Image Credit: Supplied

This year’s graduates at GEMS World Academy – Dubai (GWA) achieved an impressive average IB Diploma Programme point score of 34.2, significantly above the global average of 31.98. The school also recorded a 100 per cent pass rate, with two students awarded a near-perfect 44 points out of 45.

Of the graduating cohort, 95 per cent were accepted into their first-choice universities, including prestigious institutions in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and the US.

Karen Nyborg, Secondary Assistant Principal at GEMS World Academy – Dubai, says the achievements represent a new height in standards at the school during an exam year: “We have nine students who have achieved 40 points and above and, in terms of our school’s historical data, this is the best set of results we’ve had.”

Karen Nyborg, Secondary Assistant Principal at GEMS World Academy – Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Nyborg says the IB qualification is viewed especially favourably by top global universities and that many children have benefited from the school’s inclusive admission policy. “We are a school that allows all students to take the full Diploma Programme. This year, this meant that 85 per cent opted for the Diploma Programme, with 100 per cent of students successfully completing it.

“The IB curriculum is very rigorous and challenges our students in a variety of specialisms at a very high level. Students can receive university credits and take advantage of a wider course selection than other curriculums. In our school, for example, there are eight different science qualifications. Our students can study sports science and exercise. They can take design or computer science and they can also study environmental systems in societies as well as traditional subjects such as biology and chemistry. So, we allow students to specialise if they have a particular passion.”

She refers to the school’s programme for elite athletes as an example where young learners are able to follow specific interests to fulfil their career ambitions, such as studying kinesiology or sports psychology.

A business-minded, entrepreneurial approach

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While the school is built on a philosophy of nurturing and raising children’s potential, it also places great emphasis on developing business skills and preparing students for the world of work. “We are the GEMS Centre of Excellence for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise and Social Impact,” says Nyborg.

“Business is one of the largest departments in our school and students participate in mentorship programmes with CEOs and CFOs. We have business competitions, guest speakers and marketing events, so we try to expand the IB experience to enhance the journey for students.”

Nyborg advocates the IB curriculum and points out several examples of its benefits, including how it prepares pupils for future academic success. “The IB curriculum is one of the fastest-growing curriculums in the world. In the United States, for instance, it’s by far the fastest-growing curriculum. It is a globally recognised, rigorous education that universities are eager to accept.

“Research comparing the IB programme to other curriculums, such as the English curriculum, concludes that IB students are far more successful at university. They have higher rates of completion of their programmes and higher rates of academic success and a lot of that has to do with developing research skills, collaboration skills and self-management.”

Learning beyond the classroom

Dean Winders, Assistant Principal – Primary Personal Development, Welfare and Behaviour at GEMS World Academy – Dubai, is the person behind the school’s Week Without Walls initiative. The scheme, open to all pupils in grades six to 12, has been running for 12 years. It allows students to complement their IB qualifications with valuable real-world experiences both in the UAE and further afield.

Dean Winders, Assistant Principal – Primary Personal Development, Welfare and Behaviour at GEMS World Academy – Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

“The philosophy behind the Week Without Walls concept is giving students experiences that will help them become global citizens,” he says.

“They get to meet people from the wider world and interact with different people in different situations. It also allows them to become involved in changing and improving people’s lives. For example, there is a trip to Cambodia planned, where our students will get involved in improving the structure of school in a deprived area. We work with Camps International, who are very experienced in these areas. We have also organised visits to Thailand and Borneo.”

He says Week Without Walls can enhance pupils’ achievements within the structure of the curriculum. “Part of the IB curriculum involves CAS, which stands for Creativity, Activity and Service, and SA which stands for Service as Action. There are many ways for children to access it. For example, they can access it locally by doing services within schools. As part of Week Without Walls, we offer teaching assistant services or they can work for sustainability organisations such as Goumbook.

“I believe such experiences ground our children, allowing them to realise that they’re in a unique situation where they have this fantastic school, and it helps them understand that not everyone in the world has the opportunities of a world-class education.”

While GEMS World Academy – Dubai students have this year once again achieved remarkable results, particularly following the disruption caused by the pandemic, Nyborg believes that the school’s global and supportive approach to education is a key factor. “The reason for our growing success is the staff we employ. We undertake a truly global recruitment effort and our results come from the individuals who are teaching in the classroom. We also have an individualised intervention programme, so when a student is slipping, we provide them with extra support when they need it, and we change the approaches to teaching to ensure they reach their full potential as a learner.”

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