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 five 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 (OOIS) school is presently home to 3,650, predominantly Indian, students who follow the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum. Approximately 5% of students have been identified with SEND requirements - a significant number in terms of individual students who are supported by the school.
The school's Vision states that it aims to " to develop global competence in all our learners." The school aims to achieve this through:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving – To be reflective thinkers and find solution that best resolve problems
- Social Intelligence – To be collaborative, entrepreneurial and obey social skills
- Cognitive Load Management – To maximize cognitive functioning through discrimination and filtering information
- Design Mindset – To develop tasks and innovate work processes for desired outcomes
- Transdisciplinary – Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
Our Own Indian School offers 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.
Principal, Lalitha Suresh, joined OOIS in January 2012 and has just celebrated her tenth year in the leadership position. A Physics graduate, Mrs. Suresh pursued her interest in education at an early age by undertaking her Bachelor Degree in Education from St. Teresa’s Institute of Education, Mumbai and later a Masters Degree in Leadership and Educational Management from University of Bath, UK.
Her 30 plus years of experience encompasses both International and CBSE curriculum schools, the majority of which has been with GEMS Education. As a member of Senior Leadership Teams in International and Indian schools, Mrs. Suresh has experience of blending international best practices into the CBSE curriculum. She is a Lead Collaborator Principal, identified by the CBSE, and leads a cluster of schools in the region.
At the time of the last KHDA inspection (which took place pre-Covid 19 in October 2019), students were taught by a team of 171 staff and 21 teaching assistants. This reflects a teacher: student ratio of 1:21 – a significant reduction in class size compared with the previous inspection report. Staff turnover had also reduced from a high of 19% in 2016-17, to 9% - well below the Dubai average of 22%.
OOIS has consistently been rated Good (then minimum rating that the KHDA wishes schools to achieve), since inspections started in 2010-11, with only one lower rating (of Acceptable) back in 2014-15. As is so often the case - and the reason why we encourage parents to look beyond the headline rating, OOIS is a school that has continued to improve and to make significant progress on its path to improvement! The Good rating really does not tell the whole story by any means.
OOIS is one of a substantial number of schools in the emirate which continue to be awarded the same performance level without necessarily achieving that step up to the next rating... yet. It should be borne in mind that demands have grown from the regulator year on year, and retention of a rating over a period is not an indicator of lack of improvement. Find out just how well OOIS is doing by reading What the Inspectors say.
OOIS is one of a number of GEMS schools to offer the CBSE curriculum and is recognised by the Dubai regulator (the KHDA) and affiliated to the CBSE Board, New Delhi. The school enjoys a reputation for high academic performance in the two streams of Science and Commerce in the Higher Secondary Examinations. The medium of instruction at the school is English and special emphasis is placed on the development of communication skills in English at all levels.
During the formative Kindergarten years, children are initiated into the world of learning in school life via a friendly and stimulating atmosphere. The main objective for the Kindergarten years is to help young students develop their cognitive and motor skills. OOIS actively encourages the development of students' curiosity and imagination by exposing them to an exciting world of learning. Basic cognitive and motor skills are developed through a variety of creative, kinesthetic and problem-solving activities.
Students are encouraged in the development of their English skills with emphasis on Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing skill development. Additionally, Numeracy, Environmental Awareness, Creative, Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Physical Education are also woven into the curriculum. Students are encouraged to participate in an array of activities including story-telling sessions, field trips, special assembly gatherings, indoor and outdoor games and singing. A strong emphasis is laid on continuous assessment, which forms an integral part of the CBSE curriculum.
The Primary and Middle School years build a foundation where staff aim to instill 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. Neat and careful work is encouraged and all good attempts are praised and valued. Students are provided with a wide range of techniques covering formal problem-solving, open-ended investigatory situations and observation skills are developed to extend their thinking process.
The school follows a continuous assessment plan which enables teachers to monitor each child’s progress. Throughout the Primary years, the student is supported in reaching his/her full potential in all areas of the curriculum. Great emphasis is laid on positive motivation. During these 'founding years', OOIS aims to instill the right values and a strong sense of responsibility and ethics in all students.
Subjects included in Primary (from Grades 1 to 5) are English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies (Indian and UAE), Hindi or Malayalam for grades 1 to 4, and the addition of the option of French for Grade 5, Arabic, Islamic Studies or Value Education, Computer Science, Physical Education, Music, Life Skills and SEWA.
Music, Art, Craft, and Physical Education classes are integrated in the timetable to make sure that non-academic talents are encouraged and developed. OOIS has also introduced a cross-curricular STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, English and Maths) to develop 21st century skills in students. Students participate in several extra-curricular activities such as games, dance and special assemblies, which aim to foster a positive attitude and healthy habits. Performing Arts, including activities such as Role Play and Drama, and Life Skills are integrated in all subject areas.
In the Middle School, from Grades 6 to 8, the pace of academic demand slowly gains momentum, and so does the preparedness to equip students with the skills to accept greater challenges. There is a strong emphasis on pastoral care to ensure that as students move through adolescence, they develop the necessary skills and behaviours to support their academic growth.
Middle School subjects include English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Value Education and Islamic Education, French or Malayalam or Hindi, Arabic, U.A.E. Social Studies, and Moral Education. Music, Dance, Robotics, Art and Craft, Physical Education and Library are included in the timetable to make sure that non-academic talents continue to be developed. There is a strong emphasis on laying the foundation for aesthetic appreciation and enjoyment of extracurricular activities. CREYA encourages inquiry based and experiential learning. A focus is on Skill Development, Research and project based learning encourages the acquisition of thinking skills and a positive attitude.
Secondary and Senior Secondary options are very strongly focused on Science or Commerce streams and the requirements of the Grade 10 CBSE examinations. Grade 9 and 10 students studying for the CBSE Board Exams are offered English, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, an optional language including Hindi, French and Malayalam, and a sixth option of IT. Arabic is a compulsory subject in Grades 9 for which a school-based internal examination is conducted. The Islamic Studies examination is conducted for Muslim students in both the years. In addition to the academic subjects, students are also encouraged to participate in Work Experience, Art Education and Physical Education classes as per CBSE requirements. Research and project based learning also helps students to acquire thinking skills and a positive attitude.
Finally, the strong focus on Science or Commerce continues into the Senior School (Grades 11 and 12). Students appear for the All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE) in the Science or Commerce stream. The following subjects are offered at Grades 11 and 12:Physics, Mathematics, Biology/Computer Science, Economics, Business Studies, Psychology, Chemistry, Home Science, English (Core), Accountancy, Entrepreneurship, Physical Education, Mass Media, Informatics Practice, Marketing.
Of the 4 option blocks available for Grade 11, two offer a liberal arts focus (the first including Marketing, Mass Media, P.E, Entrepreneurship, Home Science, Psychology and Informatics and the second offering Accountancy, Business studies and choices between Economics, Marketing, PE, Home Science, Psychology, Entrepreneurship, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Informatics).
The third option block offers a combination of Science and Commerce and includes Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Comp. Science, PE, Home Science, Economics, Psychology, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Informatics, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Finally, the fourth block is a pure Science block and includes Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Comp, Science and Mathematics. Islamic Studies is offered to all Muslim students. Arabic is offered as an optional subject after school hours.
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, the school offers a range of extra-curricular clubs - details of which may be found here - 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 environmentally-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.
OOIS is one of a relatively limited number of schools to publish the results on their website year in year out - something that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com thoroughly applaud! Whilst we fully accept that education is not, and should not be, about qualifications and examination results alone, there is no doubt that this is an important aspect of parental and student expectations, and one where we believe transparency should be the norm.
For the 2021 academic year, OOIS results were as follows:
Grade 12 Results 2021
Grade 10 Results 2021
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.
The 2019-20 inspection that took place in October 2019 again rated OOIS Good for the fifth year in a row. What that headline rating does not tell is just how much progress the school had made not only in terms of Academic achievement, but also the other five key performance standards against which the school's performance was measured.
In fact the school achieved 20 improved measures - and many of these were improvements from Good to Very Good or from Very Good to Outstanding.
In terms of Academic achievement, the majority of measures for English, Maths and Science were rated Very Good or Outstanding (the latter notably in the Senior Secondary section in particular), with Islamic Education also rated Good or Very Good. Where standards are not quite so high (and in common with so many schools in the UAE) is in relation to Arabic, where attainment remained Acceptable, although progress was Good.
Where Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum are concerned - arguably the two performance standards that are responsible for successful Academic achievement - twelve of the sixteen measures had improved to Very Good, with Curriculum design and implementation rated Outstanding in the Senior Secondary section. Three measures retained their Good rating. If there is one section of the school that appears to need further support, this is the Primary section.
Students' personal and social development and their innovations skills are now rated Outstanding almost across the board - only KG retained their Very Good rating with respect to the Understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures.
And the inspectors continued to be impressed! Health and safety, including arrangements for child protection/safeguarding is now rated Outstanding across the school, whilst the Care and Support of students remained Very Good.
In clear recognition of the success of the leadership and management of the school, three of the five standards here were also upgraded, with four out of five now rated Very Good. The on-going issue of space remains a concern for the inspection team, who also identified that greater professional development for teaching assistants was required.
The inspection team summarised the strengths of GEMS Our Own High School as:
As far as areas of improvement were concerned, the following were identified:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings, you will find it here.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor School Survey results came as something of a surprise to us. With just over 100 surveys completed, we would have expected a higher rating than the 2.7/5 - or a positivity rating of 54%. On average, we found that children did not seem as positive about their experience with a less strong sense of belonging or enjoyment of school than the UAE average, though over 70% felt 'quite a bit' or 'a tremendous amount'.
Whilst 63% of parents were satisfied, and a further 31% partially satisfied with the academic performance of the school (again a lower satisfaction level than the UAE average), 70% believed that they needed to provide additional tuition for their children, and 22% had considered moving their child to a different school. Having said that, most parents were at least quite confident of the school's ability to meet their child's needs, though only 19% (compared with a UAE average of 32%) were extremely confident.
This two-third/one-third scenario in terms of satisfaction continued in relation to communication and feedback from the school and its disciplinary policy. One more worrying statistic related to the percentage of parents concerned about bullying - with over 65% expressing varying degrees of concern in this regard.
57% of parents believed that OOIS fees represent Good value for money, whilst 36% partially agreed that this was the case. 7% disagreed with our statement. How much the impact of Covid 19, distance learning and the difficulties faced by many families has had an impact on parents' views is impossible to say at this stage.
And yet, despite their reservations, 80% of respondents would recommend OOIS to other parents. If you are a parent, teacher or student at GEMS Our Own High School and would like to share your experience and comments with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey.
The KHDA pre-inspection survey was completed by close to 1,650 parents - an enormous response by any standard. According to the KHDA, the parents who responded to the survey had very positive views, reflecting inspection findings. Almost all were satisfied with the quality of education their children receive and considered that leaders act upon their views. A high proportion stated that they have access to information and support from the school. They felt that their children were safe at school, although a minority considered that some bullying was going on.
In addition, over 2,020 students participated in the KHDA's Wellbeing census. A high proportion of the students who responded to the survey felt that they had a positive and emotional engagement with teachers. This was in line with inspection findings. Most were positive about the school ethos, and almost all felt safe. Most thought that there was no physical or cyberbullying, but higher proportion believed the same about verbal and social victimisation. These results were in line with the calculations for all students in Dubai.
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.
It is little wonder, given also the affordable fee level of the school, that it is highly sought after by parents, many of whom move their children from other schools in Dubai when a place becomes available.
The school charges a non-refundable application fee of AED 500 (plus VAT) and a 10% deposit is charged on offer of a place, which is deducted from the fees. Tuition fees themselves are some of the most affordable in Dubai, ranging from AED 6,523 per year for KG to AED 13,297 for Grades 11 and 12.
Additionally, GEMS charges a range of 'mandatory service' fees which cover items such as a school diary, ID card, computer fees and an annual activity fee (the purpose of which is not specified) which ranges from AED 150-450 (plus VAT), depending on grade. Students in Grades 9 and 11 pay a mandatory CBSE registration fee and exam fees are added for Grades 10 and 12.
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