GEMS New Our Own Private High School (or NOOPS as it refers to itself) offers the CBSE curriculum and aims to attract students from Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Al Qusais and Al Nahda.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com visited the school to assess its location, the building and its readiness for an April 2018 opening....
GEMS Education, the school owner, has certainly recruited well. The principal Sangita Chima, comes from India’s premium boarding school Lawrence Lovedale and has 30 years of experience, with 18 years as a principal. Sangita led the tour.
The NOOPS principal started by explaining how each building or room at the school will have an Arabic word, thereby making the language more inclusive.
“Since we are in the UAE, we wanted to have Arabic as an integral part of our day-to-day operations. We have named each block, classrooms, music rooms, library etc. with an Arabic word. This way children will not only learn the language but use it in their daily lives.
Our tour started with the admin block, which is called Nizam (children will need to be well behaved when they visit, Nizam is Arabic for discipline!). Behind the main reception is a café for parents, to the right is the accounts, books, uniforms and all other admin rooms. To the left of the reception is a conference room and two clinics – one for boys and the other for girls.
The school is co-educational, however, from Grade 4 boys and girls will go into separate classrooms.
The first floor of the Nizam building has a STEAM lab, called Zaka’a for the primary school.
STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths - is an integral part of the curriculum, which will be introduced from KG onwards.
“There are two innovations in the curriculum, first is that we are taking a hands on approach with a STEAM angle being included in course content and how we teach it, right from KG. The second intervention is the practice of mindfulness.”
While walking around the school, we got a real sense of spaciousness with lots of room, and with many play areas.
There are five Intilaq zobes for example (Intilaq is "Ready, Steady, Go' in Arabic), which include various play areas like football pitch, KG play ground, tennis courts and indoor areas for badminton, basketball, table tennis and other sports.
The indoor playrooms include a show and tell area with mini amphitheater seating which can be used for choir practice as well as board games including chess. Chess will be introduced from KG 1 as well. NOOPS aims to be centre of learning for chess in the UAE.
The school will be built in four phases over 22 acres of land, with phase one being ready with all sporting facilities, playgrounds, STEAM labs and classrooms for KG until Grade 5.
In the first year of the operations, 26 classrooms of the total 98 will be used.
“There will be 16 classes for KG (8 each), two classes for Grade 1 to 5. We’ll be using only the ground floor initially and as we expand, the first floor will be used accordingly.”
The first floor of the main school building has an ICT lab and an Art room, which is likely to be well used, right from the first year.
We checked the classrooms that have been furnished. Each features collaborative spaces, with circular tables and chairs. The colours used in the school – be it in the display boards or furniture or cafeteria - are all distinctively bright and warm.
“We have used orange and green in our cafeteria as these colours increase appetite."
Other facilities of the school include four science labs, a performing arts studio, three music studios and one music room dedicated to Arabic instruments.
As for the curriculum, the school will follow CBSE with an additional emphasis on STEAM and languages. The school will offer English, Arabic, Hindi and Malyalam in the first year. At a later stage the school may introduce Urdu and French.
"The curriculum design is instructional, where the teachers will know how to use STEAM and mindfulness in every lesson. There will be a sense of calm, balance and self correcting in the school and amongst the staff.”
The school's staff is being recruited internationally with teachers coming from India, Egypt, Syria and Russia. A total of 37 teachers have been hired so far.
At full capacity of the school will offer 10,000 places at which point it will be an all-through school. NOOPS aims to be at full capacity in four years. The first year will have classes from KG to Grade 5. The second year will see grades 6, 7 and 8, third year will have grades 9 and 10 and by the fourth year the school will have grades up to 12.
So far about 160 children have enrolled, while lots more offers will be made to children before the school opens on April 8 for the new academic year.
Pricing for the school is competitive - although not in the value range for Indian curricula schools. That is perhaps unsurprising. On offer is a huge campus, spacious classrooms, sports, performing arts and STEAM facilities. Fees start at 14,000 AED for KG 1 and 2, 16,000 AED for Grade 1 to 3 and 18,000 AED for Grade 4 and 5.
The school also offers a founders discount for four years – 40% for the first year, 30% for the second, 20% for the third and 10% for the fourth.
The catch for such facilities at this price point is the location of the school.
It took 1000 Google engineers (in the form of Google Maps) and the ability to negotiate the way around a large number of trucks and lorries to get to a school which is literally in the middle of the desert. Currently, there's no residential project being constructed in the vicinity. As of now the road leading to the school has not been made and you might need an SUV to get to there Having said that, the approach road is under construction, and the school will offer a bus service.
NOOPS clearly has identified the key drivers for parents targeting Indian curriculum schools. It has a very comprehensive specification, has been well designed and thought through and no one will be able to blame the environment for any failings in all round child development. In fact, if teaching and leadership align with the quality of the building and facilities this could soon be the school of choice for a lot of parents looking for an Indian curriculum, with practical teaching methods, in Sharjah.