GEMS Education, founded as Global Education Management Systems (GEMS), is an international education company. It is a global advisory and educational management firm, and is the largest operator of kindergarten-to-grade-12 schools in the world, with a network of over 70 schools in over a dozen countries. Founded by Sunny Varkey, GEMS provides pre-school, primary, and secondary education. Through its consultancy arm, GEMS Education Solutions, the company works internationally with public and private sector clients on school improvement initiatives.
The Varkey Foundation, formerly known as the Varkey GEMS Foundation, is the philanthropic arm of GEMS Education. It aims to impact 100 underprivileged children for every child enrolled in a GEMS school.
- 1 History
- 2 Structure and philosophy
- 3 GEMS Education Solutions
- 4 Philanthropic arm
- 5 Corporate governance
- 6 GEMS schools
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early schools and the Varkey Group
GEMS Education has its roots in a family tutoring business in Dubai started by Indian-born teachers K.S. and Mariama Varkey in 1959. The discovery of oil in Dubai in 1966 brought in many foreign workers to the undeveloped emirate, including many from the Indian subcontinent. With the increased demand for an English-language education for the children of Indian expatriates, the Varkeys founded Our Own English High School in Dubai in 1968.
When in 1980 local authorities insisted that Our Own English High School be housed in a purpose-built facility, the Varkeys' son Sunny Varkey took over the operation of the school, which taught less than 400 students at the time. He soon expanded the school, and added new schools as well. The education situation in Dubai was ripe for expansion, since local schools were only for native Arabs, and the children of the ever-increasing number of expats needed education of their own. Under his umbrella business organization the Varkey Group, Sunny Varkey opened Indian, Pakistani, and British schools, and offered education under the different curricula: Indian (Central Board of Secondary Education and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education), U.S., British, and later International Baccalaureate, French, and dual and local curricula.
Founding of GEMS
After creating a strong network of schools in the Gulf Arab states, in 2000 Varkey established Global Education Management Systems (GEMS), an advisory and educational management firm, in advance of his worldwide overseas expansion. In 2003, he began opening GEMS schools in England, beginning with Sherborne House in Hampshire and Bury Lawn in Milton Keynes. Soon afterwards, he took over Sherfield School in Hampshire, and purchased another 10 schools in England, mainly in the north.
In 2004, the GEMS group opened its first schools in India. Varkey continued to add schools in the subcontinent, and also purchased a controlling interest in the India-based Everonn Education, which the Varkey Group and GEMS manage. GEMS subsequently opened schools in Africa, Southeast Asia, the U.S., and Europe. It is the largest operator of private kindergarten-to-grade-12 schools in the world, and as of 2015 has over 70 schools in over a dozen countries. Its two schools in the U.S. are in Chicago: a pre-school, and the pre-school through elementary school GEMS World Academy-Chicago, which opened in 2014 and will eventually extend through grade 12.
In 2010 GEMS Education became an official member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of WEF's Global Growth Companies. In 2012, it became a Global Growth Company 'Partner', entitling it to attend the World Economic Forum's flagship annual meeting in Davos. Also in 2010, former U.S. president Bill Clinton named GEMS Education a strategic partner of the Clinton Global Initiative, which convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
In 2012 GEMS Education received the School of Educators Global Education Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award for Global School Education. That year it was also named Education Company of the Year at the Gulf Business Industry Awards, and it also received that same award in 2013.
Structure and philosophy
GEMS schools are established in various price brackets, to serve all markets and income levels. The more expensive schools have more spacious grounds and amenities such as golf and tennis facilities, and smaller class sizes. According to GEMS, educational quality is maintained in the budget-range schools by using excellent teachers, by efficiency and economisation on time and space, and by capitalising on its breadth of experience: the large network of GEMS schools shares resources and information and provides training to teachers across the whole system. When entering into new markets, according the GEMS its schools also benefit from local partners who understand local conditions; the partners provide local knowledge that may not be obvious through standard market research.
According to the company, GEMS schools aim to instill students with universal values, and are geared to form graduates who are global citizens with leadership qualities. The company states that GEMS aims to equip children to live in a multicultural environment, and stresses the importance of giving back to others both locally and globally.
GEMS Education Solutions
GEMS has two divisions: schools and educational services. GEMS Education Solutions is the consultancy arm of GEMS Education, providing educational services and advice. It was established in 2011, taking on projects mainly in the UK, Africa, and Asia. It works with governments and non-profits, and public and private clients.
One of GEMS Education Solutions' projects is assisting and advising the state school system in the United Arab Emirates. In Saudi Arabia, via the Oxford Partnership, GEMS Education Solutions co-manages three newly built women's vocational colleges. The three-year diploma programmes include training in IT, communication, basic sciences, and English language, before moving onto specialisation and on-the-job training.
In Ghana, GEMS Education Solutions implements MGCubed – Making Ghana Girls Great – which equips two classrooms in each Ghanaian primary school with a computer, projector, satellite modem, and solar panels, creating an interactive distance-learning platform to deliver both formal in-school teaching and informal after-school training. The project teaches 8,000 students in 72 Ghanaian schools, and is Sub-Saharan Africa's first interactive distance-learning project. The program aims to prevent dropping out and under-achieving among girls. Students participate more in these classes, in contrast to the standard system of learning by rote, and the video system also cuts down on teacher absenteeism. Each week, the project also brings in a role model – a successful Ghanaian woman – to speak to the students nationwide.
In 2014 GEMS Education Solutions published a study called The Efficiency Index, analyzing which public education systems, by country, deliver the best value for money. Basing its analysis on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, the study also detailed teacher salaries and class sizes in nationwide schools. Analyzing the results, The Economist noted the opinion of GEMS' Adam Still that "many of the highest spenders have probably passed 'peak efficiency' – the point at which more money brings diminishing returns", and of PISA's Andreas Schleicher that "Quality of teachers has a clearer impact than class size". Writing in Forbes, Michael Horn wrote that the report does not take into account the extensive after-school tutoring that most public-school students receive in South Korea, which ranked second on the list after Finland. In the BBC News review of the report, it noted that "The study highlights that smaller class sizes or teachers' pay are not necessarily linked to better results", yet conversely "Underpaying teachers can also be seen as 'inefficient' because it is a barrier to recruiting good quality staff – with low pay contributing to Brazil and Indonesia's poor performance in these rankings."
The philanthropic arm of GEMS Education is the Varkey Foundation. It was founded in 2010 as the Varkey GEMS Foundation, and intends to impact 100 impoverished children for every child enrolled at GEMS schools, via enrolment and education-access initiatives, worldwide teacher training programs, advocacy campaigns, and physical projects such as building classrooms, schools, and learning centers. Bill Clinton launched the foundation.
In March 2011, the foundation partnered with UNESCO for girls' education in Lesotho and Kenya, and donated $1,000,000 to the effort. In September 2011, a further $1 million was pledged with UNESCO to train 10,000 school principals in India, Ghana, and Kenya. In 2014, the foundation's Teacher Training Programme committed to train 250,000 teachers within 10 years in under-served communities across the world.
In 2013, the foundation helped launch the annual Global Education and Skills Forum, in partnership with UNESCO and the UAE Ministry of Education. Bill Clinton gave the inaugural keynote address.
At the second annual forum in March 2014, the foundation announced the Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million award to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, presented at the third annual GESF in March 2015. Nancie Atwell, an English teacher in rural Maine with 42 years of innovative and pioneering teaching, was awarded the inaugural prize; she donated the full amount to her nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning, a demonstration school created for the purpose of developing and disseminating teaching methods. The 2016 Global Teacher Prize was awarded to a Palestinian teacher, Hanan Al Hroub. The Varkey Foundation hopes the annual $1 million award will become a "Nobel Prize" of teaching.
In 2014 the Varkey Foundation, together with UNESCO, co-created Business Backs Education, a global advocacy campaign that encourages businesses, companies, and corporations to support education to the same degree that they support other basic services such as healthcare. Bill Clinton co-launched the initiative. The Varkey Foundation published a report analyzing the charitable education donations of the global top 500 companies, recommending that education be a higher priority for corporate social responsibility spending.
Sunny Varkey is the founder of the GEMS Education Group. His elder son Dino Varkey is an Executive Director of the GEMS Education Group and a Board Member of GEMS Education. Sunny's younger son Jay Varkey is an Executive Director of the GEMS Education Group and a Board Member of GEMS Global. C. N. Radhakrishnan is Senior Executive Director, Head of Chairman's Office, and a Board Member of GEMS Education.
In 2014, Sir Michael Peat, the former private secretary to Prince Charles from 2002–2011, became the new independent Chairman of GEMS' Board of Directors. This appointment came when Sunny Varkey sold a 20% stake in GEMS' emerging-markets business – covering the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia – to a consortium of investors led by Fajr Capital and including Blackstone and Mumtalakat Holding Company.
In other notable appointments, Ralph Tabberer, formerly the Director General of Schools in the UK in the Department for Children, Schools and Families, was GEMS' Chief Schools Officer and Chief Operating Officer from 2009–2012. In 2014, GEMS Education appointed former Eton College headmaster Tony Little as Chief Education Officer; he is responsible for ensuring the quality of education across the global chain.
GEMS in the Middle East and North Africa
United Arab Emirates
GEMS Education was founded in Dubai, and its first school there, Our Own English High School, originally opened in 1968. The company still has its strongest presence in Dubai and in the United Arab Emirates. As of 2017, GEMS has 45 schools in the United Arab Emirates, including 30 in Dubai, 7 in Abu Dhabi, 1 in Fujairah, and 4 in Sharjah.
GEMS is the largest education provider in the UAE, and the UAE accounts for more than 90% of its business. The need for quality schools catering to the growing long-term and prosperous expatriate community in the UAE has been expanding rapidly.
Following its initial years catering mainly to immigrant Indian workers, GEMS grew rapidly in Dubai. As the emirate developed into an international hub, the expat demographics shifted from short-term workers from a few countries to longterm expat residents with their entire families from countries around the world. GEMS adapted with schools for each demographic, varying and adding new curricula and price ranges for each income level and nationality.
The curricula that GEMS schools in the UAE offer include:
- Early Years Foundation Stage
- International Baccalaureate (IB)
- National Curriculum for England
- National Curriculum for England and IB
- American curriculum
- American curriculum and IB
- Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) (Indian curriculum)
- IGCSE (British international pre-IB) and CBSE (Indian)
- ICSE / ISC (Indian)
With steadily rising immigration, since public schooling is only available for Emirati natives, demand for private schools in Dubai and the UAE has continued to outstrip supply, causing lengthy waiting lists at many schools. Many native Emiratis as well choose to send their children to private schools, and since 2011 the number of native Emirati students in GEMS schools has risen faster than any other nationality. All told, approximately 90% of students in Dubai are in private schools, and with rapidly increasing population, private-school enrolment in Dubai doubled in the decade from 2003 to 2013.
Although new private schools in Dubai can begin by charging whatever fees they choose, school-fee increases are controlled, capped, and sometimes frozen, by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which began rating schools and regulating fee increases accordingly in 2008. This places pressures on the lowest-cost existing schools, which face teacher losses to the new more profitable schools, and an inability to keep pace with inflation and rising rents, salaries, utilities, and facilities maintenance and repairs. In late 2012 GEMS announced the projected June 2014 closure of Westminster School, Dubai, citing fee-increase caps which prevented it from maintaining educational standards and performing educational and infrastructure improvements. After a campaign by parents and students to keep the school open, GEMS announced in May 2013 that the school would remain open.
GEMS schools overall in the UAE have earned a reputation for high-quality academic outcomes, routinely outscoring national testing averages and out-performing originating counterparts in official international curricula examinations. Nearly all students continue on to university, including to many of the world's top universities.
In the performing arts, GEMS Education in the UAE has held an annual nationwide pre-teen singing competition, Best of the Best, since 2008. A GEMS-school short film competition for GEMS student filmmakers, GEMS Student Voice, has been held yearly in Dubai since 2013. In 2015, by invitation, the students of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai performed their rock-opera version of Shakuntala at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
GEMS UAE has promoted innovation both within the UAE and also worldwide. In 2012 GEMS in the UAE partnered with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia for a three-day Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp hosted at GEMS Wellington International School in Dubai. The event brought students from around the world together to design innovative solutions to local problems, and included meetings with a variety civic leaders. GEMS also provides teacher training for over 70 government schools in Abu Dhabi.
In keeping up with technological advances, in 2009 GEMS in the UAE implemented a customized virtual learning environment (VLE) across its schools; and in 2013 GEMS began installing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) wireless system in all of its schools in the UAE. In February 2015 GEMS launched the Blended Learning Plaza, housed at its GEMS Wellington Academy–Silicon Oasis, located in Dubai's Silicon Oasis; the facility provides the latest technology in education, enabling collaborative, online, and blended learning opportunities.
GEMS Education in the UAE has partnered with Microsoft in several ways. In 2011 Microsoft launched its "Innovate, Teach, Inspire" programme in GEMS schools in the UAE; the programme trains GEMS teachers in the UAE on several Microsoft tools, including Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Blogging, and SkyDrive. Beginning in early 2015 Microsoft granted all GEMS students in the UAE free full access to Office 365 Pro Plus, which includes applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Outlook, Lync, and InfoPath, and allows students to run Office on up to five machines and mobile devices across multiple platforms. Microsoft also offered students a series of seminars and online workshops in the various Office 365 Pro Plus technologies.
In December 2015 GEMS Education and the UAE Ministry of Education launched an annual UAE National Teacher Prize. The winner receives AED1 million, and the 21 top nominees train outside the country at some of the best educational institutions in the world. Winners of the prize, now called the Emirates Innovative Teacher Award, are announced annually in February at the Government Summit.
Selected individual schools
GEMS World Academy in Dubai, which opened in 2008, is the company's flagship school, and is the most expensive school in Dubai. An International Baccalaureate school, its enrolment consists of approximately 2,000 students from more than 80 nationalities. It has a custom-designed planetarium; facilities for arts, sciences, and languages; a robotics lab; TV, radio, and recording studios; and music rooms with Steinway pianos. Its sports facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, football field, running track, tennis courts, squash courts, skating park, gymnasium, and sports hall with retractable seating. It also has a 650-seat auditorium; an amphitheatre; cafés and a roof-top garden; and on-site breakfast or afternoon clubs for parents to meet teachers.
Our Own English High School in Dubai, now exclusively for girls, has an enrolment of 10,000 and tuition that is approximately one-tenth that of GEMS World Academy, while still maintaining academic excellence. It is the world's largest single-location girls school, offers an Indian curriculum, and has a waiting list of several thousand.
GEMS American Academy, Abu Dhabi was opened in 2011 by Bill Clinton. In September 2013 the school hosted basketball star Kobe Bryant for a basketball skills clinic for selected students, as part of the Kobe Bryant Health and Fitness Weekend in the UAE, co-sponsored by GEMS Education; the clinic was also streamed live to GEMS World Academy in Dubai. In 2015 a team of three students from the school competed at New York University's annual Digital Forensics Competition, along with 11 other teams chosen from over 800 teams around the world.
In 2012 Cambridge International School, Dubai was named by Microsoft as one of the Innovative Pathfinder Schools from around the world, and it is the only school in the UAE to be thus recognised. In 2015 the school, which follows the British curriculum, was recognized as the top school for Arabic in Dubai, in the Education Perfect global language-learning competition's second year to include Dubai.
In September 2014 GEMS opened GEMS Sports Academy, which is a two-year full-time education within a professional sports-academy development programme, in Dubai. The sports academy is initially hosted at GEMS Wellington Academy–Silicon Oasis, and offers a two-year International Baccalaureate diploma programme with professional athletics training.
Elsewhere in MENA
In 2010 GEMS took over the management of Kingdom Schools, a subsidiary of Kingdom Holding Company, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two school campuses, one for boys and one for girls, cover kindergarten through high school and were established in 2000. The school caters to affluent mainly Saudi families, and teaches a bilingual English-Arabic and international curriculum. It contains a number of sports and recreation facilities, science and language labs, and libraries, and includes internet and technological access for each student. In 2012 the school was recognized for being eco-friendly, and for being the first school in Saudi Arabia to adopt basic sustainability concepts.
In September 2012 GEMS opened The World Academy in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Saudi Arabia. The academy, which covers kindergarten through high school, is the new city's first school. It offers the International American curriculum leading to International Baccalaureate certification, and was designed to meet international educational standards in the context of Saudi Arabian cultural values. Its facilities, curriculum, and library feature current electronic devices and accessibility, and it contains an English language center for improving English skills. In 2014 construction began to expand the school and add science labs and new design and technology facilities.
In Egypt, GEMS opened Windrose Academy in Cairo in 2013, offering a blended curriculum focused on the National Curriculum of England. GEMS Academy–Alexandria opened in 2014, with an English and French curriculum.
The company opened its first school in Qatar, GEMS American Academy, in September 2014. The school is located in Al Wakrah, and offers an American curriculum based around the United States Common Core State Standards, while still valuing the Islamic faith and Qatar’s language, traditions, history, and culture. It provides after-school activities including Spanish club, cultural dance, choir, robotics, and yoga. It opened initially for kindergarten through grade 5, with plans to subsequently expand through high school.
In the fall of 2015 GEMS opened a school featuring the English National Curriculum in Qatar. The school, GEMS Wellington School–Qatar, is located in Al Wakrah and opened with pre-school through grade 6, with plans to expand through high school in later years.
GEMS in the United Kingdom
GEMS acquired and opened schools in England beginning in 2003. Most of its schools in the UK are independent coeducational day schools.
In the fall of 2003 it acquired Sherborne House in Hampshire – a school for ages 3–11 that was founded in 1933. It is sited on a four-acre campus, and in 2013 a new block of classrooms was added. The school offers scholarships in academic subjects, art, sport, and music, and has a special needs provisions unit. In 2014 the school received the Artsmark Gold award designation from Arts Council England.
Also in the fall of 2003 GEMS acquired Bury Lawn School in Milton Keynes, northwest of London. The school had been founded in 1970 and was moved to its current site in 1987, and it caters to ages 3–18. In 2005, parents complained publicly following the departure of the fourth head teacher in two years; some parents had also objected to the increase in class sizes from 18 to 24 after GEMS acquired the school. GEMS subsequently withdrew from plans to sponsor two academies, or state-funded independent schools, in Milton Keynes.
At Bury Lawn GEMS added a new sports hall, music room, dance and drama studio, ICT lab, and mathematics department in 2004, and in 2006 it refurbished the science department and added four new labs. In September 2011 the school was renamed after urban designer Melvin M. Webber, who was responsible for Milton Keynes' unique city layout, and it became the Webber Independent School, with a new head teacher and a new focus. In 2014 Webber Independent was academically the best-performing school in Milton Keynes in GCSEs, and in 2015 it increased its scores despite nationwide downward trends in GCSE results. In A levels, Webber Independent was also the top-performing school in Milton Keynes from 2014–15.
In 2004 GEMS acquired the site for Sherfield School – the historic estate Sherfield Manor in Hampshire, set on more than 70 acres. The site had previously been a girls' boarding school, North Foreland Lodge, since 1947. GEMS started Sherfield School as a coeducational day school, and added boarding facilities in 2010 and 2015, including residential buildings for students with autism and severe learning disabilities. The school is GEMS' flagship "premium" school in the UK, with fees higher than its mid-range schools. It includes extensive sports grounds, facilities, and training; dance training; and an art gallery and artist-in-residence. The school covers ages 3 months to 18 years, and is an International Baccalaureate school.
In 2004 GEMS also acquired The Hampshire School, Chelsea in Chelsea, London. The school was founded by June Hampshire in Surrey in 1928, and moved to London in 1933. It is an independent co-educational day school for children between the ages of 3 and 13, and since 2009 has been housed in the former historic Chelsea Library, a listed building.
GEMS had acquired The Hampshire School, Chelsea from Nord Anglia Education. At that time in 2004 GEMS acquired a total of 10 schools, seven of them in northern England, from Nord Anglia, which had re-focused on its nursery-school business. In 2007 GEMS announced the sale of Kingswood College in Lancashire to developers, citing the high costs of maintaining its premises, Scarisbrick Hall, a historic 19th-century Grade I listed building; local supporters purchased it and kept it open as a school. By July 2013 GEMS had sold all of its schools in the north of England. After class sizes dropped to less than half, GEMS also sold Bolitho School in Penzance in 2015; GEMS had taken over the school in 2010 when it was in receivership and when pupil numbers were already in decline.
In 2013 GEMS set up GEMS Learning Trust, an education charity with academy-sponsorship status approved by the Department for Education, and established to run no-fee free schools and academies in the UK. It is sponsored by GEMS Education Solutions, the public-sector management and delivery arm of GEMS Education. Its Twickenham Primary Academy opened in September 2015 in Twickenham, Richmond upon Thames, London; beginning with Reception classes it caters to children ages 4 to 11. Its Didcot Primary Academy, for nursery to age 11, opened in September 2016 in Didcot, Oxfordshire in a new development designed to accommodate the town's expanding population.
GEMS in India
GEMS' Cambridge International School in Dasuya in Punjab opened in 2006. The tutelage spans from nursery through grade 12, and the school offers Indian (CBSE) and British (IGCSE) curriculums. Beginning as a co-educational day school, in 2010 it added a boys' hostel for boarders. The school is on an 8-acre campus and includes a variety of science, ICT, sports, and extra-curricular facilities. Education World ranks the school No. 1 in Hoshiarpur, No. 3 in the state of Punjab, and No. 35 in India as of 2015. At the 2015 World Education Summit, the school won the prize for Innovation in Teaching Pedagogy.
The GEMS Cambridge International School in Hoshiarpur, Punjab opened in 2008. It is a day cum residential school and offers the CBSE and IGCSE curriculums. The campus is 15 acres and includes labs for sciences and ICT, studios for arts and performing arts, and indoor and outdoor sports areas and swimming pool. A team of students from the school and from GEMS Cambridge International School in Batala were selected to perform bhangra dance at the cultural celebrations at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In 2013 cricketer Harbhajan Singh inaugurated his Institute of Cricket at the school.
GEMS International School in Gurgaon in the New Delhi area was launched in April 2010. The school, which accepts toddlers through grade 12, has a five-acre campus, offers the CBSE curriculum, and is a day-boarding school. All classrooms have Smart Boards and LCD screens. Sports facilities include basketball court, tennis court, football field, skating rink, and cricket field. The school has science labs, a mathematics lab, a language lab, and ICT labs. Special facilities include a dance room, music room, art & craft room, and video conferencing room. In the off-season a summer camp is available with a variety of activities for 3- to 16-year-olds, including non–GEMs students.
GEMS Akademia International School in Kolkata opened in April 2011. The school has a 20-acre campus, and offers day, day-boarding, and residential options. As of 2015, the school is ranked No. 1 in Kolkata, No. 3 in the state of West Bengal, and No. 63 in India by Education World. It comprises nursery through grade 12, and teaches the CIE and CISCE curriculums. Facilities include labs for multiple sciences, mathematics, languages, and computers; arts and performing arts facilities; and a variety of indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
GEMS Cambridge International School in Batala, Punjab opened in 2011. It offers a dual curriculum of either Indian (CBSE) or British (CIE) options. Facilities include science labs, mathematics lab, computer science lab, swimming pool, indoor sports courts, dance studios, and music rooms. As of 2015 the school caters to play-school through year 7, with day and day-boarding options.
GEMS Modern Academy in Gurgaon in the New Delhi area opened in 2014. It is a day and boarding facility for children from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It is a CBSE school with multiple facilities for arts, sports, sciences, technology, and academics on a five-acre campus. It also offers a summer camp for sports, fitness, arts, and other activities.
GEMS in sub-Saharan Africa
GEMS opened its first school in sub-Saharan Africa in Kenya – GEMS Cambridge International School in Nairobi – in September 2012. The school's capacity is 2,000 students, including boarders, from kindergarten through year 13. It offers the British curriculum, and IGCSE exams as well as British-style A-levels for graduates. In 2014, a 6-lane, 400-metre tartan track was completed on the school grounds, to aid young athletes; it also allows Kenya's elite athletes to train in their speed work. The school's numerous sports facilities also include hockey fields and basketball and tennis courts.
In August 2015, the GEMS Cambridge International School in Nairobi launched the Lego Education Innovation Studio, a $55,000 facility and program in partnership with Lego Education that teaches and strengthens Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Literacy at all age levels, and encourages critical thinking, creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and collaboration. The curriculum and equipment provide a hands-on learning approach that actively involves students in their own learning process.
GEMS Cambridge International School in Uganda opened in September 2013, in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala. It serves pupils ages 3 to 18, with the British curriculum geared toward IGCSE, AS-level, and A-level qualifications. The school also encourages an appreciation of Ugandan culture and giving back to the local community. In 2015 the Uganda Olympic Committee signed a partnership with the school, to incorporate Olympic studies and training as part of the school's physical education curriculum. The school's sports facilities also provide training grounds for a variety of national sports teams and hosting grounds for competitions.
GEMS in the United States
In the fall of 2012 GEMS Education opened its first school in the United States, Little GEMS International-Chicago, a pre-school in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. It is an upscale preschool, and operates extended hours. It accepts ages six weeks to five years, and in addition to personal, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual development, children are exposed to world languages and digital literacy at an early age.
Also in Chicago, the company opened GEMS World Academy-Chicago in September 2014. It is an International Baccalaureate school, and is located in Chicago's Lakeshore East development. The preschool to eighth grade building opened in 2014, and garnered much attention for its eye-catching architecture accented with color. An upper school for grades nine through 12 is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. The school offers a global education and provides links with students around the world. Students receive laptops and specially equipped iPads, which are used particularly in weekly field studies around Chicago.
In 2014 GEMS World Academy-Chicago instituted the citywide $50,000 GEMS Education Chicago Teacher Award. The inaugural winner, in June 2014, was Matthew Cunningham, a teacher at Frederic Chopin Elementary School in Ukrainian Village in Chicago's West Side.
In 2013 GEMS Education sought to find a location to build a school on the Upper East Side of New York City; however proceedings were eventually abandoned amidst litigation relating to property contracts.
In the early 2010s GEMS' consultancy arm, GEMS Education Solutions, partnered in managing some U.S. schools. In 2009 Manny Rivera, at the time CEO of GEMS Education Solutions and GEMS Americas, formed Global Partnership Schools with former New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew. Global Partnership Schools, in partnership with GEMS Education Solutions, and financed by newly available three-year federal School Improvement Grants (SIG), managed some previously failing schools in the U.S. beginning in 2010. Results, as with many SIG recipients from 2010–2012, were mixed; in August 2012 the company declined to renew its contract with one school district. The combined partnership company also sponsored two new charter schools in Ohio called Believe to Achieve Academies beginning in the fall of 2012; they closed in the spring of 2014 due to inability to meet enrollment goals.
GEMS in Europe
GEMS' first school in continental Europe is the GEMS World Academy Switzerland, located in Etoy, Switzerland in the Lake Geneva area between Geneva and Lausanne. The school opened in the fall of 2013 for students from pre-school through grade 12, and up to 1,000 students. The school, which is an English-speaking school with an added strong emphasis on French, caters to the international populace of the area, as well as to local Swiss families seeking an international education for their children. The upscale school also offers merit-based scholarships of 25% to 100% tuition reimbursement for local students.
GEMS World Academy-Etoy is an International Baccalaureate school, and includes specialised facilities such as a World Language Learning Centre, a large international and high-tech library, radio and TV studios, a music centre, and a dyslexia support center. Many of the facilities are also open to the public. Its new-construction sports facilities, which opened in May 2015, include a 25-meter swimming pool, a large multi-sport court for basketball, netball, handball, badminton, football, etc., a climbing wall, a fitness room, and a dance studio, and these are available for use by local groups and businesses outside of school hours. The school aims to distinguish itself as providing a holistic, innovative education focused on forming global citizens with an international vision and enhanced problem-solving skills.
In November 2013 GEMS Education acquired its first school in France, Ecole des Roches, a prestigious 60-acre international boarding school founded in 1899 in Normandy. The top-tier school, for students age 6 to 19, caters to a clientele from over 100 countries. GEMS invested €5 million for a five-year large-scale expansion, redevelopment, and modernization of the school, making additions including new class buildings and dormitories, a school restaurant, a large entertainment auditorium featuring a theatre with a symphony orchestra pit, a music studio, and a large sports complex. The sports complex includes an Olympic swimming pool, ice rinks, 14 tennis courts, numerous sports fields for football, rugby, and squash, martial arts studios, and karting tracks; and a rebuild of the school's runway to re-open its flight training. GEMS made the primary school all-digital, added new language courses, and added France's first International Baccalaureate curriculum; Ecole des Roches now offers a combination of the British and French curriculums.
GEMS announced an intention to double or triple Ecole des Roches's 400-student boarding and day enrolment over five years. 2014 was the first year of GEMS operation of the school, and as of 2015, it also offers French immersion courses for international students during the summer, French-immersion exchange programmes throughout the year, and summer English courses.
GEMS in Southeast Asia
In September 2014 the company opened GEMS World Academy Singapore, its first school in Southeast Asia. It has an international curriculum, and is an International Baccalaureate school, offering the Cambridge International curriculum CIE/IGCSE as well. The school's $220-million campus is projected to be fully completed by 2017, when it will be able to take in up to 3,000 students aged three to 18.
The school focuses on all-round development, including language development and commitment to community and service. All pupils up to age 11 are provided with a violin or cello, there are sound-proof studios for one-on-one music lessons, and there are also multiple orchestra groups and bands. Sports facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, all-weather playing field, multi-purpose gym, and climbing wall. The school has audio and film recording studios, and a 750-seat auditorium and a planetarium are scheduled to be completed by 2017. Language studies in this multilingual location include ESL support for non-native English speakers, 30 minutes daily of Chinese for students under age 6, and after that continued study of either Chinese, Spanish, or French. The school fosters leadership skills and innovative thinking; an adapted Reggio Emilia approach is used for younger students, and secondary-school students assist teachers with arts, drama, music, and special presentations and celebrations.
In September 2015, GEMS opened GEMS International School Pearl City, in Penang, Malaysia. The school is for ages three to 18, and follows the British National Curriculum leading to the IGCSE/CIE and AS/A-level qualifications. It also accommodates the Malaysian Education Ministry guidelines and teaches Malaysian language, Mandarin, Malaysian social studies, and Islamic and moral studies. It is the first international school in Mainland Penang. Facilities include a theatre, music and art rooms, a dance studio, sport halls, a football field, swimming pools, and basketball courts. The school plans to grow to 1,500 students within five years, eventually accommodating 3,000 students.
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