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GEMS Education officially marked the launch of its five pioneering Centres of Excellence designed to promote bespoke technological and digital learning and create unique student pathways and experiential learning around emerging industries by bringing together an entire ecosystem of schools, higher education and industry partners. Image Credit:

Dubai: School students should be allowed access to universities and workplaces for advanced learning and job experience before graduating from high school, officials said in Dubai on Monday.

Their comments came during the launch of the ‘Centres of Excellence’ programme of GEMS Education, which will see GEMS school students earn credentials and qualifications from partner universities and employers.

GEMS owns and operates 56 schools and educates over 130,000 students in the region.

‘Reframe education’

At Monday’s event, guest of honour Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said there is a need to “reframe educational systems”.

“In the world in which we were born, education was framed around geographies and disciplines, but today the world operates at intersections, and I believe that’s where the power of education actually thrives,” she added.

Al Hashimy said the launch of the GEMS programme is an example of “a really powerful reflection of the Expo theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.”

‘Education failing youth’

Dr Imad Y. Hoballah, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, American University in Dubai, a partner of the GEMS programme, told Gulf News on the event’s sidelines that the education system, in general, “is failing both the youth and industry”.

He said there is a need to “create spaces” for school students and university students to learn from each other “without being limited by the current regulatory environment”.

Hoballah added: “I believe that schools and universities have got to the point where, in many cases, they limit the creativity and learning ability of the students… Experiential learning is extremely important so they will be able to learn what’s going on, rather than just learn it in books. And we’re pushing towards a change in the curriculum, to integrate the K-12 curriculum with the university.”

For example, Hoballah said, school students would visit university to work on a project on earthquakes, which would involve technology, geography, atmosphere – cutting across disciplines simultaneously.

‘Personalised pathways’

Michael Gernon, Chief Education Innovation Officer, GEMS Education, said its new programme offers a “personalised pathway” for students, starting with 14-year-olds, to “mix normal school programmes with either undergraduate work with universities or industry-based qualifications”.

He added that “according to the needs of the students and their levels of interest”, GEMS pupils could spend one to three days a week at university or at work. For example, four student interns will spend a day per week for six months at Siemens.

“It is actually about working on real-world issues, with a business-related outcome… They will gain an experience that other students can never gain,” Gernon said.

In the future, there could be a possibility of paid internships during the summer and winter break, under the programme, he added.

‘Blur the edges’

“The intention behind this programme is that we blur the edges: Why do you have to wait till age 18 to go to university, why do you have to wait till you’re 21 to get a job – and why then has your employer have to train you in things you could have been trained years beforehand?”

Dino Varkey, CEO, GEMS Education, said: “Through these partnerships, GEMS Education students will gain exclusive insights into skills and jobs of the future through project-based internships. They will also learn through bespoke curricula on technology-oriented subjects like artificial intelligence, drones, space engineering and performance arts production.”

Markus Strohmeier, Senior Executive Vice President, Siemens Middle East and UAE, said: “Our aim is to give students hands-on experience of the power of digitalisation, using smart building technologies to analyse energy consumption at GEMS FirstPoint School, and working together to identify sustainability measures. We’re proud to be strengthening the bond between academia and industry…”

Five Centres of Excellence

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at GEMS Dubai American Academy; Digital Industries and Sustainability at GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa; Aviation and Space at GEMS International School – AL Khail; Performance and Theatre Technologies at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis; and Entrepreneurship and Youth Start-up at GEMS World Academy – Dubai.

Five partners: noon, Siemens, RIT Dubai, Al Tamimi & Co, and American University in Dubai.