Our Own English High School Sharjah (OOS) is among a number of schools belonging to the prestigious GEMS Education Group. The school was established in 1982, with the mandate of providing Kindergarten to Grade 12 students with high quality education.
Principal, Mrs. Asma Gilani commented, “The environment of the school affects the mood, energy levels and focus of all the stakeholders. To promote creativity and innovation, we need to provide a free and open environment, in which teachers feel inspired to be creative. At OOS, teachers think of ways and strategies to make teaching and learning a new experience for themselves and the students.”
The school’s excellence transpires in the learning environment and the relationships among teachers, students and parents. Gilani further added, “We introspect, reflect and review our own understanding of trends in education, seek out ways to evolve, to improve our thinking, and go beyond trenched perspectives.”
OOS boasts of a rich and diverse mix of students. Hence, it emphasises on both social and moral development of students to promote multi-cultural understanding. Understandably, the school takes pride in its children who have always excelled in academics and extra -curricular activities. The beaming principal shared, “My girls make their presence felt everywhere. They have topped UAE in Grade 12 CBSE examinations, represented UAE women’s cricket team, initiated innovative projects and are great thinkers.”
In support of the ‘Year for Reading,’ OOS has initiated grade specific reading programmes, which not only enhance reading skills in children but also listening and speaking.
“At the primary level, children read and narrate stories in front of their classmates. This activity generates interest in students,” stated Mrs. Gilani, “they listen, ask questions and also extrapolate. Interestingly, most children speak eloquently and exhibit a high level of confidence. Others make appreciable efforts to speak correctly. By the end of the term, every child gets a chance to narrate a story.”
She added that this is regularly monitored to assess the level of reading of all children with different abilities. While talking about the success of the programme, she mentioned that children look forward to this activity; since they are exposed to a wide variety of stories that make them think and wonder.
Mrs Gilani believes in fostering thinking skills in students. She encourages them to have their own perception of things happening around them, inculcate critical thinking and problem solving skills to enable them to be confident and competent young girls of conviction, who can respond to challenges with optimism and open minds.
She noted that the best of ideas can only be successful if implemented properly. Below, she highlights a few of the successful programmes that are being run at the school.
Islam is a way of life and cannot be confined to textbooks and classrooms. ‘Ruhaaniyaat Islamiyah’ is an annual event that includes a number of activities that engage students. Activities include reciting verses from the Quran, singing songs in praise of Allah, discussions on Islamic life, quiz on Islam and display of attire that Islam encourages women to wear. Additionally, students make models on Astronomy, Islam and Science of Embryology as mentioned in the Quran. This has helped the students a great deal in preparing for Islamic studies assessments without any pressure.
This was conceptualised to develop students’ interest in Mathematics. Many children generally do not enjoy the subject, as it requires regular practice and involves logical and analytical skills. The computer teachers of Grades 7 and 8 were able to create an app ‘Math Café’ with the relevant content provided by the Math teachers. This had a positive impact on students who were able to overcome their fear of the subject. They developed an interest in Math activities. Math Café paved the way for the extension of Personalised Learning in subjects like English and Science.
Senior school students conducted the first ever press conference that showcased an ‘all-women’ cabinet. The team formulated policies and welfare schemes, which were questioned by the reporters and guests. This was done via a video conferencing session with Political and International Affairs Analyst, Dr. Janardhan and Mrs. Meena Janardhan, writer, editor and consultant. The students discussed and debated international issues in connection with the role played by the United Nations in today’s crises and environmental concerns. This enriching learning experience enabled students to look beyond their textbooks and classrooms for solutions to achieving a peaceful and sustainable future.
Junior School Parliament
OOS believes in nurturing leadership skills at a very early age. Hence, the Junior School Parliament has students from Grade 1 upwards in key roles such as Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Health Minister, Education Minister and Members of Parliament. They debate and deliberate issues related to; food available in the canteen, cyber bullying and misuse of technology. Recently, they discussed, ‘Future will be for those who adopt innovations’. The Junior Parliament is a democratic endeavour, instituted to provide leadership skills and to encourage students to raise concerns and find feasible solutions.
Personal Universal and Life Skills Education (PULSE)
The PULSE programme is spread across the school and involves sessions such as; shadowing a professional, personality grooming, stress management, peer pressure, self- defense, cyber bullying, handling relationships, and so on. The school aims to have at least two modules for each grade. Grade 12 students, who have to prepare for the CBSE Board Examinations, are introduced to skills to help them cope with the overwhelming stress and expectations from parents, teachers and peers. Grade 10 students have a session on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to enable them to use their mental skills more effectively.
This show directs attention to pressing issues that impact the environment. The theme was ‘Celebrating Past, Shaping the Future’. The show commemorated the intercultural dialogue prevalent in UAE and presented models of symbiosis. The designs highlighted both the local culture and Indian culture. The students were able to show off their creativity by making stylish clothing from materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. Students also employed the use of technology by constructing digital portfolios. OOS has been recognised for unique environmental initiatives and has been a recipient of Green Flag for two years. They also received ‘Sharjah Environment Awareness Award’ for their significant environmental projects.
This is a student-led forum that seeks to bring a cross-section of the student and parent community of Grades 7-9, on a common platform to discuss sensitive and delicate issues openly. It is a universal fact that children may not always share their fears and anxieties with parents. The aim of CANVASS is to forge pathways into the parent- child relationship, thus, strengthening the bond. The well-utilized platform provides, to all parties concerned, an insight into the minds of the other, which goes a long way in ironing out the differences. Parents have welcomed the forum and lauded it as a space to properly discuss an array of topics, which cannot be approached in a personal conversation at home. It is hoped that CANVASS will create a happier atmosphere for students in school, as well as at home.
These are just a few of the programmes at OOS that work effectively in understanding and nurturing young minds.
“At OOS, excellence has always meant more than just high levels of academic performance. We experiment with new ideas, explore different perspectives and grow in areas of one’s natural talent. The secret of any success lies in the endeavor and endurance put in jointly by everyone involved in any capacity,” Mrs. Gilani said.
Reflecting on the number of awards the school has received in recognition of outstanding performance, Ms. Gilani believes that the awards strengthen their self-esteem, develop motivation to perform better and set new standards for them to achieve.
OOS has been the recipient of the prestigious and coveted Khalifa Award for Education for 2012-2013 in the Educational and Institutional Performance category.
She continued, “It was indeed a lifetime honour to receive the most coveted Khalifa award from Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. While felicitating with the trophy, he enquired if the school had reached the zenith of perfection and I was reminded of a song that I learned in childhood.
“‘There are so many hills, to climb upward. I often am longing for rest. But he who, appoints me my path way knows just what is needed and best. And the toils of the road will seem nothing, when I get to the end of the way.’”
Other notable awards won by OOS include: Sharjah Economic Excellence Award, Sharjah Environment Award, Educational Excellence Award – Knowledge Resource Development and Welfare Group – New Delhi and MOE Sharjah Award for Quality Education among others.
Our Own English High School has accomplished many successes but there is still more work to do. Mrs. Gilani and her team are acutely aware of the many changes that are happening globally in education and are ready to make even greater strides. The vibrant OOS team will continue to produce students who are not only academically successful, but also ready to apply what they learn in real world complex situations and be ready to be leaders of tomorrow… a magnanimous task and one that all stakeholders are working together to achieve.