GEMS Heritage Indian School is a CBSE curriculum school which opened in 2016 in temporary premises at the GEMS New Millennium School on the Al Khail Road. It relocated in 2018 to its permanent home next to the IMG World of Adventures site in Dubailand.
The story so far...
After two years in shared accommodation with GEMS New Millennium School, GEMS Heritage Indian School moved to a permanent purpose-built campus in April 2018. As the latest in a long line of Indian Curriculum schools to be opened by GEMS, this school follows the more highly favoured CBSE curriculum, but with the UK-based Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in the KG section and blended within the Primary section curriculum also.
Leadership comes in the hands of a highly experienced GEMS team, including Executive Principal Darryl Bloud (ex-GEMS Modern Academy, the only ISCE school operated by GEMS), Principal Anjuli Murthy (formerly of Our Own High School and GEMS Modern) and Vice Principal Kapil Chaudhary (also ex-GEMS Modern). All three have been in the UAE for more than 20 years and been part of GEMS Modern Academy's journey to Outstanding, the only Indian school in Dubai currently rated at the highest level. This is without doubt a leadership team not only of immense experience, but also with a very fine pedigree and no doubt GEMS will be expecting them to deliver a similar quality of education at their new school.
GEMS Heritage is currently operational from KG to Grade 10 and will open for Grade 11 in April 2020, reaching its full grade range in April 2021. The school is being opened in phases, with the first phase having a capacity of 3,600 students. The eventual capacity of the school is 10,000 students; although currently, it has a little over 10% of that number.
With some 1,100 students and 73 teachers and 30 teaching assistants, the school is definitely only a fraction of its intended size and approximately one third of the way to towards the target for the first phase. Teacher turnover, at 25%, is unusually high for an Indian curriculum school, and the KHDA's first inspection report notes that many teachers are new to the school - further details can be found here. A teacher:student ratio of 1:15 is very much on the low side for an Indian school, and should ensure that students receive individual attention. There are approximately 70 students with additional learning needs, who are supported by the SEN team.
What about the curriculum?
Described as a 'rich curriculum' in the school's first KHDA inspection report, in addition to the CBSE NCERT curriculum, the school aims to teach 21st Century Skills which include a focus on "four critical areas for development: Collaboration and teamwork. Creativity and imagination. Critical thinking. Problem solving".
In support of the development of these skills, GEMS Heritage is ensuring that an up to date approach to traditional Science and Maths subjects is provided through its STEaM curriculum, which is the traditional STEM focus (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) with the addition of art.
This integrated, interdisciplinary approach aims to "increase collaborative opportunities and rigour, encourage critical thinking, improve student achievement and enhance personal growth through authentic learning opportunities".
The Design Thinking space or The Renaissance Centre is the hub for emerging technologies, including the mobile Internet, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and advanced genomics. Lego Robotics will also be a feature of the curriculum. Teachers will develop their skills in teaching with emerging technologies (tablets, iPads, Smart Boards, digital cameras, computers), while students are using advanced technology to shape how they learn. By embracing and integrating technology in the classroom, GEMS Heritage aims to provide students with the skills for a successful life outside of school.
In integrating the UK curriculum-based Early Years Foundation Stage, GEMS Heritage has chosen a move away from the more formal approach to learning that was traditionally expected in Indian curriculum schools, instead embracing the Learning through Play focus of the UK curriculum, which draws on young children's innate curiosity and the development of first-hand experiences and early communication skills.
GEMS Heritage describes its approach to EYFS in KG as "Integrated learning, a Thematic approach, Child Initiated /Teacher led activity, Differentiated work, Reading and Writing Programme, Developing and enhancing Innovation and Enterprise skills, [and] Field trips."
Primary students study English, Mathematics, Environment studies, Language (Hindi, Malayalam or French), Arabic, Islamic Studies/ Moral Science and Computer science, following the UAE’s Ministry of Education Curriculum. In the Middle school, subjects offered include English, Mathematics, Science, Computer science, Social studies, Language, Arabic and Islamic Studies/ Moral Science.
Middle school students will be taught grade level Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and will integrate STEAM content with other disciplines, and, according to the school, "answer complex questions, investigate global issues, solve real world problems and meet real world challenges while engaging in meaningful, purposeful, and relevant hands- on inquiry- based, problem – based and/ or project based learning experiences".
The LEGO Education Academy programme for Secondary school students helps teachers introduce resources and methods such as Robotics with Data Logging to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists and designers. Students gain from a learning progression in computer coding that challenges them with real-world problem-solving skills.
The school’s other key aim is to achieve a balanced approach and to emphasise that sports and the arts are an integral part of the curriculum - not an after-thought or a hobby.
In order to support this intention, the school has recently launched a cricket academy where cricketing legend Brian Lara played cricket with the boys and girls at the school.
Executive Principal Mr. Bloud explained how this is very much part of what makes the school unique when compared to other CBSE schools in the UAE. “You will not find another school with such an integrated approach to performing arts and sports. Both are integrated into the curriculum in the students’ timetable in the mornings. We play on the strengths and the interest of each child to choose what they want to be professionally trained in – say cricket or Kathak, the Indian classical dance. They then get specific training in that during their PE or drama lesson.” The Heritage Cricket Academy uses coaches from an outside provider and practice takes place during school hours.
The Academy has been launched with the aim of developing professionals by the time they are 17 years of age. Indian parents are often willing to let their children start to learn a game, but schools do not generally have the specialists to be able to provide professional training within the curriculum. This is what GEMS Heritage aims to offer.
In tandem with the sports focus, the school has also put in place arrangements to ensure that all children participate in the Arts. Specialised Indian performing dance and music classes are organised by Malhaar Centre. Malhaar is affiliated to Akhil Bharatiya Gandharv Mahavidyala Mandal, India's premier Indian performing arts institution, and The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), in the UK. Students will appear for examinations that are facilitated by them.
Malhaar, apart from being known for their original musicals is best known to offer a holistic approach to performing arts. They provide students with a 360-degree approach via the ‘learn, listen and perform’ model. Students are trained by professional artists who are not just teachers but performers too.
From Grades 1 to 5, students choose between Hindustani Vocal, Tabla Percussion, or Kathak Dance based on their ability during timetabled lessons and also have the option to continue with after-school lessons.
In addition to the Sports and Arts programmes already available as extra-curricular activities, GEMS Heritage also offers further activities including technology-base activities, karate, basketball or football, public speaking, speech and drama, guitar, violin and drums.
Historically, much comment has been made about the tendency of Indian curriculum schools to place a great deal of emphasis on rote learning, and learning to the test, which, whilst ensuring that students were well grounded in the basics, offered relatively little opportunity for them to develop their innovation, enquiry and creative skills. The inclusion of creative and arts subjects in particular, was generally given little attention. This appears to be changing.
While GEMS Heritage is not unique in incorporating Art and Sport into its curriculum, it is in the level of integration into the school timetable, and the emphasis being given to a broader, more balanced CBSE framework that makes its offering different. It will be interesting to see how traditional Indian families deal with this different focus.
What about facilities?
At the present time, there are some 128 completed classrooms, three science labs, three ICT labs, two music rooms and a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) lab. The school also has a Renaissance Centre which is a room with a huge curving corridor with outside seating for small groups of students to work on robotics, nanotechnology and coding. There are four outdoor courtyards with different themes, an indoor gym, an outdoor sensory garden and a massive play area. There are range of impressive sporting facilities, including a cricket pitch, 20 cricket nets, indoor and outdoor, four tennis courts, a massive multipurpose sports hall and two outdoor football fields.
Sensibly, the school is being developed in three phases, and the second phase will see the main reception and construction of some additional classes and more labs. Phase three will expand the number of classrooms, as the school goes up to Grade 12.
Also: See the GEMS Heritage review on our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com, here.
At its first inspection, in the 2018-19 academic year, GEMS Heritage School was rated Good by the KHDA's DSIB inspection team. This is the minimum rating that the KHDA wishes to see all Dubai schools achieve, and to have done so on first inspection shows the steady hands of the leadership.
There was much to be pleased about in terms of the inspection team's comments. Throughout the school students were found to make Good or Acceptable progress in all key subjects - most ratings across the school for Student Achievement in English, Maths and Science were Good as were Students' Learning Skills. The exceptions were for Maths and Science in the KG and for Arabic and Islamic Studies (both rated Acceptable across the board).
Inspectors were impressed by students' positive attitudes to learning, their good behaviour and friendly and respectful attitudes towards each other. Personal Development in the Primary, Middle and Senior school section were rated Very Good.
Teaching and assessment, and the Curriculum were also found to be Good with the exception again of the KG section where they were rated Acceptable. The school was also found to have rigorous procedures for the Protection and Support of students (rated Very Good) and provides a "caring, inclusive and respectful ethos."
The inspection team also commented on the 'clear vision' of Senior leaders for the school, noting that they have been very successful in improving the quality of teaching. Effective self-evaluation, astute strategic planning and detailed action planning "suggest sustainable improvement". These are most definitely positive remarks!
In terms of the strengths of GEMS Heritage School, the inspection team concluded that the school's strengths are:
With regard to areas of improvement, the inspection team recommended that GEMS Heritage should:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to see the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Some 524 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey - a significant proportion of the parent body. 97% stated that they were happy with the quality of education, their children's well-being and safety at GEMS Heritage School. They feel their children develop good learning skills, are encouraged to work hard and are succeeding in their school work.
Some 134 students responded to the Well-being survey with a large majority feeling engaged in their work and appreciative of the culture of the school. Most feel safe and value the friendliness and community spirit that exists.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a relatively small by highly favourable number of responses to our Parents' Survey. Those parents who participated clearly had happy children, who enjoy going to school and feel a 'tremendous amount' of belonging. Not a single parent has considered moving their child(ren) to a different school - a real achievement for a relatively new school, and this is likely due to the 100% satisfaction with the level of academic performance of the school.
Surprisingly also for an Indian curriculum school, where outside tutoring seems to be the norm, none of our respondents felt that this was necessary. Parents were also completely satisfied with the feedback from the school and its disciplinary policy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 100% of parents said that they would recommend GEMS Heritage School to others - in spite of the fact (and the sole negative comment) that 12% of respondents felt that fees did not represent value for money.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at GEMS Heritage School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
There is little doubt that GEMS Heritage School has made a fine start! Parents are clearly happy, as are students. We have no doubt that concerns related to the KG, where teachers, who are potentially unfamiliar with the EYFS curriculum, will no doubt receive significant professional development and curriculum improvements will be made, will be addressed. We have high expectations for further strong steps forward along the road to improvement.
What about fees?
KHDA approved fees for GEMS Heritage Indian School (for 2020-2021) start at AED 14,000 for Pre-KG and KG1, AED 16,000 for KG2, AED 18,000 for Grades 1 to 4, and go up to AED 20,000 for Grades 5 through 8, AED 22,000 for Grades 9 and 10 and AED 24,000 for Grade 11.
Entrance to Grades 10 and 11 is selective and dependent on reports, entrance test and interview.
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