  Our programmes are aimed at those students who would like to enter the Hospitality or Business pathways and they follow a course tailored to include DP courses that support this pathway alongside the careers-related study.’’

Elise Furr – Head of Secondary: 

“The Diploma Programme is often referred to as the gold standard in education and research shows that DP graduates are much more likely to be enrolled at top higher education institutions than entrants holding other qualifications.

Our passion and commitment to the IB extends throughout the whole school.

At SISD , the Diploma Programme equips our students with the skills  for university, the workplace, and also for life.  The soft skills that students develop as part of the IB Learner Profile are unparalleled   The focus on conceptual understanding and the transfer of knowledge to unfamiliar situations is at the heart of IB learning. Additionally, the core components for example, enrich and strengthen the rigour of the programme and develop students in ways of thinking that permeate all the subject groups.

Students are able to be aware of themselves as thinkers, encouraging them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge and to recognise the need to act responsibly in an increasingly interconnected but uncertain world, in a world post-covid. 

The IB is the education benchmark of the future, and as one of the only continuum schools in the world, we ensure our students have the best chance of success.”

 

For younger students looking to their future at Swiss International Scientific School – as well as for older students looking to transfer to Swiss International Scientific School for their Secondary education, can you tell us 2 key points that makes your school shine at later stages?

Elise Furr, Head of Secondary:

’Firstly, the focus on bilingualism and all languages is what is special about this school.

The passion and interest of the students and parents to develop their languages to a high standard is evident all around us in the students’ openness, flexibility and confidence to want to speak the languages and to help one another in these languages is wonderful to experience and really embeds the IB learner profile of our students being true communicators.

Secondly, our School value of ‘together’ inspires our students to be considerate of each other; indeed they recently prepared care packages for our current Grade 12 students, to mark their support and care for them during their recent mock examinations.

Empowering student agency and ensuring all our students have the care and support to flourish is the core foundation of our pastoral programme. ‘’

 

One of the tests of serious schools committed to the diversity of their role is a genuine deep-rooted commitment to scholarships and bursaries. By investing in children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford the fees, schools ensure the diversity of their role to the benefit of all students – and “give back” to wider society and education. We see this commitment at 99.9% of top schools in every part of the world. Does Swiss International Scientific School have bursaries and scholarships – and, if so, is the commitment real and genuine?

One test of an outstanding school is whether it provides scholarships. for children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford the fees.

“To answer this, I need only to quote from our Founder, Omar Danial, when establishing the school:

“Swiss International Scientific 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.”

We can confirm that Swiss International Scientific School offers a “scholarship programme” and the school is considering applications at the start of each academic year from families.

Scholarship decisions are based on completion of a formal application process and the school genuinely welcomes applications from students with academic and sporting excellence.”

 

Swiss International School is rare in the UAE in being just one of two boarding schools available to parents. Many parents have not even considered boarding because they did not know it was available in the UAE. Many students too, given the choice, want to board! Tell us more …

Photograph if students and Boarding Housemaster at Swoss International School in Dubai - one of only 2 boarding schools in the whole UAE

David McKeown – Head of Boarding: 

’We identify our Boarders at SISD as part of our Boarding Family and aim to create and nurture a home from home experience.

Our Boarders bring with them global perspectives (a key part of our IB curriculum) to share with each other and with our day students.

Our consistent rewards and consequences policy and daily routines instil a positive and disciplined approach which is reflected in our Boarders approach to their academic study and in their everyday life.

Boarding offers a supportive community where there is always someone on hand to help and assist, whether they are a senior boarder, school nurse, counsellor, boarding tutor or simply a friend in-house. Boarding cultivates a culture of collaboration and an ‘all in this together’ approach which prepares our boarders for life beyond our school walls. Ultimately, we wish for our boarders to be safe, happy and well-rounded individuals who look back with fondness on their time at SISD and as part of our boarding family. We love nothing better than when our boarders come back to visit to let us know where life has taken them and share their stories with us.’’

Parents often have many questions when they come to visit us to enquire about boarding for their son or daughter. Ultimately, we aim to offer a safe, caring, modern and nurturing environment with all that that entails.

Our boarders and their families are provided with a boarding handbook giving guidance on all of the key areas to consider when boarding. We also provide a pre-boarding checklist detailing all of the items to bring, and what not to bring, to ensure that their experience and welcome is as smooth a possible. Our checklist includes clothing items to bring, academic materials, toiletries, alarm clock, books and other essentials.

Some common questions might include;

What happens in the holidays? Our boarders typically travel to home countries, or family come to visit Dubai to take boarders offsite during the school holidays.

Do children have tuck boxes? Though our boarders don’t have ‘tuck boxes’ we are happy for treats and snacks to be brought in. We also encourage our boarders to let us know what treats and snacks they would like in our fully stocked pantries. As any good parent would, we encourage a healthy and balanced approach toward meals and snacks.

Can boarders leave site? Yes, with parental and boarding staff permission our older boarders are able to leave site to meet friends or visit the mall etc. We approach this on an individual and trust basis. Provided our boarders display a mature and sensible approach to offsite privileges we are happy to support them.

Is there always someone there to oversee them? There is always a member of boarding staff on duty, 24 hours a day, and so always someone to help and assist as needed.

Can personal items be brought into the house? Yes, absolutely. Within the bounds of reason, safety and in a way that we can apply consistently with all of our boarders, we are happy for items that allow our boarders to feel more at home.

Will they be able to access their favourite meal/snacks? We regularly meet with our boarders, catering teams, boarding council and school leaders to adapt and refine our meal offerings to ensure a healthy and nutritious approach. In addition, our boarders are encouraged to let us know items they would like us to stock in our pantries for snacks when they come home to boarding from school each day.

Can I call/speak to my son or daughter or visit them? Yes, of course. We encourage and value a partnership with parents. We want them to feel close to their son or daughter and have a trusting and positive relationship with boarding staff. Regular communication and connection is key to this.

What if my child is sick? Our boarding staff and medical team will take care of them. They may simply remain in-house for a day or two or be taken to doctors/hospital offsite, if this is deemed necessary. We will always keep parents informed along the way.

Do you offer trips? We have an extensive programme of weekend trips and activities which take in all of the fun aspects that Dubai has to offer.

Do Boarders have access to teachers/facilities? Our boarders are allocated ‘boarding tutor’ who acts as a link between boarders, school staff and parents. They are there to help and support in any way possible, this might be on an academic or pastoral level. Our boarders are also encouraged to use our facilities after hours with a programme of after school clubs, activities, gym sessions and team sports.”

 

Is Swiss International Scientific School a hothouse” school for only academic children? Or is it an inclusive school for all types of children?

Brian Nolan – Deputy Head of Primary Years:

Swiss International Scientific School uses the IB Learner Profile to structure and guide our development of caring, adaptive, and resilient learners who are equipped to succeed in the 21st century.

Our approach is centred around the development and support of the student through reflection and positive action taking. Our behaviour management protocol is balanced and relies on authentic and meaningful engagement with students, teachers, and parents.

This ultimately makes SISD a very warm, kind and supportive place to be.

We have received numerous amounts of praise and comments from parents, staff and in our various inspections, on the way we support and encourage children – a chance, choice and consequence approach.

You only have to walk around our school and you will see that every door will be held open by a child – it’s about mutual respect, good manners and treating every child as an individual. ‘’

Luke Osborne – Deputy Head of School: ‘

’One of the highlights of working at Swiss International Scientific School is the warm, family feeling.

Newcomers quickly understand how important high-quality relationships are to the community and see for themselves the impact these positive relationships have on wellbeing and learning.

Teachers and leaders share and understand their pastoral responsibilities in a unique way – no doubt linked to the fact that SISD is not just a school but also a home to boarders and staff who live on site.  

My two children and my wife are all part of the SISD community – my children are in the primary and Early Years and my wife is a Primary teacher – it’s an amazing multi-national community to be part of.”

 

Covid 19 has made it so difficult for parents and students to really get a feel for schools. Can you share with both students and parents thinking about changing schools, or coming to Dubai for the first time, the three videos that capture the magic of Swiss International Scientific School and what it achieves for children and older students. 

 

At SchoolsCompared we believe breadth of subject options is so important. Subject breadth is about ensuring that every child can find areas of study that they will find inspiring and in which they can excel. It goes to the very heart of schools making meaningful the ambition that “no child should – ever – be left behind.” Can you list for us all the subject areas that students at Swiss International Scientific School will have the opportunity to explore and learn from, whether they study for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme?

“International Baccalaureate Subjects at Swiss International Scientific School:

  • Group 1 (Language & Literature): English A, French A, German A
    • Language A Literature Standard Level (SL) school-supported, self-taught (SSST)
  • Group 2 (Language Acquisition): French B, French Ab Initio, German B
  • Group 3 (Individuals & Societies) : History (in French), History (in English), Business Management, Global Politics
  • Group 4 ( Experimental Sciences): Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Systems & Societies
  • Group 5 (Mathematics): Mathematics Applications and Interpretation
  • Group 6 (Arts/Electives): Visual Arts, Music OR a second subject from Group 3 or Group 4

International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme Subjects at Swiss International Scientific School:

  • Students opt for 3 subjects from the above list (1 HL and 2 SL),
  • And then can choose between
    • BTEC in Business;
    • BTEC in Hospitality; or,
    • BTEC in Sport.”

 

Fees ultimately set the limits on the schools that parents can choose for their children. They may love your school but simply not be able to afford the fees. .Notwithstanding scholarships, what is the cost for families who want to choose your school? 

“Our school fees vary according to, for example, whether parents are looking for a day school or boarding based education, or a mix of the two, for their child.

The best place to understand this can be found here.

In simple terms, however, Day Fees start at AED 53,000 AED for Pre-KG in the non bilingual stream, and go up to AED 99,000 in the secondary for Grade 12. Bilingual in primary is slightly more expensive than the English + / STEAM stream, because of the additional language teacher in every classroom.

Full boarding fees start at AED 224,500 and go up to AED 239,700 for Grade 12. These are all inclusive and include after school activities, an evening activity programme, weekend trips, visa, books, uniform, exam fees, airport travel etc. – so parents have very few extras to pay for. This is unlike other boarding schools, especially the UK ones, where the extras can add up to another 30-40% of the school fees. It has always been important to us to be completely transparent with parents and with us there are none of the nasty bill surprises that they can often face at other schools.”

 

So….. another question that parents can ask to get the measure of the value a school provides when measured against its school fees is to look at class sizes and the number of students. Can you very clearly set this out for us?

Number of students: 1250
Number of teachers:  125
Language and Teaching Assistants: 45
Ratio at Primary: 1:8 (in bilingual)
Ratio at Primary: 1:12 (non bilingual)
Class size at Secondary:  Maximum capped at 24 students.

 

An education is more than academics – an outstanding school must provide opportunities for each student’s intellect, creativity and interests to have the opportunity to flourish. One way of understanding how well a school does this is to look at the types and breadth of ECAs provided by a school.  Can you list these for us?

Ballet at Swiss Scientific school in Dubai

“At Swiss International Scientific School there are a huge variety of ECA’s – and we probably offer more than any other school in Dubai.  Below I have split them between internal ECAs and external (paid suppliers):

INTERNAL ECAs: Early Years (PreKG, KG1, KG2)

  • Arabic A (as mother-tongue)
  • Book Club
  • Building Blocks / Construction
  • Drama / Once Upon a Time
  • English Club
  • English Language Challenge Club (invitation only)
  • French Cultural Club
  • French Support (invitation only)
  • Games / Interests Club
  • German Cultural Club
  • German Support (invitation only)
  • Just Dance
  • Maths Challenge Club (invitation only)
  • Music and Movement
  • Sewing

INTERNAL ECAs: Primary School (G1-G5)

  • Arab Reading Challenge
  • Arabic A & B  Play-Dancing
  • Arabic A Play-Acting
  • Arabic A (as mother-tongue) Support
  • Arabic B (as foreign language) Support
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Creative / Poetry Writing
  • English Reading Club
  • French Booster (E/F Bilingual only)
  • French Club
  • French DELF Prim Exam Prep
  • Friends Resilience
  • Games Club
  • Garden Club
  • German (as an additional language)
  • German Booster (E/G Bilingual only)
  • German Club
  • Piano Keyboards
  • Quran Club
  • Sewing / Knitting
  • Supervised Homework: English
  • Supervised Homework: F / E
  • Supervised Homework: G / E
  • TED Club – Public Speaking

INTERNAL: Secondary School (G6-G12)

  • Arabic Support
  • Arabic Drama Club
  • Art Club
  • Art of Arabic Calligraphy
  • Current Events
  • Digital Design Club
  • Diploma Science Support
  • English Cambridge Exam Prep
  • English Creative Writing
  • English Support
  • French Creative Writing
  • French DELF Junior Exam Prep
  • French Support
  • German Goethe Exam Prep
  • German Student Radio
  • Mathletes
  • Maths Support
  • MUN / Debate
  • Pop & Rock Band
  • Science Support
  • Theatre Company
  • Young Entrepreneurs

External: Early Years (PreKG, KG1, KG2)

External:  Primary School (G1-G5)

  • Artificial Intelligence: COZMO Robot – STRYX
  • Athletics – STRYX
  • Ballet – STRYX
  • Barça Football – STRYX
  • Basketball – STRYX
  • Beach Volleyball – STRYX
  • Chess – Chess Knowledge
  • Chinese (as foreign language) – Headway Institute
  • Code-A-Bot – STRYX
  • Drama – STRYX
  • French Theatre – Culture Emulsion
  • Hip Hop – STRYX
  • Italian (as foreign language) – Headway Institute
  • Junior Scientists + – Mad Science
  • Karate – STRYX
  • Musical Theatre – STRYX
  • Parkour – STRYX
  • Piano (Private/Group) – Exclusive Music
  • Rhythmic Gymnastics (Girls) – STRYX
  • Roller Skating – STRYX
  • Rugby – STRYX
  • Russian (as foreign language) – Headway Institute
  • Russian (as mother-tongue) – Headway Institute
  • Spanish (as foreign language) – Headway Institute
  • Spanish (Beginners) – Headway Institute
  • Swimming Beginners 2 / Development 1-2 – STRYX
  • Tennis – STRYX
  • Wall Climbing – STRYX
  • Yoga – STRYX

External: Secondary School (G6-G12)

 

As a school that offers a specialist IB Career-related Programme qualification founded on Sport, can you give parents an idea of the investment in Sport at the school and the range of options available to, and achievements of, children across the whole school and older students?

Children at Swiss International Scientific School racing for the finisging line during atheltics as part of the Sport focus of the school lading to BTEC options in the IB CrP

“At Swiss International Scientific School our core sports include Basketball, Tennis, Football, Gymnastics, Swimming, Football, Badminton, Rugby, Cricket, Table Tennis, Padel Tennis, Beach Volleyball, Climbing Wall, Weight Room, Fitness Studio, Track & Field, Dance, Musical Theatre, Archery and Hockey.

Competitive Sport – Member of Dubai Affiliated School Sport Association (DASSA):

    • Football – U8 to U19 – Boys and Girls (We do not have a girls team at each age category but we offer it every year if there are enough who register to try out)
    • Basketball – U10 to U19 – Boys and Girls (We do not have a girls team at each age category but we offer it every year if there are enough who register to try out)
    • Swimming – U8 to U19 – Boys and Girls
    • Track & Field/Athletics – U8 to U19 – Boys and Girls
    • Tennis – U10 to U19 – Boys and Girls
    • Golf – U9 to U19 – Boys and Girls
    • Karting – U11-U19 – Boys and Girls

Sporting Facilities:

      • 10 lane 50 metre Olympic Pool
      • 6 lane 400m rubberized track
      • 2 indoor sports halls with provisions for:
        • 2 full sized basketball courts
        • 2 indoor Indoor tennis courts,
        • Adjustable basketball hoops
        • Indoor climbing walls
      • 2 outdoor tennis courts
      • 2 outdoor Padel tennis courts
      • 1 beach volleyball court
      • Outdoor Climbing wall

Top 5 Sporting Moments:

    • 2018 U16 Boys Basketball DASSA D2 Champions
    • 2019 U16 Boys Basketball DASSA D1 Finalist
    • 2019 U10 Boys Football DASSA A Finalists
    • 2019 U9 DASSA Swimming Champions
    • 2019, 2018, 2017 DASSA Athletics Championship Host

 

What about creative children who are inspired by the Performing Arts, Art and Music? Do they too find a good home in your school?

 

“The simple answer is yes.

The importance of self-expression through the arts is emphasized right from the Early Years and Primary School through to Secondary School. At SISD, students get a solid foundation of knowledge and get to develop themselves in an inspiring environment that promote innovation, creativity and global perspectives.

Primary:

Children study performing arts as part of the PYP curriculum. In this curriculum children learn to play various class appropriate instruments as they progress through the school. They develop musical literacy and have a variety of opportunities to perform, building their confidence gradually. Children learn about the music of other cultures and how they can use these influences in their own composition work. Children have an opportunity to demonstrate unrestrained creativity through music technology which gives them the tools to be imaginative and innovative with their work and also allows for various forms of collaboration. Children have the opportunity to engage in group performances with their peers these can go from small duets and quartets to large whole grade choirs.

During weekly Art lessons, pupils have the opportunity to develop their creative and critical thinking skills. Through the investigation of a diverse range of artists, styles and genres, students are inspired to create their own work using a wide variety of artistic mediums and techniques. Pupils are also encouraged to question, discuss and interpret artwork whilst reflecting on the role and relevance of Art in society.

Secondary:

SISD offers excellent learning conditions for both practical and creative work and theoretical studies, plus dedicated music, arts and design rooms for those who want to develop themselves creatively. Our cutting-edge facilities allow plenty of space for drama performances and visual arts exhibitions. Specialist teachers are employed by the school with lessons taking place during the school day and after school. Music plays a vital role in the school community. There are many opportunities for students to become involved with music and performance, through the PYP, MYP and DP curricula, as well as the after-school activities programme.

Whole school: 

Performances are presented by grade groups, or in other smaller ensembles. The emphasis is on participation, teamwork, personal development and quality, particularly when music links with drama to the staging of a school musical. Students of all ages have the opportunity to become involved in choirs, orchestras and bands, with regular events being organised to enable students to perform.

All grades have access to acoustically designed music rooms with an impressive range of musical instruments and equipment ready at their disposal.

At SISD, we deeply understand the need for Performing Arts exposure, and to that end we provide students of every age with after-school activities to satisfy that need. Students for example get their Drama / Once Upon a Time ASAs, as well as dance, music, musical theatre, French theatre, ballet…. and so much more.”

 

What do teachers at Swiss International Scientific School really think about the school?

Samantha Hodges (Grade 5):

I think SISD has a vibrant faculty, where talented professionals collaborate to provide excellent results for our students. With outstanding facilities and infrastructure, the environment is an inspiring workplace with a warm community of staff, parents and students alike.”

Tamara Grannell (Grade 1):

“I have worked at SISD for 5 years as an English teacher, KG2 coordinator and now Grade 1 coordinator. I have had such a positive experience working in both the Early Years and Primary schools and have enjoyed co – teaching with some incredible teachers. I have had the pleasure of experiencing first hand, the development of the French/ English bilingual stream at SISD, which has grown and developed and is now fully imbedded into the students daily lives. Students naturally speak both French and English in our classroom and it has been a joy to see students progress in multiple languages.”

Charles Cejka (Secondary):

The entire school community is diverse and it is a pleasure to work with staff who come from different cultures and speak many different languages. Furthermore, the staff are highly qualified professionals and approach teaching in a passionate and serious manner. Professional development is a focus of the school and teachers have the opportunity to grow and develop their teaching skills. The facilities at the school are world class and the science laboratories are well-equipped to conduct a range of experiments in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The IB MYP and IB DP are demanding for students, but the focus on inquiry is an effective preparation for life at university and the real world. The emphasis on authentic problem solving allows teachers to be creative in delivering lessons within the IB framework.”

Karina Ross (Early Years):

I have worked at SISD for three years and have loved it. Through working at SISD I have gained experience that I could not have gained anywhere else. I have been fortunate enough to see just how successful learning in more than one language can be and the cross curricular opportunities that come with this. The Early years is set up for full play and investigative learning that allows the students to grow and shine in both languages. I have also loved my first year of co teaching. Another experience that has really added to my professional development and would only be possible at SISD. The diverse staff and students at SISD have really made it a special place to be in an already diverse city. “

Jonathan Harkin (Primary):

‘I am very grateful to be part of the SISD team for the 2020/21 academic year. Since joining SISD, I have been made to feel extremely welcome by each member of staff. The positivity that flows through the school is contagious and energizing. The support, I receive from other members of staff, motivates me to raise my standards and become a better educator, colleague, and person. The huge focus on Well-being is evident and the impact is clear to see in the outstanding teaching and learning being done throughout the school. The repour you see between colleagues, teachers and students really shows of the unity that SISD thrives upon.’ 

 

What do Parents at Swiss International Scientific School really think about the school?

Parents of Skay (Grade 12):

Our daughter Skay is in grade 12, and she has joined SISD 3 years ago. The amazing premises and infrastructure, a completely immersive bilingual program and small classes with personalized teaching approach make SISD stand out from other schools.

However, there is much more to it.

We observed Skay becoming more and more autonomous, outspoken and self-confident.

She developed into a balanced  and happy young adult, knowing what she wants and standing out for herself while caring for others.

This is not something a school can teach in a classroom only, it is about the experience and values that are lived every day and by everyone.

And this is what really makes SISD special.”

Parents of Taylor (Grade 4):

‘”My daughter is in her 4th year of attending SISD now and my son in his 2nd year.

We have always found the staff at SISD very professional and friendly.

We mainly speak English at home and through the English/ French bilingual program at SISD, my daughter is now also fluent in French and increasing her vocabulary weekly, which we are very pleased with.

My son is also making very good progress with both languages.

Throughout the pandemic we could not be happier with the way SISD has implemented & maintained very good safety procedures in allowing the school to stay open for our children to attend daily in a safe environment. We were happy with the distance learning program when the schools were closed during 2020.

Both my children have always been very happy attending SISD and they have both made wonderful friendships with people from all over the world.”

Miriam Burger (Primary and Secondary parent):

“Coming from Switzerland 5 years ago, it was important for my husband and myself that our kids get a full immersion in a school where they could learn English, but also could keep and continue the learning of our mother tongue, French. The bilingual aspect that SISD proposes was an evidence for us. How great is it to have a week in English and a week in French (or German)? No other schools offer this concept.

Then I’ll be honest – we were not at all familiar with the IB curriculum, our kids were going in a public school in Switzerland, and you do not choose the curriculum. So, I found it interesting to try something else – and yes it took us few months to understand the vision of the IB, its concepts, the way of teaching etc… But now, we will never change them from this curriculum. The benefits of the IB for our kids are so many: they think critically, understand concepts, have multi-cultural awareness and many more skills and qualities like this… 

But, most important for us, is to see our kids happy to go at school, this has no price!

Education can be so difficult, and it is a long way, until they find their profession. They must have fun and feel well in their school (through special events, sports teams, etc…). 

Even now, with the pandemic situation, SISD is proposing 100% face-to-face learning, and, even under their masks, I know that our kids are still smiling at the drop off time each and every morning.”

 

What do Students at Swiss International Scientific School really think about the school?

Renata Lopez (Grade 11):

“Throughout my years in the IB curriculum and at SISD, I have found that teaching is thought of as a piece of paper; it is something that, unlike the status-quo, is used to do more than writing to memorize.

This piece of paper is bent, folded, and torn to accommodate and facilitate learning on a daily basis.

Every student learns at different rates and in different ways; I feel the SISD community has looked beyond and above to make sure everyday learning is tailored and engaging to all students.

The staff’s work and passion are reflected in the student’s engagement as they continue to defy the rules of the paper that is teaching.

Riccardo (Grade 9):

“The best part of the day is when, during the lessons, I learn new things or share opinions with my peers and teachers.

I also collaborate with my peers so that we help each other and give feedback on schoolwork.

Learning and studying sure is hard work, but, in the end, it gives great satisfaction!”  

 

Another way that parents can measure a school’s investment in students is through their investment plans for the future. What is coming next? What is going to be improved? Added? Can you tell us about the capital investment plans at Swiss International Scientific School in the next decade? 

“We are a relatively new school, brimming with outstanding facilities and obvious investment around every corner. As such I cannot give you specific details of what is around the corner. However, one thing that I can reveal is that we are considering a solar-powered car park option, but plans are still in the early stages…”

 

What are the 8 milestones that the school has achieved since it opened?

“Here is my view of the top eight achievements of Swiss International Scientific School since we opened:

  • The school has grown to 1250 students in a very short timescale. We have inspired parents and students and word has spread.
  • The success of the boarding offer which is growing 50% year-on-year.
  • Expansion of bilingual classes and our breadth of education offer to meet the needs of every child.
  • Introduction of the new STEAM programme and pathway – unique in the UAE
  • CIS registered
  • ECIS Member
  • SGIS member
  • Our choice of IB Diploma and IB Career-related Programmes
  • All the many daily achievements of every single student at our school.

 

For parents with younger children, what makes the IB PYP Programme so special at Swiss International Scientific School? 

Photograph of a young child at Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai raising the question of how do parents choose the best school for younger children during a pandemic when it is almost impossible to either visit schools or see them working normally.

Shona Tait – PYP Coordinator and Deputy Head of Primary School:

I am passionate about the PYP because it goes beyond learning of knowledge and skills.

Students turning their learning into actionable moments through meaningful contexts is an expectation of the program.

The PYP has 5 essential elements, all of equal value – knowledge, skills, conceptual understanding, action and the learner profile. These enable our students to become knowledgeable inquirers who are both reflective and collaborative.

In my opinion, the PYP has that ‘so what’ element that other programs do not always offer. For example, students in G4 are inquiring into body systems. They have learned about the cardiovascular system, its form, function etc. and how our life style choices may impact the health of that system. Now they are being asked: ‘What can you do with this new understanding?” and they are responding in so many ways, including making expert video campaigns on healthy lifestyles using the scientific research they have learned.

 

Why is STEAM important – and why has Swiss International Scientific School chosen to provide this as a dedicated specialist pathway for children when they join the school?  

Shona Tait – PYP Coordinator and Deputy Head of Primary School:

“Creativity is one of the most important things a student can learn, explore and develop at school.

Many people think that creativity is something most associated with subjects in the Arts. But This creativity is just as important, perhaps more so, across all STEAM subjects and the concepts underpinning them. 

As an IBPYP school we find STEAM completely aligns with our values too. It enables students to inquire into the concepts of STEAM through a transdisciplinary approach – they analayse and make connections across the 5 subjects instead of learning them in isolation.

Technology is forever evolving and our program ensures students learn to use technology as a learning tool for creating, not just consuming information.

Students are always excited in STEAM-based lessons and inquiries – and never fail to surprise us with their incredible skills development and passion. They’re really becoming experts!

 

A final way that parents try and get an insight into a school is to ask what happens to students when they leave a school. For many students, this will mean graduating school for university. Can you give us an insight into the destinations of students at Swiss International Scientific School?  

Naima Gauthier – University Guidance Counsellor:

“As a relatively new school that has launched sensitively and slowly, we have only had one year of graduating International Baccalaureate Diploma students to date.

However, our students have received some fantastic university offers this year, and a large percentage of students have already received an offer from their preferred destination.

This year, our students have offers at Trinity College (Dublin), Brunel University (London), University of Plymouth, Bournemouth University, Les Roches, Glion, University of Groningen, University of Amsterdam, University of Birmingham, University of Essex, Hult Business School, American University Dubai, Webster University (Geneva), and Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne.

Several of our students have a number of offers (one has 7 offers so far – all to study Law or Business).

At SISD, we maximise students’ success by offering a wide range of university and career support activities.

As well as regular 1:1 meetings with our students, we run surveys to keep track of students’ university aspirations – and run group, as well as whole cohort, workshops.

We also organise fairs, mini lectures and information sessions throughout the year to give students a real insight into university life and the various pathways available.

We have developed a robust careers programme from Grade 9 and above for students to familiarise themselves with the constantly evolving world of work.

We identify each student’s personality and interests profiles by running tests following metrics that come from both John Holland’s theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This ensures that we can better advise every student on career options that are unique to each of them, and ensure that our students are aware of career trends and jobs which will be in demand when they are ready to enter the workplace.

We also encourage students to broaden their options – and fully support them in building soft skills through work experience and voluntary work opportunities, both physical and virtual, which we help them research.

The programme we have developed has enabled our students to access some of the best universities for their course choices and, as importantly make more informed career decisions that are right for them as individuals.”

 

Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared Verdict on the ‘Nightmare’ of Choosing a school in a Pandemic.

In one key way, this interview is not about our view of the Swiss International Scientific School. We rate it as an outstanding one for many children, as evident in our review here, but that is not the point. What we have tried to attempt – and what is, exactly, the point here, is to provide parents with a set of questions that we think has the greatest opportunity to inspire an understanding of a school. These questions can be used by parents when visiting any school as part of the process to work out whether a school will be right for their child.

Choosing a school has become so difficult. Human beings are not “designed” to communicate with masks. Children, in an ideal world, one without a pandemic, would be learning and relating to their peers and teachers in very different ways to those they must today. As parents, even if we can visit a school, today we must see and assess them when we do through a blindfold that inevitably obscures what a school truly delivers for its children.

What is left to us then in choosing and comparing schools is an enhanced and more urgent focus on the questions we ask of a school, and then a need to measure the responses that we receive against those of other schools.

Swiss International Scientific School is an interesting school to have chosen for this experiment. It is very different in many ways to other schools in the UAE. It is certainly not run-of-the-mill.

For a start, it offers boarding, something only one other school in the UAE (Repton Dubai) does. That boarding ethos and family dynamic can be found around every corner of the school and its life for students. It creates a dynamically very different school. This is also a school with a very sharp focus on languages and STEAM pathways for children from a very young age, this again not something shared, to this degree, by other schools in the UAE.

It is also one, however, that answers all of the many questions that other schools too must answer to help make sense of their schools for parents.

Is it a happy school? Does it offer breadth of subject choices? Does it have large class sizes? Does it have a mission statement and something that sets it apart from other schools? Is it academically selective, or inclusive? Does it offer technical pathways like Sport and Business for older children, or is the curriculum restricted by just offering traditionally academic options?

Reading through this, you will have found the answers to these, and many other questions, that we believe can begin to make sense of schools and their fit for each child.

Our thanks to Swiss International Scientific School, its teachers, leadership, parents and students, for the many days they invested in answering these questions. Our particular thanks to Alison Roberts, who made it her mission, and gave pretty much ‘heart and soul’, to get these answer together from across her school. No small feat.

That investment will have been worth it if even just one family, and one child, is helped to find the right school for them – whichever school that may ultimately be.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2021. All rights reserved.

 

 

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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