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.
Reflective of its name, GEMS World Academy 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 the last academic year, around the Dubai average. This is always an area of concern, since it suggests a less stable environment with the challenges of bringing on a substantial number of new staff each year. According to the the KHDA, all teachers have academic degrees.
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 Academy is also a member of the Council of International Schools (CIS) and was accredited during the 2012-2013 school year.
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.
GWA Dubai has yet to release any IB results. Its achievements page on its Web site details GEMS’ successes generally. This is a company wide policy rather than an individual school based one. It is also an unusual decision, we believe, for a group that has every reason to promote and discuss academic successes within the context that GEMS Education schools are inclusive, not selective.
What the inspectors say
The current 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.
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 range from AED 64,414 per year for pre-kindergarten students to just under AED 111,813 per year for grade 12 students. This makes it, with Repton and North London Collegiate School Dubai among the most expensive schools that we have reviewed.
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.
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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.