GEMS Cambridge International Private School Sharjah is a new addition to the GEMS schools in the UAE, due to open in September 2019. It will be located in the Muweilah School Zone, close to the University area.
The story so far...
True to their statement that GEMS would focus on the non-premium school sector, the announcement of the launch of GEMS Cambridge International Private School (GCS) in Sharjah, shortly before the end of the current academic year, provides Sharjah-based parents (and those within commuting distance) with the option of an affordable UK curriculum-based education from the UAE's largest school group, utilising the success of its Cambridge brand.
In explaining why families should choose the newest member of the GEMS Cambridge schools, GEMS said "the new school draws from the GEMS Cambridge success story [that] is based on a legacy that is 36 years old. A multicultural legacy further enhanced by the presence of over 45 nationalities at our GEMS Cambridge schools".
Quite why it has taken GEMS so long to establish a further UK curriculum school is Sharjah is something of a mystery - waiting lists in Sharjah schools have been notoriously long. Perhaps the fact that an affordable school was the only way Sharjah parents might be attracted has not previously offered the incentive required. But with the slow-down in demand for premium sector schools in Dubai, it seems that GEMS has decided to look north at last.
The Sharjah school will be the fourth in the UAE to carry the Cambridge name, along with the original Dubai school, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, The Cambridge High School Abu Dhabi which is also over 25 years old, and the newer GEMS Cambridge International School , also in Abu Dhabi. The opening of GCS also brings the number of UK curriculum schools operated by GEMS in Sharjah to three, with the established Westminster School Sharjah and the relatively recently purchased Wesgreen International School already operating under GEMS ownership.
Interestingly, the Cambridge International School Dubai was rated Good by the KHDA (Dubai's regulator) for the 11th year running in the 2018-19 inspection round. And both the Cambridge High School Abu Dhabi, and its sister school, GEMS Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi are also currently rated Good by ADEK. As Sharjah Education Zone does not publish the results of inspections, we can only trust that GCS will aim for a similar quality.
The existing Cambridge schools do not appear to aspire to reach a Very Good or Outstanding rating, but rather to maintain the Good rating that the regulators expect all schools to achieve. Inevitably, there are some compromises as a result - notably in respect of subject options for Grade 9 and 10 and Sixth Form students very often, with a focus on the Commerce or Science streams traditionally found in Indian curriculum schools. By contrast, GEMS' premium international curricula school, such as GEMS Jumeirah College, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School and the GEMS Wellington schools are consistently rated Outstanding or Very Good, with academic subject choices and achievement reflecting these ratings.
The school will be located in the Muweilah School Zone, overlooking the American University of Sharjah. GEMS says that "The school is strategically positioned to provide the best access to students and families across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman". In line with Sharjah Education Zone's grading structure, the school will follow a pre-KG to Grade 12 structure (equivalent to FS1 to Year 13), and will open from pre-KG to Grade 5 (Primary school) in its first year.
GEMS says that "Dedicated and passionate teachers [will] deliver education to the highest standard", but has not, at this stage, revealed further details. We would expect, in line with the practice at the other GEMS Cambridge schools, that whilst the leadership will be from the UK and have direct experience of the National curriculum for England, many teachers will be from other English-speaking destinations, including the sub-continent, and will receive ongoing training to support their professional development.
According to the GEMS press release, "Not only will we implement the best practice from our family of schools, but we will also create a unique school with its own identity and strengths. We will create a learning environment that enhances academic achievements by instilling values, which guide the daily lives of our students".
GEMS Cambridge International School Sharjah is anticipated by GEMS to have a current capacity of some 1,600 students, suggesting a final student roll of around double that number once expanded to Grade 12.
What about the curriculum?
The school will follow the National Curriculum for England which provides students with an education that is recognised around the world. It is a skill-based curriculum, supported by excellent textbooks and resources, with its own standardised testing mechanism. The curriculum fits into the English public examination system, which is recognised by universities throughout the world.
In launching the school, GEMS advised that GCS "will offer a robust values-based approach to education with a strong focus on design thinking and problem solving. This will form a core part of the curriculum which will enable students to explore innovative solutions to complex challenges". The school will offer a wide variety of enrichment opportunities. GCS aims to equip its students with all the necessary skills required "to explore the opportunities of the present and face the challenges of the future with confidence".
Once students reach Year 11/Grade 10 and Year 13/Grade 12 they will be prepared for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) courses, Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and A Level Examinations.
According to GEMS, in 2018, one in ten A Level entries at the Cambridge schools received A* grades and more than 80% achieved grades A*- C. In addition, over the past 3 years, GEMS Cambridge students have been accepted to 97 universities in 26 countries and have received partial to full scholarships to these universities. Unfortunately, in line with GEMS' policy not to be specific about students' success, they do not mention the percentage or number of students who have gone on to university, nor the details of those who have received scholarships.
What about facilities?
The GEMS Cambridge International School Sharjah campus will have state-of-the-art facilities, including a spacious school library (offering a panoramic view of Sharjah University), as well as a Multi-purpose hall, Prayer rooms, Cafeteria, Clinics and Parent café. Academic and sporting amenities include advanced science labs, ICT laboratories including robotics, a STEAM Lab, audio-visual facilities, an art and music room, as well as Indoor and outdoor play areas for KG students, and a range of dedicated sports areas.
School fees are broadly comparable with the Abu Dhabi schools and marginally higher than the Dubai school. Enrolment for students has commenced for Pre-KG to Grade 5.
GEMS has, over the years, earned a reputation for "doing what it says on the tin". We have no doubt that GCS will follow closely in the footsteps of the other GEMS Cambridge schools in terms of curriculum, staffing and ethos. Despite the list of facilities, we would not expect to see "bells and whistles" - there is no mention of a swimming pool or Performing Arts Centre, for instance. However, for parents seeking an affordable, "good" quality of education, within an established UK curriculum, GCS Sharjah will no doubt be a solid option.
The school fees range from AED 20,000 in pre-KG to AED 22,000 for Grades 1 to 5 rising to AED 30,000 per academic year for Grade 12, (subject to SPEA approval). GCS also offers Founder Scholarships according to its website, but does not provide details of what these might be.
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