GEMS Our Own English High School is the largest school in the emirate and serves over 10,425 predominantly Indian students aged 3-19 (KG to Grade 12). The CBSE based school currently has a rating of Very Good by Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA, a level of education it has maintained for its sixth inspection since 2015-16.
Located in the Al Warqa'a area, close to the border with Sharjah and on the outskirts of Dubai, GEMS Our Own English High School was established in 1968 by K S Varkey and his wife Mariama Varkey and is the oldest school within the GEMS Group.
The last nine years have seen GEMS Our Own English High School prosper and grow academically under the guidance of Principal Mr. Thomas Mathew Koickal, who joined the school in April 2014.
GEMS Our Own English High School employs 465 teachers and a further 61 teaching assistants, which may sound like an incredibly large number, but still only gives the school a student to teacher ratio of 22:1. Teacher turnover at 7% is on the very low side compared with most international schools, although Indian schools generally do turnover staff at a lower rate. Post Grade 4 this is an all girls school, which may be one reason why it is also a high performing one.
This is, simply, one of the largest schools in the UAE, with a population of over 10,400 students - the size of a small town.
Given its size, the 21 nationalities represented is rather unimpressive - we are used to seeing over twice that for schools one tenth of the size. That said, the Indian curriculum is not a global one, unlike GCSEs, A Levels or the IB. Students coming from Indian families unsurprisingly therefore represent the majority of students.
The school also has some 482 students of determination - a number approaching 5% of the school's students, who are supported in terms of their additional learning needs.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows the CBSE curriculum and students sit CBSE examinations in Grades 10 and 12 every March.
According to the school's website, "As well as promoting academic achievement, our dynamic, child-centric, skills-based curriculum has been designed to ensure the all-round development of every student...Of course, it’s about more than just academic learning – our pupils are also encouraged to develop positive attitudes, healthy habits, and the strong moral and ethical values they need to become reliable, responsible, and valuable world citizens".
Given the frequent concerns expressed about the pressure placed on Indian curriculum students academically, it is encouraging to see that this is recognised by the school, in terms of its goals.
The Kindergarten Programme follows an adapted version of the UK curriculum's Early Years Foundation Stage and focuses on creating a secure, stimulating, and nurturing learning environment, in which students can develop through structured activities, practical art and craft, games, interaction, and imaginative play. Intellectual growth is also encouraged through sharing stories and discussion, writing, number games, observation, and scientific experiences. Throughout the Kindergarten stage, parents are kept closely involved and assessment is conducted throughout the year.
Once students reach Primary school, they begin to follow the CBSE curriculum (from Grades 1 to 4), they are encouraged to apply, and test what they know, whilst treating each other with respect and developing the beginnings of social etiquette. Core subjects include English, Mathematics, Environmental Systems, UAE Social Studies, Arabic, Islamic Studies/Moral Science, Computer Science, and Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu or French. Other non-core subjects include Physical Education, Art/Craft, Music and Dance, and Club Activities.
Students continue with the same subjects through the Middle School section from Grades 5 to 8. Students in the Senior school study core subjects including English, Science, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu or French, Maths Work Experience, Social Studies, Islamic Studies/Moral Science, and Arabic.
For Senior students, OOEHS is one of the few to offer a Humanities stream in addition to Science and Commerce. There is a wide range of subject options including Psychology, Marketing, Economics, Fashion Studies and Home Science, in addition to the more traditional Computer Science, Informatics Practice, Biology, Chemistry, and Physical Education to name a few.
The school does offer extra curricular activities, details of which may be found here, although some parents and students have commented in the past that these are presently insufficient. It is not clear whether these clubs are part of the school fee, or incur an extra cost.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com likes the "Beyond the Curriculum" activities (a theme for GEMS Education schools) which seem to both help shape the human being, as well as prepare students for the next phases of their lives. Activities such as internship preparation, and community service are to be applauded.
With close to 5% of the students at OOEHS having some form of additional learning requirement, it is clear that the SEN department of the school needs to be an area of strength.
According to the DSIB inspection team "Students of determination receive the support which they need. Gifted and talented students have opportunities for extension work and further challenge both in class and in extra-curricular activities".
There is no question that this is a particular strengths of the school with the Provision and Outcomes for students of Determination being awarded a Very Good rating in the most recent inspection.
The DSIB team found that:
If the DSIB team had any concerns it was reflected in their comment that "Progress remains variable. Tracking the progress of so many students of determination is a major task for the inclusion team. Systems are in place to provide accurate information, especially when a student has a secure assessment of need".
GEMS Our Own English High School is one of the schools within the GEMS group to publish their exam results, although not in as much details now as in the past. With the arrival of the Covid pandemic and the lack of traditional examinations, there has been something of a hiatus in results reporting.
With a return to in-school examinations, in 2022, two OOEHS students, Divyalakshmi Varadha Rajan Prem Sudha, with a score of 99.2% and Iola Ann Mathew, with 98.8%, were the overall GEMS schools' Science and Humanities toppers respectively.
For the 2019 CBSE Grade XII results, the school's website shows that 419 students achieved a school average mark of 85.5%. No further breakdown of gradings is provided. The school toppers for Science and Humanities were also the UAE toppers.
Six students secured 100% marks in Psychology, whilst four achieved the perfect score in Marketing, and three students achieved 100% in Maths, Economics and Home Science respectively.
The school no longer provides details of university destinations.
The school is located on a large site in the Al Warqa'a area of Dubai, close to the border with Sharjah. It is located in a modern low rise building and offers a wide range of specialist classrooms and additional resources including a SEWA (Social Empowerment through Work and Action) Activity Room, a Central Art Room, two Art Studios, Music Rooms, three Libraries, two Resource Suites, eight ICT Labs, a further eight Science Labs, and a Maths Lab.
Communal facilities include four Prayer Rooms, a Cafeteria, Mobile Canteens, and a Multipurpose Hall with seating capacity for 600 people. The school also has three First Aid Centres, and an Outdoor Kindergarten Play Area. Sports facilities include an Astroturf playing field with a 200 meter synthetic track, three Basketball Courts, a large, open PE space and two large triquads for Primary students.
The schools has now been awarded its sixth Very Good rating since the 2015-16 academic year with a hiatus in 2020-21 and 2021-22 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, proving that very affordable can also be very good.
The achievement that GEMS Education has managed, that no other school group in the UAE has, is scale. Other school groups offer premium schools that achieve the higher inspection ratings, but only GEMS so far has managed to make large-scale, moderately priced schools high quality and very profitable.
The latest 2022/2023 KHDA report for GEMS Our Own English High School shows that across the six key performance measures through which the inspection team rates the school, there has been no major change since the last inspection in 2019-20. In fact, not a single key performance indicator has altered.
The first measure - that of Students' Achievement, is broadly a mix of Good and Very Good in the KG and Primary sections, and a mix of Very Good and Outstanding in the Secondary and High school sections.
Islamic education, a priority for the inspections along with Arabic, is rated Good across the school - a rare achievement, whilst Arabic is rated Acceptable.
In the key performance standard of Students' Personal and Social Developments and their Innovation skills, ratings are almost entirely Outstanding across the school, with the exception of KG. This key performance standard is evidently a particular strength of the school.
In the two core (and inter-related) Performance standards of Teaching and Assessment, and Curriculum Design and Adaptation, the Secondary and High school sections again out-perform the KG and Primary sections. But whilst the Curriculum measures are largely Very Good (and Outstanding in the High school section), Teaching and Assessment is rated Good in KG and Primary, Very Good in Secondary and Outstanding in the High school section.
The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students is also a strength of the school.
Leadership is also a strength of the school, rated as Very Good by the KHDA. The relationship with parents and the community is Outstanding.
The inspection team defined the strengths of GEMS Our Own English High School as:
In terms of areas of improvement, the inspection team identified that:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strong recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings, you can find it here.
In parent feedback about GEMS Our Own English High School to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, the school also receives largely positive results, achieving an overall rating of 4.6/5 or a positivity rating of 92% from a substantial feedback group of 120 parents. The majority of respondents (some 74% were "satisfied" on questions of academic performance, and the school's disciplinary policy and implementation. Satisfaction with feedback from the school was lower at some 66%.
Curiously, despite their overall satisfaction with the school, 27% of parents have thought about moving their child from the school, whilst 22% felt that they needed to supplement their child's learning through external tuition. Despite its Very Good rating and lower fee level, whilst 54% of parents believed that the school represents value for money, a further 32% of parents were only partially convinced that fees represent good value for money, with 14% feeling distinctly dissatisfied.
Despite their reservations, 75% of respondents agreed that they would recommend OOEHS to other parents, whilst 17% were not sure.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at GEMS Our Own English High School, please share your thoughts and experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
In a change the previous process whereby parents, teachers and students completed a pre-inspection survey, the results of which were reported at the end of the inspection report, for the 2022-23 academic year, now rates the provision for Wellbeing in each school. The highest rating is 'Very High'.
At OOEHS, the quality of wellbeing provision and outcomes is at a High level:
There is little doubt that Our Own English High School is rightly one of the most popular GEMS schools and also one of the most highly regarded in the emirate. Clearly, despite its size, the leadership and teachers at the school have been able to put in place an organisation that runs exceptionally smoothly.
If there are areas for improvement, these would seem to lie in the lower grades of the school, but evidently do not prevent senior students from achieving highly successful outcomes in a caring and supportive environment.
What are the Fees?
It is no longer necessary to pay an AED 500 registration fee. This has now been replaced by an 'Offer Confirmation Fee' in the same amount and which is charged together with an AED 1,000 non-refundable deposit paid at the time of acceptance of a place which can be offset against school fees.
There is also an annual fee of AED 30 for individual ID and the school diary. Tuition fees range from AED 7,237 in KG to AED 15,684 in Grades 11 and 12 for students in the Humanities and Commerce streams, and AED 15,313 for those following the Science stream. Fees are paid monthly, over 10 months.
GEMS Our Own English High 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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