Sharjah's best school is cultivating a love of learning to help both pupils and teachers unlock their full potential.
Forward-thinking leaders at Gems Millennium Private School are injecting a dose of fun into the serious business of shaping young minds.
The strategy is paying dividends, with the school being the only educational institution out of more than 100 in the emirate to secure an “Outstanding” rating in the Sharjah Private Education Authority inspection results, which were released earlier this month.
It leapt to the top of the class only four years after receiving a “Good” ranking in the league table.
So what is the secret to its success?
When The National paid a visit to the school on Tuesday, children were playing drums and strumming guitars in music classes and even taking mini-buggies out for a ride on the playground to get up to date on traffic rules.
It is part of a vision at the school – which follows India's Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum and serves 2,500 pupils – to make lesson time more engaging to help children retain more information.
Jeyashankar, deputy head of innovation classes at the school, spoke of the importance of supplementing set curricula with hands-on learning.
“The main object is that whatever children learn in theory, they also experience in practice,” he said.
Embracing technology is integral to the plan to educate and enlighten pupils from kindergarten to Grade 12.
“For example, if grade five pupils learnt concepts of speed and distance and time, we use robots in a game of golf to complement the lesson,” said Mr Jeyashankar.
The cyber golfers are used to offer practical examples of lessons learnt in the classroom.
“We then let them figure out the distance and the speed. This makes them more excited about what they learn,” he added.
Investing in teachers
In collaboration with Gems Education, the school has heavily invested in professional development and training to ensure teachers are equipped with the skills needed to ensure the school achieves its goals.
“Professional development and careful internal assessments are essential to improving the teaching and learning experiences of both teachers and pupils,” said Lini Shivaprasad, the school's principal and chief executive.
Teachers regularly take part in sessions designed to improve their practices.
Internal assessments have helped the school identify strengths and weaknesses, address them and track progress.
“Between 100 to 120 classes are observed by inspectors from within the group in the assessment process,” Ms Shivaprasad said.
“Our approach ensures teachers adapt their methods to the needs of their pupils, identifying those with learning difficulties and tailoring lessons around those needs.”
“Also our commitment to inclusivity is demonstrated through the implementation of movement, speech and occupational therapies to support pupils with different learning abilities.
“Pupils' voices are heard and they, too, are involved in decision-making processes.”
School pride over top marks
The “Outstanding” rating has served as a significant source of pride and motivation for the school community, reinforcing its dedication to excellence and professional growth, said the principal.
“This achievement showcases Sharjah’s commitment to educational excellence and raises the bar for other schools in the region,” she said.
Pupils feel they are thriving in an inclusive environment.
“It helps us develop individually and responsibly,” said Grade 5 pupil Jyotsna Ramganesh.
Siddhant Seth, in Grade 7, praised the school’s friendly atmosphere.
“Everyone here is included and pushed out of their comfort zone to work together,” he said.
Grade 12 pupil Pranay Bapna enjoys the collaborative nature of the schoolwork.
“The school’s focus on learning groups and pupil collaboration helps us learn a skill most needed when we graduate,” he said.
Teachers also find the school's approach rewarding for themselves and their pupils
“With the school's support, we continue to improve our tools and are always aware of the latest trends,” said mathematics teacher Tina Tiby.
She said teachers are encouraged to suggest improvements to the management at any time and to tailor classes based on the needs of each of their pupils.
Amina Hussain, head of the social sciences department, said teachers work together to deliver the best education to young learners.
“Learning happens amongst teachers before we apply it among pupils to create more of hands-on and research-based learning,” she said.
This comprehensive and holistic approach to education, focusing on each pupil's individual needs and teacher development, has played a significant role in the school's achievements, Ms Shivaprasad said.
“It’s a testament to our commitment to personalised learning and creating an environment where each pupil’s unique strengths, passions and learning styles are nurtured,” she said.
She added that there was no danger of complacency setting in, with the school participating in new projects offered by SPEA and Sharjah Education Academy to further improve its offerings.
“Achieving 'Outstanding' doesn’t mean we are doing everything and that this is the end of it, the journey has to continue and move beyond excellence that’s why we are taking part in these projects.”