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Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai United Arab Emirates 3 - 18
years
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school
Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai
Dubai
400 pupils, ages 11-18 | Mixed | Day and Boarding

Secondary School

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Our View

The School was founded in 2015 by Swiss citizen, Omar Danial, who had a passion for creating a bilingual boarding school in the heart of the middle east, to provide a similar education to his own in Switzerland. In 2023, Swiss International Scientific School Dubai (SISD) joined the global family of schools that is Nord Anglia Education. SISD stands out for its two bilingual academic streams, senior boarding offering and spacious campus. This is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, where global-mindedness and a love of learning is inherent.

Where?

SISD is located in the Dubai Healthcare City zone, surrounded by medical and science  businesses. The fact that the campus is outside the centre means it’s far bigger (19 acres to be exact) than other schools here and the location, right on Dubai Creek with views over to the Burj Khalifa, is stunning.

The campus itself is groundbreaking in its sustainability – it’s the first ever purpose-built infrastructure in a desert climate to meet Minergie standards – and a large part of the reason why the school is a winner of the Talk Education Award for Environmental achievement. Full of natural light, with wide corridors and moss walls, it is a real eco-minded accomplishment.

SISD is split into early years (pre-kindergarten, kindergartens 1 and 2), primary (Grades 1 to 5) and secondary (Grades 6 to 12). Each section has its own teaching classrooms, specialist art and music facilities and covered playground; the whole school shares the auditorium, sports building and dining room. 

There’s parking aplenty, but SISD also has a fleet of buses to ferry pupils to and from the site (the school would like to add a water bus to their routes, from the marina opposite, which would cut travel time significantly – watch this space). A project for summer ‘23 is to cover all of the parking spaces, roofing them with solar panels with the aim of providing sufficient energy to power the entire state for a year.

Head

Irish head Ruth Burke has worked in Dubai for 20 years and has an impressive track record for elevating her schools – including Jumeirah English Speaking School, GEMS Wellington International School and Deira International School – to achieve Outstanding ratings from the government’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). She joined SISD (currently rated Good) in 2021 and we found her to be professional and passionate about the school’s strengths and the IB Continuum programme (she’s not bilingual herself, but extols the benefits). Eager to expand the boarding, she also really wants to develop the arts offering to its full potential and talked about the excitement of learning that the younger children demonstrate, as early as Grade 1.

Admissions

SISD recently reached its target of 1,900 pupils (400 in the early years, 700 in primary and 400 in senior; the school is keen to expand the senior section, however this will happen naturally as the lower years move up), but will be at its full capacity of 2,100 in September. Growth over the past two years has been significant and this is a school in high demand, especially with prospective parents now visiting from other Dubai schools and expats from other Gulf countries interested; there are currently waiting lists for all years, with the exception of pre-kindergarten and Grade 11. 

The admissions team is large and very knowledgeable. The school is non-selective academically, but language knowledge is key for the bilingual streams (and must be supported at home), especially for the older students. At secondary level, prospective pupils have assessments in written language skills, numeracy and critical thinking. They must be willing to sit CATs as well. There are also minimum requirements for the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP), GCSE and IGCSE. Sport and academic scholarships are available for gifted and talented pupils (in Grades 9 and 11 respectively). Boarders are accepted from Grade 6 and a boarding scholarship may be awarded in conjunction with academic and sport scholarships.

Academics and university destinations

SISD has three learning streams: English and French, English and German and English and STEAM. Arabic is compulsory in the UAE, so pupils can attain fluency in three languages. 

In secondary school, pupils follow the MYP followed by the IB Diploma or IB Career-related Programme. Alternatively, there is also the option in Grades 6 and 7 to do hybrid classes (either German-English bilingual or IB combined with the Swiss Baccalaureate curriculum) in preparation for the Swiss Baccalaureate at sixth-form level. Students have the opportunity to graduate with a Bilingual Diploma or an Advanced Bilingual Diploma – SISD is the only school in the UAE to offer the latter.

There are two teachers (speaking English and French/German) for every class of up to 24 pupils and, together with an assistant, they can accommodate all abilities well (the maximum class size drops down to 15 in Grades 11 and 12). There is lots of emphasis on science, as well as enquiry-based and peer-led learning – the older children regularly read with the younger ones. The STEAM stream does a huge amount of construction, programming, robotics and woodwork, but the superb facilities are open to everybody. The UAE National Agenda feeds into the curriculum at all levels.

The school fully supports pupils who require SEND or EAL assistance (the latter is especially impressive when you consider that there are 101 nationalities in the school). The inclusions department ensures that everyone is part of the community, providing classroom help, individual support, study-skills assistance and guidance on independent learning. 

SISD has a university counselling team who provide information and guidance across a range of further education options. In close collaboration with the head of secondary school, Megan La Caze, class teachers and parents, pupils start their university research in Grade 9. About 90 per cent of leavers head to British, Canadian, US and Swiss universities to continue their studies. UK Russell Group universities aren’t the main attraction: instead, students head to high ranking European universities or the American Ivy League.

Co-curricular

Space is so unusual in a Dubai school – which means that the extensive sporting facilities here are unrivalled. From the 50-metre Olympic pool (and learning pool for primary) and indoor/outdoor courts to the running tracks and climbing wall, it is all outstanding. No wonder the school’s reputation for sport is so strong. SISD’s key sports are football, basketball, athletics and swimming, all of which have their own academies (we met a national gymnast and swimmer on our tour). We like the fact that the school is keen on supporting the C and D teams too – and that the sports chant ‘Go Ibex’ references a Swiss mountain goat known for its strength and resilience. 

Art and creativity are a hugely important part of the IB curriculum. A new head of music has been appointed to drive the offering and the subject is taught by specialist staff in a dedicated primary music room from Grade 1. Art is the fastest growing subject within the school, which admissions put down to a great team of staff. The secondary art department takes up a big section of one floor, is flooded with light and has great views of the Creek. There is also a dance studio, an impressive auditorium and practice rooms for performing arts. On our visit, we saw amazing displays from the school’s two previous performances of Annie and Little Shop of Horrors.

There are 75 clubs each week, broken down by school section (early years, primary and secondary). From these, pupils are allowed to take part in two activities. In the senior school, choices include digital design, pop and rock group, Duke of Edinburgh and young entrepreneurs. Additional external after-school activities are available for an extra charge.

Boarding

Overseen by head of boarding Ashley Fitzgibbons, SISD offers full, weekly and flexi boarding in the secondary school for students over the age of 11. There are currently two houses: Geneva for boys and Zurich for girls. Each has 75 pupils with a capacity for 100, but the school likes to allow those in Grades 10 to 12 to have their own room (hence the reason for not being full). They feel like a proper home from home, with ensuite modern double bedrooms and plenty of space for boarders to relax. The study area has wipe-clean walls for children to write on; they can either work in their rooms (with the door open) or in the common spaces. 

The pantries on each floor are stocked daily with fruit and there is a fridge and cupboard full of healthy snacks. On the top floor, the pantry for the oldest pupils also has a cooker and washing machine to encourage them to practise their life skills. The boarding meals menu has been developed with the children. During the week, they have a wide selection of options including a three-course meal or a live cooking station, while weekends see the boarders help themselves to a full brunch buffet, with a late morning start. On Saturday nights, the students have the option to order takeaway from their favourite local eateries.

Students can take exeats whenever there are no community-orientated fixed weekend trips going on. At weekends and during the evenings, boarders can use all the school facilities (an app logs them into each room so staff know where they are). Evening activities include three sport options, as well as art, music and academic tuition. Weekend boarding trips range from visits to the historical old souk, to the Atlantis water park and hiking in the Ras Al Khaimah mountains.

Every boarding house has a dedicated team of staff who are on hand to keep an eye out for boarders’ pastoral and practical needs, plus an academic tutor on each floor. The boarding team is expanding for the 2023-24 academic year, with the arrival of deputy head Matthew Henman, who joins from a boarding school in China. We found Ms Fitzgibbons to be bubbly and caring, breaking off our conversation to check on pupils returning from exams. She lives in Zurich house, and Mr Henman will live in Geneva house. There is a boarding student ambassador in each house too. Currently, most pupils who board are European but there is a growing number of those who live in other Gulf countries. 

School community

There are 101 nationalities within SISD, including two per cent Emirati and an influx of European families keen to tap into the bilingual streams. The four values underpinning the school are bilingualism, excellence, sustainability and what it calls ‘togetherness’ – i.e. community. Great pastoral care is overseen by a sizeable team of pastoral experts, whose roles are to ensure that anyone with a barrier to learning can thrive here. A survey has just been carried out so that pupils know that their voices are heard. 

There is a medical centre manned by the school doctor, as well as a wellbeing and counselling centre for pupils and staff. The latter are well looked after, with a quiet room for decompressing and a ‘be good to yourself’ day off allowed during term time each year. Every year group has a grade coordinator, responsible for overseeing the pastoral and academic development of students in that grade and ensuring that parental communication and feedback is forthcoming. A dedicated transition programme ensures that pupils feel supported as they move through the different sections of the school. 

Pupils belong to one of four school houses, each named after a Swiss city. When asked what their favourite day of the school year is, many named International Day where people from each nationality represented within the school bring food, costumes and music to showcase their country and National Day, which is a celebration of the UAE. Those in Grade 12 also mark 100 days to graduation by putting on their gowns for a school parade before going to an iconic location for photos and lunch (last year they went to the bottom of the Burj Khalifa on an open-top bus).

There is a large, bright, modern canteen shared by the whole school (pupils eat lunch at different times to allow everyone through). A Swiss external company provides the meals (half of the pupils eat these, the other half bring packed lunches) and children work together with them to put the monthly menu together. Meat-free Mondays are part of the school’s commitment to sustainability. Parents are welcome on site and there is a café in the campus to encourage them to meet up and spend time here (it works – on our visit, two hours after school started, it was packed). There is a very active SISD Parent Association and parent ambassadors are launching for each year group from September 2024.

And finally....

As one of the few IB-through schools in the world plus one of only two boarding options in the UAE, this is a brilliant option for families looking for a bilingual education, with space and outstanding sports facilities away from the city. Staff genuinely believe in what they are trying to achieve and the love of learning from pupils is clear.

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Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai gallery image
Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai gallery image
Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai gallery image
Swiss International Scientific School In Dubai gallery image
  • Admissions

    Step one: Online application and submission of documents. Step two: Interview and assessment. Step three: Offer and Acceptance within 5 working days.
  • Languages and bilingual streams


    Bilingual stream - English/French
    Bilingual stream - English/German
  • Academic results

  • University Destinations



    The school secured a 100% pass rate, with the top scorer achieving 42 points. 50% of students received the bilingual IB Diploma. All students who entered the IBDP secured their top university choice.
  • Sports

    Athletics
    Badminton
    Basketball
    Beach volleyball
    Climbing
    Dance
    Golf
    Gymnastics
    Handball
    Hockey
    Martial Arts
    Real tennis
    Rugby
    Soccer
    Swimming
    Table tennis
    Tennis
    Volleyball
  • Fees

    Day fees per annum
    From 90,968.00 UAE Dirham to 102,749.00 UAE Dirham

    Boarding fees per annum
    From 227,468.00 UAE Dirham to 243,449.00 UAE Dirham





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  • SEND

    9 staff
    Sen co-ordinator: Zosia Bucheli
    info@sisd.ae


  • Transport Links

    Nearest underground station: Creek Metro
    Nearest international airport: Dubai International School
  • School Updates

    • WATCH VIDEO: An Overview of Boarding School Life at SISD

    • A boarding school in the heart of Dubai

Essentials

Address
Dubai Healthcare City, Phase 2, Al Jaddaf, Dubai 505002

Contact
info@sisd.ae
+971 4 375 0600

Website
sisd.ae/our-school/secondary-school/

Fees

Open Days

Inspection report

Admissions




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