Fatima Martin, Principal at GEMS New Millennium School — Al Khail, shares her knowledge and insights gained from 24 years’ experience working as an educator in the UAE.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a principal.
I am a chemistry specialist, but have pursued my passion for literature and management and have a Master’s degree in both. I have been a principal in Dubai for 11 years and headed two British Curriculum schools prior to joining GEMS New Millennium School — Al Khail (NMS), where I have been for four years. All in all, I have been an educator in the UAE for 24 years and I count my experience in the region and in the education sector to be my most rewarding journey so far. When I was offered the role of Principal at NMS, I knew the school was headed for its first KHDA inspections that year. This motivated me to work with the wonderful team at NMS towards securing at least a ‘Good’ rating — and this we accomplished. We were the first new CBSE school to be rated ‘Good’ in its first KHDA inspection.
What would you say is your education approach or philosophy?
The teacher’s role is akin to the layers of an onion. It is multi-dimensional. We have the responsibility of moulding fledgeling minds into responsible young adults ready to pursue their dreams. I am passionate about helping students achieve success. It is every educator’s responsibility to light the spark in each child’s soul, and then we keep the flame blazing. Sometimes this happens easily enough; with others, it involves providing myriad opportunities in the curriculum to help them find their purpose and passion.
What do you most enjoy about your profession and what are the challenges?
My mantra, which I often narrate to the team, is to make the ordinary extraordinary. Allowing our students to dream big and believe in their dreams, facilitating their flight path, celebrating their success, and together reflecting on any drawbacks — these are at the core of what I do and love doing. This is not rocket science. However, in the age of standardised tests, artificial intelligence, and technology, it can be challenging for educators to stay true to the core of our purpose. Yet, as educators, we don’t give up. We rise above these challenges to redefine our roles as facilitators within data-driven classrooms that make smart use of modern-day resources.
What are you hoping to achieve at NMS and how are you going about it?
NMS is already a leading provider of good quality education at an affordable fee point. The breadth of our core curriculum is enriched through an array of sports, music, and performing and visual arts. Our extended day programme, known as PACT (Programme for Appreciation and Cultivation of Talent) is popular and much enjoyed by students across all grades. PACT includes over 30 different specialist clubs offered without any additional cost to parents. We are a state-of-the-art school, where students thrive on innovation and well-being in equal measure. I am keen to ensure that NMS keeps ‘blitzscaling’ to excellence and maintains its upward trajectory.
Any advice for parents choosing a school for their child?
There are many factors that influence parents while choosing a school for their child, including location, curriculum, tuition costs, facilities, and extracurricular provision. All of these are pertinent factors. I would add that a parent also needs to check the quality of provision in the early years, which have a lifelong influence. Dubai is a great place to educate children and this is due to the excellent partnership between school owners, educators, and regulators. GEMS Education leads the way among UAE schools and provides a range of support services for relocating families. I also encourage parents to access the GEMS Enrolment Centre and take bespoke advice when choosing a school.