DUBAI // Rashmi Nagendra, the head kindergarten teacher at the JSS International School, knows that introducing mathematical concepts to a five-year-old requires more than a chalkboard.
Not a textbook is in sight as she and a teaching assistant hand out seven marbles to each of the 25 KG2 students. She then asks them to "take away" three marbles.
Ms Nagendra's explanation of subtraction is an example of the teaching style she shares with the school's other 65 teachers. That style helped propel the new school successfully through its very first Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) inspection last year.
JSS is one of only 11 schools that received a "good" rating in the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) results announced last week. Opened in 2009 and inspected for the first time last year, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) school managed to tick most of the boxes for the inspection team that visited in November.
"Our dedicated staff are major players in this achievement," said Guruswami Kalloor, general manager of JSS International. "It is not the infrastructure that makes a school; it's the teachers. They make the difference.
"The management's experience of running successful educational institutions in India and abroad also worked to our advantage," he said.
JSS was the only option for Viji Lakshmi, whose daughter is in KG1. "A couple of people recommended the school to me," she said. "The facilities are good and there are a lot of activities and sports, so I am quite satisfied."
Priyanka Suresh, a student of Grade 7, moved to JSS last year and believes it has enabled her to tap into her talents. "I was at another Indian school in Dubai but there the classes were getting really crowded," she said. "Here, I get to pursue other interests like swimming."
JSS Mahavidyapeetha, a trust in India, decided two years ago to open the school, to fill the need for high-quality Asian education in Dubai.
The non-profit organisation has 135 schools in India. After the success of its first campus in the Al Barsha area, which filled quickly and now serves more than 1,200 students, the trust will open another school here in a few months' time.
The school's new campus helped it score high on inclusion policy during inspections - an area where most schools failed this year - thanks to ramps and rails built for those with mobility difficulties.
Headmistress Nita Maitra said the school's special needs department had the expertise to diagnose the educational requirement of students and to tailor programmes to address issues.
Safety and security measures have been taken care of too, with female attendants in buses, and fire and safety equipment around the premises.
Anthony Joseph, the principal of the school, said they missed the top rating (Outstanding) "by a whisker". "The inspections were helpful because we know where we are falling short and have begun working on those areas already," he said.
Teaching of the Arabic language was identified as a shortcoming, which will be attacked through the introduction of more practical lessons.
Students' knowledge of Islam has to improve, too, inspectors said. Mr Joseph acknowledged that "the students need to know the culture and language of the land as many of them will make careers here".
"We will attain the outstanding rank in the next round," Mr Joseph said confidently.