Co-located on the Al Khail Road with two other GEMS schools, GEMS New Millennium School (GNMS) certainly appears – externally at least – to be the most traditional of the three. Set in a large cream coloured building, located around a central courtyard area over 4 floors, this is a very large building that will eventually house a very large school of approximately 3,000 students. However, the traditional appearance of the school and its CBSE curriculum belie a school that is very much at the forefront of teaching methodologies, in relation to the Indian curriculum and an approach to learning which is designed to match the best of traditional practice with the requirement for a more international approach to the curriculum.
The school currently offers KG to grade 11 and will offer grade 12 from April 2019. It was set up by GEMS to appeal to predominantly Indian families based in the newer parts of the city but at a price-point similar to the original and long established Millennium School. The stability of the Indian population compared with many other nationalities in the city, meant that a school with a recognised name and connection was always going to be an attractive proposition. Now, with 13,00 students, 75 teachers and 25 teaching assistants, GEMS New Millennium School is viewed as an established CBSE school.
Interestingly, the school does not just appeal to Indian families, however. There are children of 38 nationalities attending NMS, 75% of whom are Indian but the other 25% of students come from countries as diverse as Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Eastern Europe as well as some Western passport holders of Indian extraction.
In part it is this mix of nationalities, together with the exposure that Indian families living in Dubai have to other nationals and their outlook on education, which has persuaded the school to offer a more innovative curriculum for these more internationally focused families. Surveys among parents showed that they were seeking universities for their children in both Indian and Western countries (US and UK in particular).
The school places a strong focus on STEAM subjects and includes modern technology and innovation at the heart of teaching practice across the school. A more questioning, investigative, analytical and critical-thinking-based approach to learning is taking the best of Western practice and building on the traditional foundation of the content-driven and rigorous CBSE curriculum. Practices such as PMI and the Genius Hour encourage students to be provoked to “think outside the box”. A Star Wars lab and participation in a NASA camp by some students suggests that there is indeed an innovative approach to teaching within the school.
The arts are not forgotten with 2 teachers who are artists-in-residence and GNMS aims to ensure that there is a well-rounded approach to other creative subjects with all students being actively encouraged to learn a musical instrument and preparation for Trinity Exams.
A popular feature of the school is its Day Boarding programme which is provided to all students. The academic day runs from 7.30am to 1.30pm and from 1.30-3.30pm the school offers a range of After School activities across a full range of Performing Arts, Art and Sports, and also encompasses Guides and Scouts. Students in grade 8 and above can participate in CISCO activities which are Career orientated. Sport is, of course, an important area of focus and students have the opportunity to participate in swimming, football and cricket with professional coaches. The Day Boarding activities are designed to enable students to focus on their areas of talent at no additional cost to parents.
Currently, GNMS has under 5% of students with Special Educational Needs. However, a full infrastructure is in place with an established SEN Department which supports students through the establishment of an IEP and works with students and staff to provide assistance and monitor progress. External specialists visit the school to support students with Sensory needs. In most cases, Shadow support staff are provided by parents but are trained and accountable to the school. Gifted and Talented students are also identified and provided with inclusive support specific to the abilities of each child.
Our tour of the school was conducted by the Vice Principal. With a total of 55 classrooms spread across 4 floors, there was a lot of the building to see! The ground floor is given over to the Kindergarten children of which there are 14 classes (split 9 in KG1 and 5 in KG2 in the current year). This is clearly a section of the school that will continue to grow rapidly. Classrooms are light and bright, all with interactive white boards. Central break out areas allow children to let off steam and to create play areas focused on activities such as travel with trains and aeroplanes.
Access to the external courtyard at the centre of the building allows them to learn to ride tricycles and to follow a marked road with all its hazards. There is plentiful outdoor space. The ground floor also includes a large canteen facility overlooking the outside area of the school with is sports field, cricket nets and swimming pool.
Primary students in grades 1-5 currently occupy the first floor of the building, whilst Grades 6-11 occupy the Second and Third Floors which also include specialist classrooms for Art, Drama and Science. Further specialist rooms include Science and Food Technology among others. External organisations are invited to work with older students on areas such as Finance (supported by Standard Chartered Bank) and, in grade 9, the Teenage MBA is offered which provides counselling aimed at preparing older students for their final two years of school and for university.
Whilst Primary students currently make up 60% of students, the imbalance between Primary and Secondary students is not as marked at GNMS as at many newer schools. KG classrooms have a capacity for 25 students supported by a teacher, teaching assistant and nanny. From Grade 1, class sizes are a maximum of 30 students. From Grade 1, students are able to learn an additional language and choose between French, Hindi and Malaylam.
Finally, GNMS does not overlook the third party in Education – parents. There is a strong Parental Engagement programme which aims to ensure regular communication and information for parents. The school organises Parent Masterclasses, where specialists teach parents about the teaching taking place in school. This has covered subjects such as Phonics, Maths, Arabic and Science. Learning Walks are organised for parents and action plans for the school shared with all stakeholders. Parents have been directly involved in creating a garden among a range of initiatives. There is a strong focus on sustainability with an active recycling culture within the school which has been driven by parental support.
It is still early in the life of GEMS New Millennium School, but we were impressed by the obvious ambition and desire to stretch boundaries for students shared by the Senior leadership of the school, the very positive relationships between staff and the leadership and between students and staff. There is a real sense of commitment and enthusiasm for a modern approach to education on the one hand, whilst at the same time maintaining the best of a traditional Indian curriculum and environment.
School Review Visit - January 24, 2017
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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