This new model of schooling and curriculum is very much a home-grown innovation in education that we want to nurture.
It is also very much early days though and we expect much development of this model in the years to come. It is likely that this sector will see probably the greatest change over the next few years – but the opportunities are significant for the UAE to develop an entirely new class of schools best able to meet the needs of Emirati, and broader Arabic, children. These schools promise Western qualifications and a celebration and protection of all that makes Arabic culture so distinct and special. We must, we believe, do all we can to support their being successful.
In the Category for Best Blended Arabic Curriculum School we looked at the following core areas:
(1) The commitment of schools to protecting Arabic culture and nurturing an understanding of love for the Arabic world in children
(2) Investment in Arabic subjects with their being meaningfully integrated within the curriculum.
(3) The blending with this core focus of the highest quality international curriculum.
(4) Subject breadth offered in the international curriculum. Our aim is to recognise schools that give the broadest opportunity for children to follow their passions and interests and have subjects related to their gifts and abilities.
(5) Stability across faculty and leadership.
(6) Standards of school investment and Governance.
(7) Feedback from parents, teachers and the sector more broadly about the school to both SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com English and Arabic Editorial.
(8) School Inspectorate feedback.
(9) Demonstrable commitment to inclusion including academic, Emirati and SEND.
(10) Transparency of information and celebration of children.
(11) Indications of a commitment to a culture that encourages questioning, innovation and creativity within children and a love of learning rather than learning by rote or an exam factory culture focused on churning out high results in league tables.
We also assessed class sizes, teacher-student ratios, on-going investment, impact of technology and whole child development.
This is an area of schooling in which SchoolsCompared.com has set itself apart from its WhichSchoolAdvisor.com sister which has traditionally focused on schools for an international audience – and to some degree it is fair to say that our values, in setting up the awards, do focus much more on our evangelising local context and culture, including, particularly, a belief in recognising Emirati and broader cultural inclusiveness and celebration.
Sheikh Zayed Private Academy for Boys is our stand-out winner in this category.
The blending here is so well balanced between Arabic and international schooling.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is the only school with a major backer. In this case, GEMS has been employed to run the school. Unsurprisingly too, fees are high – this is very much set up, from ground zero, as a school of some of the leading families in the emirate.
The investment in education is evident everywhere – we absolutely love the physical space which nods to Arabic culture but in a modern, educational context.
School leadership is hugely engaged, passionate, outward looking and of extremely high calibre.
Worth noting the school achieves a Very Good rating from ADEK despite its relative youth.
So what gives the school its edge?
Reading, firstly. It seems libraries are everywhere (there are two – but these are supported by libraries in each classroom).
Substantive investment in “good” books (by which we mean books that engage children), is very thoughtful not scattergun. It’s a school in which we picked up books and wanted to read. Too many schools on both sides of the Arabic/International divide choose books that hardly inspire attention.
Second, technology. It’s used everywhere – and meaningfully, to bring education to life. Too many schools, still, advertise BYOD and IPad trolleys but do not actually use them.
Third, child progress is outstanding – no small achievement for its significantly Emirati role.
Fourth, attendance is stand-out (94% odd) for an Emirati school: children want to learn.
Whole child development, school development, investment – all we rate as outstanding.
The only draw-back is that the school is still launching through its phases and we have yet to see results in external examinations (AP).
However, there is more than enough that is exceptional here, in conjunction with GEMS delivery and the achievements of its older sister Girls school, for us to be confident that this is a school that will meet its ambitions.
The ambition, innovation, quality of curriculum and leadership conspire to create a hugely impressive proposition for children.
Given this, and given the potential of this school to actually shape a new model of schooling for Emirati children, Sheikh Zayed Private School for Boys is richly deserving of the SchoolsCompared.com 2019 Award for Best Arabic Blended Curriculum School in the UAE 2019.
American School of Creative Science, Dubai
Next Generation School, Dubai
School of Research Science
Sheikh Zayed Private Academy for Girls
The Backstage Interview
ADEK Rating: Very Good with Outstanding features
KHDA weakness: Attainment (note: new school in phased launch, all students in all grades are new to the school in the last three years, progress very good-outstanding)
Subject breadth/meeting the needs of children: Outstanding
Fees: AED 48K – 58K
Number of students: 1047
Age of role: KG – Middle
Curriculum: Blended Arabic
School type: Governmental (run by GEMS)
Number of students with SEND: 10% (Above 5% in an international school we rate as outstandingly inclusive for SEND)
Number of Emirati children: 93% (Above 10% in an international school we rate as outstandingly inclusive to the local population)