Learning, as we all know, is a life-long process. We learn to smile, we learn to take our first step in the world after repeatedly failing and falling. The people who care about us shower us with knowledge about things that will help us become better.
But as we grow up, leaving our homes and exploring new opportunities becomes a key part of our lives. Our first journey starts at school. It is a place where our actual identity is further developed. A place that introduces us to many opportunities and ignites our curiosity about the endless possibilities of the world.
Considering the same, we at The Knowledge Review have found an educational organization which aims to create schools that create tomorrow’s global citizens. Allow us to introduce you to International Schools Group (ISG), one of the prominent educational organizations situated in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
ISG’s first school was founded in 1962. During that time the initial enrollment consisted of a total of six students. Today ISG oversees six schools with a total enrolment of close to 4000 students from more than 70 different nations. The schools are built on the ISG core values of respect, acceptance, integrity and responsibility with a commitment to act. Their mission statement encapsulates the aim of an ISG education which is to “inspire innovation and compassionate action.”
A Lush Green Campus with Modern Facilities
The main campus of ISG is in Dhahran which comprises three schools. Its sprawling 40-acre campus includes facilities like a dining hall, three multipurpose gymnasiums, mini-theater, auditorium, preschool, a medical clinic and more. The schools have a rich library resource center with approximately 100,000 items available to students from all three schools.
ISG is known for its rigorous academic programs resulting in its graduates going on to some of the finest and most competitive universities in the world. ISG provides both an American and British division as well as an International division. The American division is based on a U.S. model curriculum; the British division delivers the British National Curriculum; and the International Division is patterned after a U.S. curriculum with the addition of a Global Language Program.
ISG accommodates every level of elementary and secondary education beginning with Pre-reception or Pre-K and culminating in full high school and Key Stage Five programs. Depending on the school, students also have the option of enrolling in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program or the AP Capstone Diploma Program. In addition to a rigorous curriculum, students at ISG schools participate in a range of co-curricular activities including sports, drama, music festivals, study trips, Model United Nations and Habitat for Humanity.
In line with their mission and values, ISG schools promote learner agency and a growth mindset. These help students to develop the sense that they can succeed in achieving an outcome and that setbacks are a normal part of the learning process.
Accreditation and Achievements
ISG is licensed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education and accredited by some of the top institutions in the world including the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), Council of International Schools (CIS), British Schools of the Middle East (BSME), British Schools Overseas (BSO) and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).
A Dynamic Leader and Seasoned Academic
A seasoned educator, Dr. Michael Mack is the Superintendent of ISG. He has more than 37 years of rich experience in education including elementary, middle and high school. He worked as an industrial arts teacher and guidance counselor, middle school principal, director of the International School of Latvia, and, most recently, superintendent of Lakewood School District in Marysville, Washington.
Dr. Mack can be seen every morning greeting students as they arrive. He makes eye contact with each one, offering a hand shake, high five or a friendly conversation. A firm believer in healthy, dynamic educational experiences and positive relationships, Dr. Mack wants students to have opportunities to risk, challenge and explore the far reaches of themselves.
Dr. Mack asserts, “The heart of ISG is all about the students. ISG really cares about its students academically, socially, emotionally and physically. All decisions we make as an organization are about what’s best for our students. It is also an organization able to self-reflect and look for ways to continually improve and move forward, which ultimately benefits our students.”
Student Engagement Activities
Engaging students in learning increases their concentration, encourages them to think critically and promotes meaningful learning experiences. ISG schools encourage activities that involve students in their own learning, help them develop learner agency and deepen their learning experiences.
ISG consists of six schools: Dhahran Elementary/Middle School (DEMS), Dhahran High School (DHS) and Dhahran British Grammar School (DBGS) at the Dhahran campus; ISG Dammam; ISG Jubail; and Sara Village School. Each school undertakes a variety of strategies to promote a positive learning ambiance within campuses. Some examples of this include:
ISG Dammam: In the early year’s program which is play-based, ISG Dammam instituted early morning meetings built around the ISG core values. Compassion, respect and responsibility are all woven into their discussions.
Sara Village School: This school created a Wall of Learning in which students post a highlight from their week on the board. It encourages children to be self-reflective and to be appreciative of their learning.
DBGS: Following the British system, DBGS has a pastoral system that drives compassion and learner agency. Every teacher is involved in pastoral care and meets regularly with his/her group of students.
Sporting Events at ISG
ISG provides opportunities for students to be involved in athletic activities at three distinct levels: regional, national and international. Each has the aim of fostering not only athletic skills like endurance and agility, but sportsmanship, collaboration, integrity and resilience. Students are exposed to different cultures and environments with opportunities to connect, build leadership skills and possibly even effect change.
Students participate in various tournaments throughout the year. Every student is encouraged to join at least one school sports team . In regional sports, many ISG teams participate in the DPSL (Dammam Private School League).
On a national level, students participate in SAIKAC (Saudi Arabian Inter-Kingdom Activities Conference) which consists of sports and other activities like academic games, Model UN and debating.
Internationally, ISG participates in Oasis tournaments which expose students to the different cultures of the six-member countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait.
ISG Learns is an ISG website that provides resources for learning, curriculum and professional development. It allows learning to occur in real-time, all the time. It encompasses professional learning via the group’s learning networks, collaborative events, and curation and creation of resources. On a daily basis, they celebrate learning, share resources, and collaborate locally and globally on Twitter to #isglearns.
ISG Learns also conducts learning events hosted by the ISG Learning Office. On a regular basis, it facilitates collaboration among groups of educators working together on targeted strategic goals and initiatives.
In addition to numerous internal professional learning opportunities, ISG engages with consultants and provides opportunities for teachers to attend international conferences. Learning walks, learning coaches, peer coaches and lead teachers are all components of our growth-centered professional learning model.
Building the Future
ISG has a clear vision and future plans for the further development of their schools. The Dhahran campus schools (DEMS, DHS, DBGS) will be relocating in 2021 to a new, purpose-built campus. The new site is in the up-and-coming area of Aziziyah, within close proximity to Dhahran, Dammam and Khobar.
The campus is being built over an area of 70,000 square meters. Designed by the award-winning architectural firm of Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ), the schools will incorporate the latest aspects of modern-day design, while ensuring they will be fit for purpose for everyday use as a modern educational facility. Once constructed, the new ISG school campus will be the premier educational facility of its type in the Eastern Province.