GEMS World Academy, Dubai is a private Pre K-12 international school located in Al Barsha, Dubai. The school was first established in September 2007 by GEMS Education, although its first year of operation was in 2008. It is a pure International Baccalaureate curriculum based school.
GEMS World Academy has been rated Very Good for the second year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
The story so far...
Reflective of its name, GEMS World Academy (GWA) is a very diverse, international community made up of more than 90 nationalities making it one of the most demographically diverse and truly international schools in the Emirate. While the largest student nationalities are noted as Arab, students from India, the USA and UK also create a minority - the highest represents around 9% of total numbers. This - says the school - facilitates international mindedness, a core aspect of the International Baccalaureate curriculum offered by GWA.
GEMS World Academy Dubai, has a capacity of approximately 2050 students and currently has around 1,820 students - a reduction of approximately 100 students compared with 2016-17. The school employs 184 teachers of mainly British nationality, together with 79 teaching assistants, giving it a teacher to student ratio of 1:10 - among the lowest in the UAE.
Teacher turnover in the 2015-16 academic year was unusually high - running at 35%. However, this figure has been reduced to 21% in 2016-17 and has reduced still further to 14% the last academic year (2017-18), well below the Dubai average of 20-22%. This is always an area of concern, and the improvement in staff retention (lessening the challenge of bringing on a substantial number of new staff each year) is a positive sign.
In a positive step towards supporting parents with children of different ages, GWA now offers an extended day care for Pre-K and KG1 families, where the normal pick up time is 1.15pm. At no additional cost, children in Pre-K and KG1 may now stay at school for a longer school day from Sunday – Wednesday, finishing school together with the rest of the Elementary school at 2:50pm. This means there is a much easier pick up schedule for families who have older children.
From September 2019, GWA will be introducing a Nursery section for children aged 2 by 15th September.
What about the curriculum?
GEMS World Academy, Dubai is authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) to offer all three IB programmes – the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP). The school has recently (in the 2018-19 academic year) begun to offer the IBCP - Courses programme, which offers students a "scaled-down" and usually more vocational focus. Some 10 students are participating in the IBCP.
GWA was the first GEMS school to follow the IB programmes - a pioneer in Dubai along with the Innoventures operated Dubai International Academy. A second full IB curriculum school - GEMS International School Al Khail - was opened to meet the increasing demand for a curriculum which has become highly regarded globally for its enquiry-based cross-curricular approach (with the subsequent demand for independent thought, research and learning), and the breadth and depth of study at the Diploma level.
In keeping with the internationality of the IB programmes and the very wide mix of nationalities at GWA, in the 2018-19 academic year the school introduced its Language Institute, through which it offers 12 mother tongue languages as part of the curriculum for GWA families. There is no additional charge for the mother tongue classes.
GWA also operates a Week Without Walls (WWW) programme, designed to help students from Grades 6-11 become more internationally minded and better global citizens. During WWW, students engage in sustainable service projects. gain awareness of the issues that transcend national borders. and develop an understanding of issues such as poverty, indigenous people and environmental degradation and preservation.
The Academy is also a member of the Council of International Schools (CIS) and was accredited during the 2012-2013 school year.
In common with most GEMS schools, GWA also offers a very wide range of Extra-curricular activities including sport, science, language, media, and art activities, among others. Teacher-led activities are free of charge, whilst those provided by external suppliers attract a fee.
What about Academic achievement?
GEMS has been very backwards in coming forward with the publication of exam results for its individual schools (with rare exceptions). We, at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, were very encouraged to see that GWA has bucked the trend by publishing some important data in relation to the IB Diploma results for 2018. Whilst exam results are not the be-all and end-all of educational achievement - and there are many well-known and high profile figures who did not achieve well at school - they are, none-the-less, an important factor for parents and students when considering their schooling options. We also feel that results should be recognised and celebrated for all students.
GWA and its 2018 cohort should certainly be proud of their achievement. Overall, the 93 full IB Diploma Grade 12 students achieved a pass rate is 98.9%, and an average score of 33.1 points. This is well above the global average for 2018 of 29.78 and among the higher scores for IB schools in the UAE. The highest achieving student scored 44 points - only one away from the perfect score of 45.
The school can also offer a long list of top universities to which students have been admitted in the past four years including Cambridge, Kings College, Imperial College and the London School of Economics in the UK; Berkeley, Columbia, John Hopkins, Penn State, and Princeton in the US, both McGill and Toronto in Canada, and The Australian University and University of Melbourne in Australia.
What about the facilities?
The school is very rich in facilities: a 50m Olympic sized covered swimming pool along with a junior pool, tennis and basketball courts, a very large outdoor soccer pitch, skateboarding park, fully equipped gymnasium with fitness center, junior gym, indoor rock climbing wall, a concert-standard auditorium, Music centre, green screen room, fully equipped music recording studio and a peace garden. There is also a very popular Parent Cafe and a recently introduced Study Lounge for Senior IB Diploma students.
Impressively, GEMS World Academy also comes equipped with a state-of-the-art planetarium used by all students and staff for all subjects, not only astronomy. It is a unique asset that complements the traditional studies and produces a high resolution 360 degree view of the night sky with over 300,000 stars within its database. The school uses it to encourage pupils to learn and explore about the solar system, star constellations, and deep space objects through the interactive display as well as the opportunity to visit ancient temples and dive with whales exploring life under water among other things.
For 2016-2017 the school received the KHDA inspection rating of Good, the eighth year in a row it had achieved this rating. In the most recent inspection round for 2017-18, GWA has finally achieved a step up to Very Good in its overall rating and has retained this rating for 2018-19.
What the inspectors say
The current (2017-18) KHDA inspection report makes it pretty clear as to why GWA has managed the step up from Good to Very Good. A glance at the table for Students' Achievement shows that every aspect of Attainment and Progress for the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science is rated at least Very Good (with 9 measures in the MYP and DP programmes having improved to this level). Only DP students' attainment in Mathematics is rated as Good - and this is an improvement from Acceptable 12 months ago. All 3 core subjects are rated Outstanding in KG and for English in the Primary phase. This is an excellent achievement.
Conversely, Attainment and Progress in Mathematics in the Primary phase have been downgraded to Very Good from Outstanding, but the report explains that this is due to more accurate assessment of students, rather than a reduction in achievement - suggesting an overstatement in previous years.
The inspection report notes that Attainment in Islamic education in the MYP has improved and is now good, as has attainment in Arabic as a first language in the DP, which is acceptable. This improvement will have been welcomed and will have contributed to the overall result, although the core Arabic-based subjects remain at best Good (for all measures related to Islamic Education and Arabic as both a first and second language in the Primary phase). Both Arabic as a First Language and as an Additional language are now rated Acceptable in both the MYP and DP phases.
Other key indicators for GWA were found to be overwhelmingly a mixture of Outstanding (particularly in the KG and PYP phases) and Very Good. Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, were rated Outstanding across the board. Inspectors noted that "Students’ behaviour is exemplary. They have exceptionally positive attitudes and take pride in their achievements. Most have a strong work ethic and participate in a wide range of environmental initiatives and charity events, drawing on their well-established innovative and entrepreneurial skills. While most understand the centrality of Islamic values to the culture of the UAE, for a few this is less secure". This latter comment was also reflected in a rating of Very Good in PYP, MYP and DP phases, although the KG was again rated Outstanding.
At the core of the improvements that GWA appears to have made over the past academic year is clearly the are of Teaching and Assessment. Both measures are rated Outstanding in the KG and PYP phases, and have been upgraded to Very Good for both MYP and DP phases. Previous reports have repeatedly noted the need for these phases of the school to improve in respect of these key indicators, and GWA seems to have been able to heed the message. Inspectors commented that "Outstanding teaching in the KG and PYP is based on teachers’ deep understanding of how young students learn. Teaching in the MYP and DP has improved because more accurate assessment information is being used to match work to students’ abilities and attainment levels." This is excellent news for students in terms of the support now available to them from an academic perspective.
Protection, care, guidance and support of students is another Outstanding area at GWA. Comments from the inspection team stated that "Systems for safeguarding students are extensive and highly effective. All staff are provided with appropriate training. Child protection and safeguarding policies are clear and understood by all. Students appreciate the guidance they receive on subject options, careers and university entrance. Provision and support for students with SEND is outstanding."
Curriculum design and implementation were rated Outstanding across the school on both measures, and curriculum adaptation was rated Outstanding in both KG. In PYP, MYP and DP phases, curriculum adaptation was found to be Very Good, an improvement from Good for the older two phases of students. The inspection report notes that " The curriculum provides numerous opportunities for students to develop entrepreneurial and innovation skills. Older students are provided with a wide range of choices. Assessment information is used very effectively to adapt the curriculum to meet the learning needs of all groups of students. A wide range of extracurricular activities and educational visits enhance students’ learning and provide memorable experiences."
Remaining key indicators that were rated as Outstanding included the relationship between the school, parents and the community, and the management, staffing, facilities and resources of GWA. The effectiveness of leadership, self-evaluation and improvement planning, and Governance were all rated Very Good. The report finds that "The principal, with the full support of senior leaders and staff, is providing clear direction on the school's journey of continued improvement. Monitoring and evaluation are systematic and rigorous. Parents are closely involved in the life of the school. Governors have a very good knowledge of the school’s performance."
Of course, there are still areas in which the school needs to improve. The KHDA Inspection report recommends that GWA should:
For a number of years, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have wondered how it was possible that a school which was originally set up as GEMS' flagship, with wonderful facilities and an excellent curriculum, could never seem to quite manage the level of achievement that would be expected under such circumstances. It seems that GWA now has all of the pieces in place to realise its potential. We look forward to seeing it reach the next stage of its journey towards excellence.
Broadly, hugely positive. Parents rave over how approachable the school is/teachers are. Many love the curriculum (however you need to do the research on IB to see if it fits with the needs of your child). Teaching is widely praised – as are the school’s facilities. The school is expensive, however parents we spoke to did not raise this as an issue. When asked the question: Does this School offer Good Value, the most common answer was “Partially Agree”. Parents would almost universally recommend the school.
Fees: The standard of facilities at GWA need to be paid for, of course. This is a school clearly targeted at parents who want everything for their children, and can afford to pay. Fees for 2019-20 range from AED 40,000 for the new Nursery section, AED 65,747 per year for pre-kindergarten and KG1 students and AED 82,247 for KG2 to Grade 4 inclusive, rising to AED 114,128 per year for grade 11 and 12 students. This makes it, with Repton and North London Collegiate School Dubai among the most expensive schools that we have reviewed.
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while researching GEMs Wellington Academy, Al Khail on WSA, I find that your listing points to GEMs Wellington Academy, Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). I cannot find a relevant review
Hi Marc, apologies for this, and apologies for the delay in replying. We have been working on rectifying this. The review may be found here: http://whichschooladvisor.com/review_article/gems-wellington-academy-al-khail-dubai-first-review/
You have to wonder, while many of the facilities are impressive...are they really necessary? A planetarium is nice and all, but how many students actually end up using it to it's full potential?
Hopefully this school puts education before profits. But since the parents seem happy, the school must be doing something right.