At a glance
The Story so Far...
GEMS Dubai American Academy is the first and most successful American Curriculum school within the GEMS network. In fact, the only American curriculum school which can compare to DAA in quality and size is The American School of Dubai (ASD).
DAA will soon be neighbors with ASD as it was recently announced that the school will be moving buildings and, starting in September 2017, will reside in the building that currently is home to GEMS Nations Academy. The schools will merge, formally being known only as GEMS Dubai American Academy.
After receiving Good for three years, a push from the previous Superintendent of the school, Robin Appleby, worked to make the KHDA inspection guidelines more conducive to American curriculum standards. Since Dr. Jim Hardin, the new superintendent's appointment, the school has continued to maintain its Outstanding rating although his departure at the end of this academic year means that the school will need to work extra hard to maintain its Outstanding ranking amidst change. The new superintendent, Tammy Murphy, will head these challenges in the state-of-the-art facilities of the current GEMS Nations Academy.
At Dubai American Academy, there are in total an impressive 99 nationalities represented within the student body, with the biggest numbers coming from the US (22.07%), Canada (9.49%), India (6.84%), S. Korea (5.96%) and Egypt (4.09%). There is a 50:50 male to female ratio.
The school employs 193 teachers and 62 teaching assistants with staff employed at recruitment fairs in the UK, US and Thailand. The majority of teachers come from the US. The student:teacher ratio is 1:22 in Grades 6-12, and 1:12 on average across grades. All teachers are degree educated, and a majority hold Masters degrees or above. The school had a teacher turnover of 25% over the previous year - average to high for the UAE, and up 5% on the previous academic year.
DAA is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and has been since 2004.
In addition, DAA offers the IB Diploma Program for parents wanting a broader, more internationally focused qualification.
DAA is known for its friendly, participatory approach to teaching. Children are said to be a happy bunch, and look forward to going to school. The school is also noted for a strong programme for children who don’t have English as a first language. A highly recommended school in the WSA school survey, with some questioning relative 'Good Value'.
What do the inspectors say (2015/2016)?
GEMS Dubai American Academy is presently the only school in Dubai following an American standards-based curriculum to have been awarded an “Outstanding” rating by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau. It is the fifth year in a row DAA has made the grade after three years of a Good rating.
According to the KHDA, Dubai American Academy provides an Outstanding quality of education. Strengths include attainment and progress in English, mathematics and science in all phases. The quality of teaching for effective learning is Outstanding in Kindergarten, elementary and middle school. The ethos of the school is said to be Outstanding, supported by the equally Outstanding curriculum.
It is also a rather happy school...
Dubai American Academy's entry into the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's Happiest School in the UAE" video competition.
Dubai American Academy has introduced initiatives to improve the curriculum in Islamic Education and Arabic. However, progress in these areas was said to be "still inconsistent" (2011), a comment continued into its 2012-2103 to 2014/15 reports. In the latest report the KHDA inspection team does however note improvements, but that inconsistency is still evident: "Progress had improved in Islamic education and the Arabic language for first language and additional language speakers in some higher phases in the school. However, it is clearly still very much work in progress.
What are the markers of student achievement?
Dubai American Academy provides information on where its students head for university - although the information does not appear to have been updated for two years. In 2013/14 students made over 850 university applications with 500 acceptances from nearly 400 universities. In 2012/13 over 1,000 university applications were made, again with over 500 acceptances from nearly 400 universities. Students head for nine countries, with the largest percentage going to the United States, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Students in the class of 2012 received acceptances from University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, McGill University, University of California Berkeley, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, London School of Economics (UK), Warwick University (UK), and Queen Mary University (UK).
Although only 50-70% of applications are successful, the school claims to achieve "100% entry to higher educational institutions, including the best universities and colleges around the world" in the WSA Q and A. Go here. In further correspondence with DAA, the school notes that 2% of students opt to take a gap year.
Dubai American Academy used to provide details on its IB performance - and deserved praise for doing so. However, as a group GEMS Education stopped providing details of performance in 2015. This is the last data we have available to us. A 33 IB rating would be a relatively good score for a Dubai IB school, but not out of the ordinary.
In 2014 nine DAA students achieved a score of 40 or higher - only 4.4% of students worldwide earn 40 points or more, which puts this impressive accomplishment into perspective. Oxbridge has an entry requirement of 38 points.
What about SEND?
GEMS Education has worked on the SEN provision within its schools in recent years and for the 2013/14 academic year, 124 students had been identified as having some form of Special Educational Needs, a figure growing to 249 last year. SEN students make relatively good progress at the school.
What are the facilities?
The current space houses a wide range of facilities on its twenty three acres: Notably, computer labs, a weight room, science labs, drama and music rooms, art studios, and two library media centres. It also has two swimming pools, a football pitch, tennis courts, and large gyms.
The new facilities of the 70,000m2 campus are truly state-of-the-art and include: a 50m Olympic pool, 400m running track, a large gymnasium, playing fields and shaded playgrounds, theaters, and dedicated studios for music and arts for all grade levels.
What are the fees?
Fees at the school are in the premium range, with fees of AED 57,2013 in KG2 and rising to AED 80,640 by Grade 12. 2017-2018 fees are estimated to be AED 85,000.
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