GEMS Modern Academy, Nad Al Sheba 3
• Worldwide pioneer in the provision of a dual IB and ICSCE school
• Top flight academics
• Class leading Arabic area subject provision within the non-Arabic school sector
• Resilient, driven Principal
• Excellent facilities across arts, sport and core teaching areas
• Low staff turnover and excellent, class leading high ratio of teacher: student provision
• Transparency: Since 2013 GEMS has ceased publishing examination data, limiting the ability of prospective and existing parents to benchmark academic provision. GEMS Modern has resisted this and published examinations data in full. This matches its excellent overall provision of information for both existing and prospective parents.
• Large schools are not for all children
• Residual weaknesses in Arabic area and SEN provision
• Post 16 IB Diploma crossover provision from CISCE is untested
• Poor comparative teacher salary levels, though this has not resulted in high levels of teacher turnover
• Mid-range pricing - although expensive relatively for an Indian family focused school
Updated February 2017
“The mark of a progressive society is that it is an inclusive one.” Nargish Khambatta, Principal, GEMS Modern Academy
GEMS Dubai Modern Academy is an outstanding school – and now a pioneering one. The school took the extremely bold step of applying for, and achieving, International Baccalaureate status (teaching of the IB Diploma began in 2014), a high risk, trailblazing strategy for an outstanding school already punching above its weight in an Indian, hitherto ICSCE-only curriculum school.
So radically broadening the choice of post 16 options to include the International Baccalaureate option is a risk; the Geneva imported IB syllabus is based on a completely different pedagogical approach; teaching methodologies; academic baseline and skills; and outcomes. The latter include Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS (creativity, Action and Service) elements that do not sit easily with the ICSCE, despite its existing elements of skill development (rather than rote learning) and independent research that are less present in the CBSE alternative Indian curriculum offered by many Indian schools in the Emirate.
It is far too early to measure its success but indicative of the challenges is the introduction by the school in 2015 of an annual 3-month long highly intensive “Bridge Programme”, run between April to June, for all Modern students who opt to take the IB Diploma Programme in Grade 11. The Bridge Programme proved necessary to ensure that students could manage the very different practices and methodologies expected by IB including more advanced independent research skills, mathematical and statistical training; critical thinking and data interpretation skills, research methodologies, an introduction to the Theory of Knowledge and warnings about plagiarism.
This said, the governing body of the International baccalaureate does not grant IB status easily; its securing by GEMS speaks volumes about the school’s already outstanding capacity to educate.
GEMS Dubai Modern Academy has one of the lowest staff turnover rates of any school in Dubai (7% – 11%) and an exceptional student:teacher ratio (1:17). Salaries (the single highest cost base for any school) for Indian teachers are low/poor, and with a rapidly increasing population of some 3700 students GEMS has the financial might to invest in IB without placing student education at risk. The rewards on offer for students, particularly but not exclusively in providing a pathway for the Gifted and Talented [G&T], are great – if GEMS can pull it off. On historical evidence at this school, notwithstanding the challenge, you’d have to think carefully to bet against it.
Elsewhere, the 2014-15 KHDA inspection award of Outstanding at least matches that awarded to any international school in the Emirate. In the Arabic syllabus, the area where British schools struggle, Dubai Modern has edged ahead, securing a “Good” rating across the board where even the best British schools struggle for an acceptable rating. In its one core area of weakness, Special Educational Needs [SEN] provision, criticism is very muted. We expect rapid changes that will address, and resolve, the issues raised.
The new Principal, Nargish Khambatta, now in her second year, was appointed from within the school. Rising up the ranks from Deputy Principal, she is by all accounts driven, respected, a people manager, an internationalist and very gifted in driving through change. It was a brave choice by GEMS, but a good one. She is also well known for her conviction that Special Educational Needs [SEN] needs to be better addressed in schools, high up on the agenda of the KHDA, and her insistence with the ICSE to effect changes to its examination procedure so that it better reflected the needs of a gifted child with cerebral palsy paid dividends, securing a high 69% pass for a child that might otherwise have slipped through the net.
School facilities are tier 1 and exceed the provision you would expect from the fees, notwithstanding the size of the school. The school has an imposing façade that is matched by top drawer facility provision including an outstanding swimming pool, tennis courts, fully integrated fibre optic based IT throughout the school, library and a stylish area developed specifically for parents designed to emphasise the importance placed by the school on parental partnership and open, two way channels of communication. One of few compromises lies in the “Bring Your Own Device” [BYOD] approach to technology – the school simply cannot afford to provide each child with an IPAD or laptop within the limits of such a low fee structure. With a DHS 60,000 ceiling even for IB provision, GEMS Modern offers seriously good value for parents.
It is difficult to overstate the degree to which GEMS Modern meets, exceeds and deserves its definition of an Outstanding school within the Dubai educational system. Trailblazing, risk taking, successful for its children; a hugely impressive school across the board. GEMS Modern leadership, teaching staff, and students, should all be very proud. Extraordinary is not a word we use often but in this case it is apt.
GEMS Modern Academy was awarded Good School status, its highest award, in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.
YEAR 1: 35,177
YEAR 2: 35,177
YEAR 3: 37,091
YEAR 4: 37,091
YEAR 5: 39,124
YEAR 6: 39,124
YEAR 7: 39,124
YEAR 8: 39,124
YEAR 9: 41,701
YEAR 10: 41,701
YEAR 11: 46,054
YEAR 12: 46,054 / 60,000 IB Diploma
YEAR 13: NA / 60,000 IB Diploma
International Baccalaureate (Diploma)
Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations [CISCE]
Not published (High)
Nad Al Sheba 3, Dubai
Indian (largest nationality)
(1) Emirati: 0
(2) SEND: 307
+9714 326 3339