A CBSE school owned and run by GEMS Education, Our Own Indian School first opened its doors in 1991, and is based in Al Quoz, Dubai. It currently has a ranking of 'Good' by Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA, a rating it held for four years prior to the 2014 - 2015 school year, when the overall rating fell to 'Acceptable'. This was worrying, but the school has since been promoted back to 'Good' for the last two years.
The Story so Far
One of the longest established schools in Dubai and an original member of the GEMS Group, Our Own Indian School school is presently home to 3635, predominantly Indian, students who follow the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum. Approximately 10% of students have been identified with SEND requirements - a significant number.
Our Own Indian School currently provides the CBSE curriculum (overseen by the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi, India) starting at Kindergarten level and culminating in the All India Secondary Schools Examination at the end of Grade 10, and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination, at the end of Grade 12.
Students are taught by a team of 116 staff and 8 teaching assistants. This reflects a teacher: student ratio of 1:29 – a significant class size which is over the KHDA recommended maximum of 27. It may also explain the increase in staff turnover in 2016-17, which reached 19% - still below the Dubai average of 22% but, none the less, on the high side for an Indian school.
Located on the edge of the Al Qouz area, OOIS is housed in a modern building on a generous plot which includes a large outdoor sports field and specialist play areas for KG and Primary children, including two separate shaded play areas equipped with a variety of age appropriate and child friendly outdoor equipment, specially designed for use by the younger children.
The school offers the usual range of facilities including a Library, Science Laboratories equipped with facilities for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Home Science, and well-equipped Information and Communication Technology labs, where students learn to use computers and become well versed in ICT. The laboratories are used to support the teaching of ICT as early as from Grade 1. A canteen provides a wide range of healthy snacks and beverages at affordable prices.
However, it is not all good news in relation to facilities. The KHDA inspectors note that in the absence of a Primary phase library, students use the smaller libraries in their classrooms. KG has increased its use of teaching space by using corridors and outdoor learning areas more effectively. Nevertheless, overcrowding limits the development of learning in some lessons. The lack of an art room for older boys restricts teaching in this subject.
Despite the issues around class size and indications from the previous KHDA inspection report of a lack of adequate space for students, OOIS was again rated Good in the 2016-17 inspection, with a range of Good or Very Good assessments across all 4 core subjects (Maths, English, Science and Islamic Studies) with Outstanding for Secondary Science. The sole exception was for Arabic as a Second Language (there are no native speakers within the school) which is generally rated Acceptable. Unfortunately, the provision of Arabic to non-native speakers remains a challenge that many schools still find difficult to address. Students’ personal development is adjudged Outstanding across the school.
The school’s website states that
“at GEMS Our Own Indian School, education is looked upon as a holistic learning experience. We aim to help each child become a self-reliant, responsible and socially aware individual.”
The school’s vision for its students is to strive for academic excellence, develop 21st Century learning skills, foster unity without losing sight of individuality and to discover innate talents and develop them to the fullest potential. Further, the school seeks to inculcate desirable traits of integrity, punctuality, courtesy, justice and cooperation and to instil pride in preserving one's cultural heritage while honouring the culture, liberty and view point of fellow beings.
OOIS has earned a reputation for high academic standards and the strong sense of community that has developed within the school. In addition to the very strong academic focus, the school also offers a wide range of extra-curricular programmes, ranging from sports to arts and crafts, dance and music. Winners of several competitions and awards, achievements in these areas have been formally recognised. Significant emphasis is placed on the development of strong relationships between teachers and their students and individualised attention has become a hallmark of Our Own Indian School.
During the formative Kindergarten years, children are initiated into the world of learning in school life via a friendly and stimulating atmosphere. During these early years communication and numerical skills are developed through the use of colour and music to make learning an enjoyable experience. Subjects at Kindergarten Level include English, Mathematics and General Awareness. Extra-Curricular activities include Art / Craft, Music, Sports Activities and Physical Education. The KHDA inspectors noted that teaching was consistently strong in the Kindergarten phase.
The Primary and Middle School years build a foundation where staff aim to instil the right values and develop a strong sense of responsibility and ethics in all students. This is enhanced by an emphasis on creative thinking, innovative problem-solving, and independent expression.
Subjects at Primary and Middle Level include English, Mathematics, Science, Arabic, Social Studies, Computer Science, Islamic Studies / Moral Instruction and a choice of second language (French/Hindi or Malayalam). Extra-Curricular Activities include Art/Craft, Music, Sports and Physical Education.
Secondary and Senior Secondary options are very strongly focused on Science or Commerce streams. Grade 9 and 10 students studying for the CBSE Board Exams are offered English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Science and Optional languages including Hindi, French and Malayalam. In addition to a focus on their academic skills, students are also encouraged in a variety of extra-curricular activities.
The strong focus on Science or Commerce continues into the Senior School (Grades 11 and 12). Of the 4 option blocks available for Grade 11, only one offers a liberal arts focus (including Marketing, Mass Media, P.E, Home Science, Psychology and Informatics). The other 3 option blocks focus on a combination of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Comp. Science, or Accountancy, Business Studies, Entrepreneurship and Economics in combination with one of P.E., Home Science, Mathematics, Psychology or Informatics. English, Work Experience, General Studies and regular P.E. are compulsory subjects. Islamic Studies is offered to all Muslim students. Arabic is offered as an optional subject after school hours.
Specialist teaching in the Senior Secondary School guides students towards their choices for higher education, and enables them to focus on their eventual career choice. Students appear for the All Indian Senior School Certificate Examination [AISSCE] in the Science or Commerce Stream.
In an effort to balance the academic focus, the school also offers a wide range of ECA’s including arts, craft, drama, music, painting and debating. Additional events include annual festivals for sports, creative arts and science, in addition to a Mathematics Olympiad that encourage students to extend their outlook beyond the realm of the textbook.
In addition, a wide range of other activities are offered including an Environment Club, Oratory and Public Speaking Skills, Debating and Elocution, Personality Development, Indian Classical Dance (Bharatnatyam), Musical Instruments (Key Board, Drums, Flute) and Art (Oil, Water, Fabric, Glass, Acrylic etc.). Activities as diverse as Robotics, Sewing, Arabic and Hindi are also available, whilst sports include Football (boys only), Cricket (Girls and Boys), Basketball (Girls and Boys) and Athletics (Girls and Boys).
There is also a strong focus within the school on community involvement in its broadest sense and the development of students through activities beyond the curriculum. This includes the school taking a lead on the Innovations Framework being developed by GEMS in the area of Talent, and a sub-lead on Integrating Technology. These initiatives are designed to help mould the personality and talent in students and also to develop leadership qualities.
Students are trained for internships, thus developing a sense of responsibility and developing links with the community, and are attached to designated mentors to monitor progress and extend advice wherever needed. Older Grade 11 students stay back in the afternoon to coach and mentor low ability students in the middle school. Students also contribute towards good causes (charity and environment Friendly activities) - VGF, Dubai Cares, Face to Faith, Tree Plantation.
OOIS students in large numbers participate every year in the Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science Olympiads organised by the Council of CBSE schools in the Gulf. These Olympiads help in giving students the competitive edge and bringing out their talents.
What the Inspectors say:
Attainment and progress are at least good in most subjects. The development of learning skills is strong across the school and is particularly consistent in Kindergarten (KG) and the secondary phase. Children in KG benefit from improved support, guidance and accurate assessment. A modified curriculum provides many opportunities for inquiry and discovery learning. Students make very good and better progress in Mathematics and Science in the primary and middle phases, as well in English, Mathematics and Science in the secondary phase.
The quality of teaching is good across the first three phases of the school and very good in the secondary phase. The skills of the teachers in gathering, analysing and using assessment information to monitor, support and accelerate students’ learning is at least good, across all phases. The curriculum continues to provide a very good framework for all students’ learning. Modifications and enhancements to the curriculum continue to increase.
Students' personal and social development, their understanding of the culture and the history of the country in which they live, their awareness and safeguarding of their environment, as well as their contribution to the school community, is impressive. The students are successful ambassadors of the school. They display outstanding levels of self-discipline, have excellent attitudes to learning and are proud of their school. They have formed strong and positive relationships within the school community. Students in the middle and high school phases are highly responsible. They have outstanding understanding of Islamic values and Emirati culture and heritage.
The safety and protection of students remain at the highest level and care and guidance across the school is very good. All staff continue to have the highest regard for students' safety and protection. Students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) feel included.
Whilst opportunities for creative activities in KG are less well developed, students throughout the rest of the school use critical thinking and attempt to bring fresh ideas to their learning. Students use their well-developed sense of social responsibility to find ways of contributing to the care of the internal and external environment of the school. Open questioning is an embedded feature of almost all lessons, resulting in fluency in problem solving and a preparedness to try new ideas.
The school develops its curriculum provision each year and recently introduced new technical options, such as robotics. It continues to offer a diverse range of subject combinations, including online courses, for students who would like to broaden their multi-disciplinary thinking.
The school leadership has a good understanding of innovation and creativity, and within a context of limited resources, encourages critical and fresh thinking. The leadership group has been enhanced and leaders at all levels have developed a clear and appropriate direction for the school and have been successful in moving it forward. School leaders, led by the Principal and governors, are very successful in involving parents and students in the school improvement process.
In terms of desired improvement, the inspectors inevitably focused on the need to upgrade students’ attainment and progress in Arabic as an additional language. The school is recommended to provide training that develops teachers’ competencies in teaching an additional Language, ensuring that curriculum and lesson planning and the assessment criteria are well linked and ensuring lessons focus on the four skills of language.
In addition, school leaders are asked to improve the quality of teaching by developing teachers’ skills, in making informed choices on the most effective strategy to use in developing students’ learning. Furthermore, staff need to improve the quality of monitoring and evaluation by developing action plans that contain clear and measurable success criteria, making better use of external benchmark data to measure students’ progress and developing leaders’ skills in evaluating the quality of teaching in order to support teachers’ development.
Overall it seems that students, parents and staff (for the most part) are happy with the performance of this successful and established school. However, there is no doubt that there are some limitations in terms of how much further OOIS can progress and develop its provision in light of what the inspectors describe as “limited resources”. There is clearly strong commitment from the Principal (in her sixth year of leadership at the school) and from the majority of the staff. However, the small learning environments continue to challenge school leaders and teachers in their aim to provide the best opportunities for teaching and learning.
The issue of over-crowded classrooms remains an obstacle to maximising student performance; it will be interesting to see how/if GEMS addresses this on-going problem and at what point the KHDA may feel it is sufficient an issue to request more direct intervention.
What do Parents Say?
The school does well, so far, in responses received for the Which School Advisor School Survey, with satisfied parents for both academic performance and levels of feedback parents receive
The KHDA found that most parents are very positive about OOIS. Many parents are actively engaged in the life of the school, as volunteers, as members of Friends of School (FOS) and on the local governing body. Additional, informal opportunities for parents to share their views are provided through regular coffee mornings.
As a result, several developments have been made to the provision including improvement to the food in the dining room and the creation of Scouts and Guides groups. Parents feel that the school operates an ‘open door’ policy, all staff are approachable and issues are resolved promptly. Parents of students with SEND feel they are closely involved in discussions about their children’s future learning.
A recent development is the creation of the local governing body, comprising of members of the school and community. The local governing body’s purpose is to encourage greater involvement of the community, to devolve important decision-making to the local level and to have an impact on student learning. The school offers a range of extra-curricular clubs - from debating to arts, craft and drama, details of which may be found here. It is not clear if these will be part of the tuition fee, or if an additional charge will be made. These activities help with personal and social development of children at OOIS, already described as Outstanding by the KHDA.
What are the Fees?
The school charges a non-refundable 500 AED for registration - a practice increasingly being called into question in the UAE. A 1000 AED admission fee is also charged, which can be offset against school fees. There is an annual fee of between 100 AED and 450 AED, depending on age group, the purpose of which is not clearly stated. Tuition fees themselves are some of the most affordable in Dubai, ranging from 5,737 AED per year for KG1 to 11,696 AED for Grade 11 and 12.
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