As the son of Sunny Varkey, Dino Varkey was quite literally born into education. Today, he is group managing director and board member of GEMS Education, overseeing 88 schools globally.
As one of, if not, the biggest global school group, GEMS quite naturally has a superlative list of accomplishments, however, for 2016 WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would like to recognize Varkey and GEMS’s foresight in and commitment to, affordable quality education provision in Dubai.
The opening of GEMS Founders was a game-changer for the city. Although a further 14 new schools also opened in September 2016, Founders was the only one to offer an affordable British education in a Dubai South location.
It was what parents wanted and they demonstrated with their feet. Over 1,800 students arrived for the first day of class, to put this in perspective, that’s more than 10 times more students than any other new school opening at the same time.
At the other end of the spectrum, the opening of GEMS Nations Academy – with fees starting at over AED 100,000 – also aimed to attract a niche market of parents who are particularly tech-savvy and want their children to benefit from a state of the art US curriculum led by Tom Farquhar. This also was an impressive commitment, given the current economic climate.
How long have you worked in the UAE?
I am proud to call the UAE my home
What made you choose the education sector?
I am proud to say that I am the third generation of a family of educators. My grandparents were teachers, my father is an education entrepreneur, and I too have the privilege of following in their footsteps. I have been raised in the belief that education is the single most important factor in changing the world for the better, and in changing the lives of individuals for the better. Such is the power of education.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the industry in the UAE?
The UAE education system, of which GEMS has become an integral part over more than five decades, has evolved to meet the needs of the diverse communities living in our great nation, both Emiratis and expatriates.
In the UAE alone, almost 90 per cent of education is now provided by the private sector. Today, the world is mirroring this demand, and the number of parents and students seeking private sector education is increasing around the globe. The UAE model has been successful because the private sector has been empowered to provide a range of schooling options across international curricula which meet the ambition and aspiration of our diverse community.
At the end of the day, education is soft infrastructure. When you build a school, it is equivalent to building hospitals, roads, or other critical infrastructure projects of a nation. Other than the global shortage of great teachers, there are no major challenges while investing in education in the UAE.
What do you think is your greatest achievement, in education, to date - and why?
My achievements are synonymous with the success of GEMS Education. We have the privilege of educating over 250,000 students daily. We know that our over 20,000 staff are helping to change the world for the better every day. It is also rewarding to see our students performing exceedingly well and move on to some of the world’s best universities - we have students accepted across 1050 universities in 53 countries.
Name three things which get you up and motivate you each day?
What would you still like to achieve in your professional life?
For GEMS Education to continue to be regarded as the global Champion in Education, and to one day be regarded amongst the most valued companies in the world.
What is your advice for others hoping to emulate your success?
As our Chairman states – “Whatever the question, Education is the answer”. By being patient, passionate and committed, we can change our world for the better through providing quality education for all.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of working in education?
We are changing the world – period.