GEMS United Indian School, Baniyas West
• GEMS flagship school in the Indian CBSE sector
• A decade in planning promises a school that should deliver from Day 1
• A pioneering first step solution to the closure of Villa schools with the capacity to make a serious contribution to meeting demand for places
• Good level of facilities designed around meeting academic, cultural, sporting and performing arts whole-child need
• Value fees which come as close as possible to protecting affordability whilst ensuring solid educational provision for parents set on a CBSE education
• A benchmark first step to ending over-crowding as an acceptable norm within the Indian sector
• Continuity of leadership, with personal and professional investment in the school succeeding
• Careful phased launch of post-16 provision and full capacity schooling at all phases
• Welcome scholarship availability for female applicants
• Facilities are inevitably compromised at this price point
• Levels of staff turnover and quality of teacher provision untested as for any new school
• Demand for places will heavily outstrip supply and many parents and children will be left disappointed
• Expected teething problems of any new school
• Bursary and scholarship provision could go much further across the whole school sector
GEMS Education claim United Indian School [UIS] will be “the finest CBSE curriculum school in Abu Dhabi”. This is no small claim for a new school in the emirate with an (at capacity population) of close to 4,000 students.
Tracing its roots to the two-villa based “Our Own English High School” which opened in the capital in 1990, the history of UIS is closely bound was the dynamics of an exponentially growing market for Indian education provision in which demand by 2010 more than doubled the number of available places.
This, in combination with ADEC’s (laudable) closure of outdated Villa schools (the last six Indian villa schools closed in 2015) has created a considerable shortfall in the provision of Indian curriculum based education – to such an extent that some parents returned their children to India simply in order to guarantee their child’s ongoing studies.
The bottleneck for new Indian curriculum schools – as opposed to UK or US based schools – is very simply complexity and fees. Indian schools are more complex to run and to get right than their counterpart premium priced UK/US schools because fees have to be lower to be affordable. That requires better economies of scale for a similar ROI – which means the school needs to be bigger. Bigger is inevitably more complex.
GEMS promises to deliver the best available CBSE education in the capital, and in a school with excellent facilities, and at a value fee level. Something always has to give… and this is an interesting balance of give and take between size, fees and the overall quality of offering.
A 4,000 capacity school like GEMs United Indian is 3-4 times the size of many UK curricula based schools – but about one-fifth of the biggest Indian curriculum based schools in the emirates. To balance the equation fees are about one-fifth of tier 1 premium (Dubai) schools, but 3-4 times the most accessible CBSE schools.
The school’s change of name does not mean the school has lost its leadership. George Mathew, the Founding Principal, continues in his role from “Our School” and it is indicative of his very clear sense of purpose that the school motto “Lead Kindly Light” comes with him from the original school.
Mr Matthew roots his leadership in the competing philosophies of Bloom and Dewey, one rooted in tradition, the other on discovery – and the approach translates into GEMS heavy investment in technology that provides a balance to the textbook rote learning that he sees as once dominating.
GEMS, with the new school, could have started with a blank slate, but Mr Mathew has been an integral part of the building of UIS. Facilities include a beautifully designed central playing field, visible from all phases of the school, that structurally places sport at the heart of school life, as well as a secondary rooftop multi-purpose pitch which between them will allow children to access more than 15 individual sports.
The landmark central playing fields also double as athletics tracks and training grounds. The architectural design drops two enclosed light-well courtyards into each of the three main teaching blocks to provide social spaces and flow between lessons.
Digital labs across each block; a landmark performing arts centre and auditorium, shaded play areas, curriculum specific technology centres and central library provide facilities designed to bridge the demands of academic, sporting, digital and performing arts development.
There are inevitable compromises at this fee level. You will not find the advanced robotics labs (GEMS is developing notable partnerships with LEGO Education elsewhere), Olympic competition pools or simply the empty spaces that define the new Tier 1 premiums, but, at this level, GEMS’ major first challenge is to provide a first class education, with manageable and effective class sizes and a complete end to the over-crowding that has blighted the sector as a whole.
UIS advertises limited scholarships under The Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Award for Excellence programme. The awards are made under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT). Awards are only available to GEMS female students across the Middle East.
The award offers each recipient a full year scholarship at their GEMS school and applicants are invited from female students who have proven themselves as global citizens; have exhibited outstanding leadership qualities; have obtained exceptional academic achievements, and who have demonstrated commitment to the communities in which they live.
Our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has long campaigned for the growth in scholarship and bursary provision and it is laudable that GEMS is beginning to make some progress in this area in which the Emirates’ schools as a whole perform poorly in an international context.
GEMS investment in UIS, suggest prospective parents should have confidence in GEMS meeting its ambition to be the new benchmark for outstanding CBSE provision in the capital. However some patience will be required: all new schools require time to develop and grow to capacity.
GEMS Indian United School is now taking registrations for students from KG1 to Grade 10 for the 2016-2017 academic year. Fees range from 9,000 AED at KG1 to 15,300 AED at KKG10.
Prospective parents should note that, as a school in phased launch, scoring is predictive and conservative, based on independent whichschooladvisor data, feedback from stakeholders, published school information, Benchmarking of planned curriculum, facility and teacher provision against sector averages for aligned fees and the assumption that actual provision will match or exceed eventual delivery.Go to the NEWS STORY on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Prvate, for profit
Forthcoming April 2016
YEAR 1: 10,800
YEAR 2: 10,800
YEAR 3: 10,800
YEAR 4: 10,800
YEAR 5: 10,800
YEAR 6: 12,600
YEAR 7: 12,600
YEAR 8: 12,600
YEAR 9: 15,300
YEAR 10: 15,300
YEAR 11: On-stream 2017-18
YEAR 12: On-stream 2018-19
YEAR 13: On-stream 2019-20
National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi
Central Board of Secondary Education [CBSE]
Not published [WSA predicted High]
Will open with 1500+ students from launch 2016-17
Baniyas West, Abu Dhabi
Indian [largest nationality]