10 ELITE SCHOLARSHIPS IN 2018

Dubai 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education, on providing quality education to Dubai, innovation, and local partnerships.

What is GEMS Education and what is your reach in Dubai?

We are the largest education provider in the world and, in Dubai, 48% of our schools are rated very good and outstanding compared to the market average of 21% as per the School Inspection Reports by the Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA). In Dubai, we continue to grow and expand and, currently, we have 124,000 students across 31 schools and 7,400 teachers among our 18,000 employees. We are a multi-price-point and multi-curricular group, which is critical in this market, offering the American, British, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Indian school systems. We cater to the ambition and aspiration of all demographics in any country that we operate in and deliver quality education for all.

What is the current situation in Dubai in terms of education?

Dubai is the best example globally of a K-12 education market, with the majority of schools in this system represented by the private sector. Dubai offers choice and diversity that you do not see in other markets; elsewhere there is the predominance of a homogenous public education system that does not cater to the ambition and aspirations of the people. In other markets, typically, you see expensive schools that are inaccessible to most of the population or charitable institutions that are not sustainable. In Dubai, you have choice for families with annual fees as low as USD2,000 to as high as USD35,000 per year. Due to the exceptional education system in place, parents are able to send children to MIT or Harvard from across this wide range of school portfolios, with the high quality of education their children gain. Consistency of student qualifications, character development and educational outcomes are evident across our portfolio. Today, the UAE is the largest market in the world for private K-12 international schools and is two and a half times the size of the same market in China. The top-five cities in the world in terms of private K-12 enrolment are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Sharjah.

How is GEMS increasingly integrating innovation into its education programs?

At GEMS Education, the idea of innovation and technology has always been an important part of our approach. When I talk about innovation and technology, it is less about hardware and software and more about creating an ecosystem within our schools that give students the ability to dream and make their dreams a reality. That is what our schools are about; we enable our students to unleash their true potential through innovation and technology.

In what ways does GEMS assist students in realizing their ambitions?

In 2018, GEMS Education launched elite scholarships through which 10 students will receive full funding to 10 of the best universities around the world. We are conscious that families and parents are price sensitive, especially given the high cost of education abroad. We have set up a UniConnect Programme of partner universities that come in and provide scholarships for our students. At last count, we recorded over AED750 million worth of commitments from partner universities. In 2018, 400 pupils benefited from university scholarships, which was only possible due to our size and our scale that we leverage for the benefit of our students.

What initiatives do you have to give back to children who would not usually be able to receive this sort of education?

To date, over 4,000 students received scholarships and concessions within the GEMS network. We support the government on a number of initiatives, such as Dubai Cares, which is a major education-non-profit relationship, as well as His Highness' Scholarship, which supports local Emirati students. GEMS purpose and mission is to provide quality education to every student and learner no matter where they are in the world. We have great projects in Ghana in collaboration with the UK Development Agency, and we have had an incredible impact so far. Moreover, GEMS Education has set up a central studio in Accra and is serving rural village schools across Ghana. Every day, we have expert teachers teaching 3,500 Ghanaian girls three subjects a day; English, mathematics, in addition to a role modeling empowerment programme. It started with 3,500 girls and has now reached more than 8,000.