GEMS New Millennium School is located near two other GEMS schools at the edge of the Dubai Hills development immediately off the Al Khail Road and Al Marabea Street. The school was established with the intention of providing an Indian curriculum education to families moving into the Dubai Hills and Mohammed Bin Rashid City developments. However, in reality, it serves children travelling from a wide area across Dubai.
The story so far...
GEMS New Millennium School (NMS) opened in 2013, together with two further new GEMS schools on a large site close to the Al Khail Road and two large housing developments. The location, at least in terms of access and parking, has been a challenge from the outset, and apparently remains one still, based on the latest KHDA inspection report. This aside, however, NMS has much to recommend it.
GEMS New Millennium School follows the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum with a specific additional feature of an extended Day Boarding facility (known as PACT - Program for Appreciation and Cultivation of Talent) which enables students from Grade 1 to stay in school until 3.30pm - further details can be found here.
We do wonder whether NMS is perhaps trying to squeeze too much into the current school day which starts at 7.30am and ends at 1.30pm, followed by the PACT programme until 3.30pm - a question mooted in the previous KHDA inspection report which commented on the frantic pace of lessons.
The school states that its Vision is: 'To embed the habit of exploration in the minds of Generation Next; to open greater vistas: Semper sursum-forever higher.' Its Mission is: 'To be the cradle for the best practices of education; trans-creating them into the school of tomorrow.'
Currently with almost 1,440 students on the roster, the majority of students and its 83 teachers and 23 teaching assistants hold an Indian passport, although the school counts over 35 different nationalities overall from across the globe. The Principal, Ms. Fatima Martin, in her opening remarks notes: "internationalism prevails in the ethos of our school. All the cultures and identities of our students is [sic] promoted through the enriching curriculum and all activities we take part in."
Read our most recent school Experience visit here.
The school opened Grade 12 in 2018-19 and is now completely open from pre-KG. Although over 1,400 students sounds like a large number, in reality, the school was designed to accommodate many more students, and most grades have only two to four sections. Average class sizes are a maximum of 25 in pre-KG and KG, to a maximum of 30 from Grade 1 (although, in reality, classes are generally smaller the higher up the school students are). The teacher:student ratio is 1:17 - on the high side for many schools in Dubai, but average for the Indian curriculum. Teacher turnover at 19% in 2018-19, and 16% a year prior is around the average for Dubai (20-22%), though on the high side for an Indian curriculum school.
The school states that it has a specific focus on "Innovation and 21st Century Skills such as Critical Thinking and Problem-solving." It singles out its Extended Day-care facility [referred to as Day Boarding], supported by its After-school Enrichment Activities, the Genius Hour and its rigorous Career Guidance programme as specialist features of the school.
What about the curriculum?
Whilst NMS is essentially a CBSE curriculum school, students in the KG section follow the UK curriculum-based EYFS curriculum and the UK curriculum influence no longer stops there!
In a significant step away from the norm, however, GEMS New Millennium School will offer a two-track approach for Secondary students from September 2020, with the option of the current CBSE curriculum for Grades 9 to 12, or the UK-based Cambridge International curriculum (offering IGCSE) in the equivalent years 10 and 11, and International A Levels in years 12 and 13. Whilst this is a practice followed by GEMS' Our Own English High School in Al Ain, for instance, it is not an offering that has been available in Dubai until now.
Explaining the background to this decision, NMS informed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that some parents prefer their children to opt for the IGCSE programme, if they want them to join universities across the world.
Mainly this happens at the time of transition from Middle school to Secondary school. Keeping this in mind, we have decided to offer the National Curriculum of England at NMS starting September 2020. We felt that it is possible to retain such students and families within our school while offering them an enriched dual curriculum. The developmentally based program at NMS will offer a unique and rare environment for a student to grow and develop into the Millennial with all the 21st Century skills recommended by the dynamic world of today. The dual curriculum initiative is the hallmark of our vision #NMSForeverHigher.
Further details of the plans for IGCSE can be found below.
The Kindergarten curriculum is designed to develop independence while encouraging students to pursue knowledge and become lifelong learners. Emphasis in the early years is placed on the child’s development, guided by the expectations of the seven areas of learning: Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communications and Language, Mathematics, English, EVS (Science and Coding), Creative Development (Music, Art and Dance), Physical Development (Physical Education, Swimming and Aerobics). Students engage in hands-on, experiential learning, including field visits, morning assemblies, theme-based learning weeks and community outreach activities. Extended learning takes place through subject centres in the classroom, learning zones and free flow areas, which stimulate learners through a range of resources and child initiated activities.
In keeping with the vision and philosophy of the school, NMS aims to provide "powerful learning opportunities utilising Design thinking, Thinking Routines, project-based multidisciplinary learning, and the development of critical thinking skills."
The school offers a weekly theme-based approach to enable students to connect and collaborate across subjects for strategic cross-curricular links, but there is also a focus on specific individual subjects.
Core subjects from Grades 1 to 10 include English Language and Literature, Mathematics, EVS (Primary Years) and Science (Middle Years), Islamic Education or Moral Science, Arabic, Social Studies, Modern Foreign Languages (French, Hindi or Malayalam), Music, Dance and Drama, Physical Education, Swimming and other sports, Art and Design, Computing, programming and ICT. For students who join as beginners of the English language in Grades 1 and above, an English Language Learners programme is provided.
Teaching methodologies are drawn from both the CBSE and other curricula. In English, for example, there is a strong focus on supporting key skills such as listening, reading, writing and speaking. These include activities such as Big Write (a strategy to enhance students’ writing skills), the use of assessment focuses to track reading, SPAG (spelling, punctuation & grammar), Peer Assisted Learning (PALS) and banded reading library resources. Enrichment activities to support English language development include activities such as the Model United Nations (MUN), World Scholar’s Cup (WSC) Global Round, Leadership Summits, the NMS Literacy Week and Spelling Bee.
A total of 23 subjects are offered for Grades 11 and 12 at CBSE including the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science, Accountancy, Business Studies, Economics, Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Engineering Graphics, Physical Education, Painting, Odissi Dance, Home Science, Informatics Practices, Entrepreneurship, Tourism, Marketing, Media, and Mass Media Studies.
The NMS Science Curriculum is based on the CASE methodology, and features strategies such as Consider All Possibilities (CAP), Plus-Minus-Interesting (PMI), and Odd One Out, which form the nucleus of the teaching and learning approach.
For students wishing to pursue the IGCSE option, students coming from the CBSE curriculum will join Year 9 in April and after completing a bridging programme from April till June, the transition to Year 10 will take place in September. Those students who come directly from British curriculum can enrol in Year 10 after completing their Year 9 in their previous school.
The IGCSE options are not as broad as the CBSE ones. However, this is inevitable at the start of the programme, when student numbers are likely to be relatively low.
Current plans include compulsory core subjects of English, Mathematics and Islamic/Global Perspectives and non-core subjects of Arabic, Moral Education, UAE Social Studies, PE, Global Futures (Singularity University), and Genius Hour. Subject options are divided into Option groups as follows:
|Block 1||Block 2||Block 3||Block 4|
|Computer Science||Business Studies||Economics||IT|
|Physics||Accountancy||Business Studies||Business studies|
The school also aims to be a centre of innovation. Genius Hour tasks include projects for critical thinking, problem solving, reflection and communication. Some of the strategies embedded in the curriculum include STEAM-focused learning, entrepreneurial education, design-based innovation, Global Futures Curriculum, Global Innovation Challenge, and Project Zero Creating Community of Innovation. The curriculum offered at NMS aims to develop young people "who are technologically literate, self-sufficient, entrepreneurial and academically prepared global citizens."
A further programme - The NMS Community Outreach – Environment – Innovation Programme (COEIP) is a structured programme of activities, specific to each grade, in which students undertake one targeted monthly project based around charitable, environmental or community activities. Examples include activities such as Pinktober awareness, the 30x30 Fitness Challenge, Diwali Dhamaka and Science Week.
The "5 pillars of PACT" are Prep (Homework time), Remedial, Sports, Visual Arts and Performing Arts, designed to enable students to develop their skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. The programme is described as an integral part of the curriculum, "making quality ‘family time’ at home a reality."
There are over 30 Enrichment Activities at no additional charge, including visual arts, performing arts, career guidance programmes, IIT JEE coaching, creative arts, painting, Chess and Robotics, as well as sports such as Swimming, Football, Basketball, Roller skating and Badminton. Music classes are held on campus and students may study for and enter exams with the Trinity School of Music.
These activities take place at the end of the school day (the normal day runs from 7.30am to 1.30pm, with PACT taking place from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. According to the school, 95% of students participate in this programme.
Additional provision for students in relation to Career and University Guidance includes SAT training and SAT Mock Tests conducted in school by an external provider, and MNR classes in school for preparation for IIT-JEE and NEET entrance exams. In addition, GEMS has partnered with the British Council, as a result of which NMS has become an IELTS Test Centre. Students can register and take up the IELTS test in school, complemented with one hour free training and a mock test conducted by the British Council.
What about Inclusion?
GEMS New Millennium School aims to be an inclusive school and offers specialist facilities and staff to support students with additional learning needs. Its provision and resources for students of determination were rated Good in the latest KHDA inspection. Approximately 200 students are classified as SEND (Students of Determination).
Facilities include a well-equipped Achievement Centre and Skills Development Room. External Speech and Occupational Therapists visit the school on a weekly basis. Specialist staff include a SEN Coordinator and a Special Educator, together with 21 mentors. A three-tier wave support system (based on group to one-to-one) supports children with differing abilities. Uniquely, no additional fees are charged to parents whose children require such support. The school also offers an ELL programme for non-English speakers.
What about Academic Achievement?
NMS, unlike many GEMS schools, did publish details of its first Grade 10 students' achievements in their CBSE Board Examinations, but has not published the second set.
The first set of results for Grade 10 students showed that there is clearly some talent in the school! The overall school topper achieved a grade of 97.2%. Subject toppers achieved the following grades: Mathematics and Social Science - 99%, English - 97%, Science - 96%, Malayalam - 95%, Hindi - 93% and French - 100%. We do not know how many students were presented for the exams, nor do we know the overall grades and averages.
According to the KHDA, students at NMS perform extremely well in the TIMMS, NAP and CAT4 assessments which students take as part of the UAE National Agenda. The current KHDA report notes that not only did the school exceed its targets in TIMMS, and "shows excellent progression in NAP assessments", but "students' attainment in external bench-marking assessments, in accordance with their CAT4 measured potential, is mostly exceptional."
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would encourage NMS to make their full Examination Results public when its first cohort of Grade 12 students sit their exams in March 2020. Whilst exam results are not the be-all and end-all of education, they remain a key component and parents and students inevitably want to know how well a school performs in this important context.
What about the facilities?
NMS occupies a large site and is located in what appears to be a traditional horse-shoe shaped three storey building in design terms - decidedly more modest than those of the GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail and GEMS International School Al Khail which are located to the south of it.
As mentioned earlier, the single biggest issue in relation to the school's facilities is access and parking. All three schools have worked together to stagger their hours and to ease the traffic congestion around the schools, but despite urging from the KHDA for the schools and the RTA to address the issues, a real solution has not yet been found.
Read our review Visit Experience to find out more.
NMS offers a wide range of facilities and resources as would be expected in a premium-priced GEMS school. These include Science Laboratories for Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, a Mathematics Lab, a Robotics Lab/Maker Space, a Black Box Drama studio, Dance Studios, a Music Technology suite, a Recording Studio, an ICT Suite - MAC Lab, an Arts & Creative Crafts Studio, Specialist Teaching/Language Rooms and a 500 seat Auditorium. Sports facilities include a Multipurpose Sports Hall, Swimming pool, football turf, cricket pitches, tennis, shaded play area, rooftop play area and basketball courts.
What the Inspectors say
In the school's first KHDA report, NMS was ranked Good - the first CBSE curriculum school in Dubai to have achieved this rating on their first inspection. Subsequently NMS retained this rating for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
As WhichSchoolAdvisor.com noted in our review of the 2018-19 inspection report, NMS was then very clearly a much better than Good school in many contexts. This was supported by its achievement of a Very Good rating in the 2019-10 inspection round.
At the time of the 2018-19 inspection, two key areas appeared to be responsible for the school having been awarded a Good rating for three years in a row. In common with many international schools, Arabic as an Additional Language - there are no native speakers - was rated Acceptable across the school, an obvious area for improvement.
The other key performance standard, that evidently still needed development, was Teaching and Assessment. This was rated Very Good in KG, but Good throughout the remainder of the school. It was clear from the inspection team's recommendations, that whilst the data was available, insufficient and/or ineffective use was being made of it.
One year on and the Inspectors identified the strengths of the school as:
Key recommendations from the latest KHDA report focus on the requirement to:
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
The improvements at NMS over the past year are impressive. Not only has the school achieved the Very Good rating - with the vast majority of key performance indicators have now reached this level, there is a sizable sprinkling of Outstanding ratings to be found too.
There is no doubt that NMS is a school on the rise - the only Indian curriculum school within the GEMS group, at least, that appears to have the potential to reach the lofty heights of GEMS Modern Academy - the only Outstanding rated Indian curriculum school in the city.
Some 267 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey with the vast majority saying that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by GEMS New Millennium School. Parents felt strongly that the school keeps their children safe and that they are given access to information to support them.
Some 338 students (compated with a relatively small number of 45 students last year) participated in the KHDA Well-being census. They felt safe, valued by teachers and friends within the school and that they were succeeding in their work. A substantial proportion of the students, compared with other schools in Dubai, noted that they enjoy positive relationships and connections with adults at school.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey has received too few responses to make it a reliable tool to gauge parent opinion.
If you are a Parent, Teacher or Student at GEMS New Millennium School, please share your experiences with other potential members of your community by taking our survey here.
What about the Fees?
Fees start at AED 18,188 for pre-KG, AED 21,397 from KG1 to Grade 2, AED 23,536 for Grades 3 and 4, AED 28,886 from Grades 5 to 8, AED 29,955 for Grades 9 and 10, and AED 31,025 for Grades 11 and 12, making it currently among the most expensive CBSE schools in Dubai. There is a registration fee of AED 500 and a deposit of AED 1,000 (refundable against the first term's fees) once a place is offered.
For balance, there is a return from those fees - the factual details we have mentioned, but there are more intangibles, like Day Boarding, that for many parents will mean that New Millennium is actually value for money. And the option to study the UK curriculum at this level of fees - provided that the subject options available are broad enough - makes this school and incredibly good deal for this alternative option.
GEMS New Millennium School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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