GEMS Our Own English High School, Sharjah was founded in 1982 and currently serves over 5,800 students. The school teaches the curriculum conducted by the CBSE in New Delhi, India.
This HUGE all-through girls school offers affordable fees, inspirational leadership, innovative programming and also regularly tops the UAE CBSE exam result Toppers list. In addition, it is one of the first schools in Sharjah to publish its SPEA inspection report - a trend we very much hope to see continue.
Led by the indupitable (and tireless) Asma Gilani, (one of our 2017 Educational Influencers and top five finalist in the 2018 GEMS Exceptional Head of School Awards), Gilani has worked tirelessly to bring a rigorous, modern and affordable education to Sharjah's Indian girls.
OOEHSS describes its unique attributes as
The school is vast- housing over 5,600 students - though this number has reduced from over 8,000 three years ago, with close to 330 teachers and a further 20 teaching assistants. The student body of GEMS Our Own English High School, Sharjah is 96% Indian. although the remaining students come from a further 19 different countries. The closure of the previously mixed KG section which permitted boys to attend the school, means that it is now 100% female only.
The size of the school can be better appreciated when the number of sections per grade are taken into account. There are 22 classes in KG1, and 18 in KG2 and Grade 1. Although numbers do vary from Grade to Grade, and numbers do reduce further up the school, the lowest section number is 10 in Grade 12 and 12 in Grade 11. Most grades have between 13 and 16 sections, and Grade 2 has a whopping 21. Class size is on average 25 students per section with the highest number of students per class capping at 29 - a very significant reduction compared with several years ago, when the maximum was 41!
Most teachers are Indian passport holders, with additional staff from Pakistan, Egypt and Sudan and the teacher turnover rate is at a low 11%. The school allocates 0.1% of the overall budget for Internal Professional development and this is supported by GEMS' comprehensive PD programme for all staff which is offered free of cost.
What about inclusion?
The school has two counsellors and two Special educators to provide support for children with Special Educational Needs. The schools states that "Our Own English High School being an inclusive school ensures that provisions for all students, including the SEND. These provisions are reflected in the annual school budget".
According to the 2019-20 SPEA inspection report, OOEHSS is an inclusive school, but identified that although the school has procedures to identify SEN and G&T students, with improvement plans to support them, and the curriculum and teaching strategies meet the needs of SEN students, Gifted and Talented students are not routinely challenged in classes.
The school follows the Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum. The medium of instruction is English and Second language options offered include Hindu, Urdu, Malayalam and French. Arabic is mandatory. In the Senior grades, the school offers all three streams - Science, Commerce and Humanities.
The Kindergarten programme has been specifically designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn and explore through the use of inquiry and discovery. The children are prepared for the journey of life-long learning through a curriculum designed with units that foster learning and multisensory experiences. The focus of Kindergarten activities is to develop skills that lay a strong foundation for future learning. Apart from being comprehensive, the curriculum is also very practical and stresses the importance of experimenting and experiencing in order to develop the overall personality of the child.
The Primary curriculum focuses on the core subjects of English, Mathematics, a choice of Hindi/Urdu/Malayalam or French, Arabic, Environmental Studies, Computer Science, Islamic Studies/Moral Instruction, UAE Social Studies, and Indian Social Studies (from Grade 5). Arts and Craft, Music and Physical Education are taught as Extra-curricular/co-curricular activities.
In Middle School, students continue with the core subjects of English, Mathematics, their Second Language option of Hindi/Urdu/Malayalam or French, Arabic, Science, Social Studies & UAE Social Studies, Computer Science, Islamic Studies/Moral Instruction, and Moral Education, with Physical Education, Club Activities, Music (from Grade 6), and Art as co-curricular activities.
For students studying in the Senior School, options are as follows:
|Science Stream||Commerce Stream||Humanities Stream|
|English Core||English Core||English Core|
|Biology/Computer Science/Economics (Any one)||Business Studies||Political Science|
|Mathematics/ Informatics Practices/Home Science/Psychology (Any one)||Mathematics/Marketing/Informatics Practices/Home Science(Any one)||Psychology/Economics|
|Arabic (Optional)||Arabic (Optional)||Arabic (Optional)|
|Islamic Studies||Islamic Studies||Islamic Studies|
|Physical Education||Physical Education||Physical Education|
|Work Experience||Work Experience||Work Experience|
|General Studies||General Studies||General Studies|
Alongside the outstanding CBSE results, the school aims to nurture and encourage strong, resilient and resourceful Indian women. The Personal and Universal Life Skills Education (PULSE) programme, numerous (and highly successful) co-curricular sports, arts and drama programmes, plus various initiatives to both involve and introduce students and their families (some of which have little or no education themselves), to careers outside of the traditional STEM subjects.
Activities such as Look Who's Answering Quiz Club (aimed at increasing the general level of awareness amongst students visa a vis Science, Technology and Current Affairs), and Eva Green - the Eco Club, add further skills to those already developed by students.
The school also offers a range of extra-curricular activities which include: Paper Folding, Glass Painting, Fabric Painting, Acrylic Painting, Calligraphy, Pen Sketching, Clay modelling, Pot Painting, Mask Making, Portraits, Collages, Music, Dramatics, Creative Writing, Extempore, Debate, Musical Concerts, Entrepreneurship and First Aid.
Sports are also coming under increasing focus, with coaching to enable students to participate in inter-school and intra-school tournaments such as Basketball, Cricket, Table Tennis, Track and Field, Badminton Chess and Carrom.
There are also a wide range of annual events organised by students aimed at showcasing student abilities - including Ruhaaniyat Islamiyah - the annual Interschool Islamic Cultural Festival, OWNEX - an exhibition from the school's budding inventors, The Annual Prize Day, Digifest - a recently introduced intra-school competition to promote technology and innovation and a platform for budding entrepreneurs to showcase their business ideas, the school's Our Own Orchestra, the KG Concert, and the Junior School Parliament.
OOEHSS has also organised international trips for students to destinations such as the USA, Paris and Singapore.
OOEHSS is transparent about the school's academic results, providing full details of its students' successes.
The total number of students who appeared for Grade 12 CBSE 2019 exams was 287, all of whom passed with a school average of 84.6%. 33.1% of students scored 90% and above, 84.6% of students scored 75% and above, 24 students secured A1 grade in all five subjects and a further 34 students secured A1 grade in four out of five subjects.
By comparison, the total number of students who appeared for Grade 12 CBSE 2018 exams was 240, all of whom have passed with a school average of 84.9%.
The 2019 school toppers were Misba Sabu who was the UAE Topper in Humanities with an aggregate of 97% and Madhulika Karthi who was the Topper in the Commerce stream with 96.4 %.
In Science, Harini Balamurugan (Science Stream) was the School Topper with an aggregate of 97.4%, Gayathri Sivakumar Menon secured the second position with 97 % followed by Aysha Sherin with 96.6% . In Commerce: Ria Lakhani was the second school topper with 95 % followed by Ann Maria Jomon with 94.6%. In Humanities, Ivy Ganguly secured the second position with 96.4% followed by Haneen Urooj with 96.2%.
In the 2019 CBSE Grade 10 Results, Arya Manoj was the School topper with an aggregate of 97.8%, closely followed by Arya Suneesh with an aggregate of 97.4%. Afifa Jamal secured the third position with 97.2 %. 48.39% of students have scored an average of 90% and above, 19.95% of students have scored between 85 and 90%, and 99.77 of students have scored more than 60%. The overall average is 87.14%.
100% of the school's students go on to tertiary education, with 52% choosing universities in India, a further 46% going to universities in Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere, whilst 1% each choose universities in the UK and US.
India universities include BITS Pilani, Symbiosis International University, Christ University, VIT University, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Madras Christian College, National Institute of Technology, PSG College of Arts and Science, St Stephen's College, and St Joseph's College of Engineering.
In the UAE, choices include American University in Dubai, American University of Sharjah, BITS Pilani, Emirates Aviation College, Gulf Medical University, Heriot-Watt University, UAE, Middlesex University, Preston University, UAE, Troy University, Sharjah, University of Warwick, and the University of Wollongong. US universities include Purdue University and the Rochester Institute of technology.
Students are supported in their university choices through a Career fair which is organised by the school, wherein various universities put up their stalls and explain the choices and application eligibility and procedures. Experts from various fields are invited to speak to students to help them make career choices. Students are provided with an opportunity to participate in an aptitude test to help them make better career choices.
Although the school is located on the edge of the Industrial area and the buildings are somewhat dated, it hasn't stopped students and teachers making use of every spare metre. The school is well-maintained, bright and covered in art work. Facilities include: a junior and senior library, ICT labs, KG play area, KG play room, a 700-seat auditorium, innovation studio, art room, music hall, canteen and medical rooms.
The Innovation Studio and Learning Hub are equipped with interactive white boards, laptops, Lego kits and innovative resources aimed at making students "techno-smart".
The school is also home to: two basketball courts, a football field, a cricket pitch, badminton volleyball and tennis courts and a playground with synthetic track.
What the Inspectors say...
The school, even with its relatively high student class numbers, was rated Highly Effective by Sharjah's Ministry of Education, across all six focus areas that were assessed in the 2013/4 Sharjah Education Zone Report.
In the 2019-20 academic year, OOEHSS was inspected under the new UAE inspection guidelines by Sharjah Private Education Authority. The inspection took place in May 2019, and was mis-recorded by SPEA as the 2018-19 academic year, apparently failing to take into account the Asian school academic year begins in April.
The unified inspection process has been in place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for several years, but has only latterly been introduced for private schools in Sharjah with the set up of the Private Education regulator. Schools are rated across six Key performance standards, and awarded an overall rating of Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Acceptable,Weak and Very Weak. On its first inspection under the new system, OOEHSS achieved a Good rating overall.
Across the six Key Performance Standards, the school was rated Good for Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum, and Leadership and Management. It was rated Very Good for Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, and for the Care, Protection, Guidance and Support of students.
Commenting on the overall performance of the school, inspectors noted that "The overall performance of the school is good. Students make good or better progress in all subjects other than Islamic education, and Arabic as a second language (ASL) in [the] high [school] phase. Teachers use a range of assessment strategies, but lessons do not always challenge more-able students. Senior leaders are committed to UAE national priorities. Self-evaluation processes are very good but are not yet resulting in consistent quality teaching to raise students’ achievement".
Inspectors also noted that the school is overcapacity in terms of student numbers and that this has resulted in recent challenges around updating the building.
In terms of the strengths of the school, these were identified as:
Areas of improvement identified by the inspection team were:
There is no question that there are many performance areas at OOEHSS that should be (and are) highly regarded, with many ratings across Students' Performance in particular, being rated Very Good.
Those areas that have been identified for improvement are largely related to the delivery of teaching (and particularly the process of assessment to determine each child's starting point) and the curriculum (in ensuring that it is adapted to meet individual students' needs). Opportunities for students to develop their innovation skills was a specifically identified as an area for development in relation to the curriculum.
In the 2019-20 SPEA inspection report, the inspectors commented on the school's partnership with parents, which it described as "very strong". Parents regularly receive a very good range of information about their children’s progress and they value the regular parent and teacher meetings Very positive links with other schools and community organisations enrich learning. In addition, the Board of Governors has a comprehensive and accurate view of the school with views of parents and other stakeholders expressed, and listened to, through the Parent Advisory Committee and Local Advisory Board.
Whilst in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, parents and students are asked to complete a pre-inspection survey, this is not yet the case in Sharjah, but one that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would like to see.
Our own Parent Survey has been completed by some 120 parents - and although this initially seems a significant number, with around at least 10 times that number of families whose children attend OOEHSS, it is perhaps not as fair a reflection of parental feedback as might first appear.
Feedback from parents who have completed the survey is generally positive, although not overwhelmingly so. One of the biggest negatives - and more often than not the case for most schools - is the fee level. Over 50% of parents felt that the fees they pay do not represent value for money. Only 17% of parents agreed that they did. And over one-third of parents felt that the school was not up to the standard of schools in their home country.
An even more significant 65% of parents had considered moving their child to another school. However, 95% of parents were at least partially satisfied with the level of academic performance at the school, with 45% being fully satisfied. Only one-third of parents felt that additional external tuition was necessary for their child. Parents were also generally satisfied with communication and feedback from the school. And despite their concerns, almost two-thirds of parents would recommend OOEHSS to other parents, although 25% were not sure, and 12% said that they would not recommend the school.
If you are a parent, student or teacher at Our Own English High School for Girls, please share your experiences with other potential members of your community by completing our surveys here.
Fees for Our Own English High School, Sharjah start at AED 7,712 for KG and increases to AED 14,488 for Grades 10-12. They are paid in 10 installments through the year from September through June.
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