GEMS, the UAE's largest private school group, has announced that it plans to open six schools a year. These will predominantly be in the UAE, which currently accounts for 95 percent of GEMS' business, but new schools will also be opened in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Africa.
The group currently operates 39 schools which accommodate 90,000 pupils and the new schools will create an additional 10,000 places. A change in the living conditions of expatriates has been a key consideration for GEMS in developing their future plans, according to a senior executive.
"There's a much more stable population base here now," said Nicholas Guest, the GEMS Education chief financial officer.
"There's big demand at the primary age group, but people are staying in the UAE longer, so that is filtering through into secondary (education). And people used to send their kids home to boarding school, but less and less of that is happening."
The company sold a $200 million sharia-compliant hybrid bond in November and plans to fund its $100-150 million of annual capital expenditure needs through cashflow generation and some property finance.
Gems management is the best I ever dealt with compared to 4 other schools my son went. It's very important to me.
GEMS is a good organization overall, but being a profit-driven enterprise, there is too much focus on test scores, and not on the educational and emotional development of the child.
What I like about GEMS. There's a huge sign in the Treasury area telling you if you have difficulty in making your fee payments etc. they want to sit with you and discuss options.
That, to me, is a sign that GEMS cares a lot more about parents and pupils than only profits.
If only some of the other greedy schools followed suit and at least tried to show a human side the world would be a better place!