GEMS World Academy in Singapore has started its fifth academic year with close to 1,000 students. The school is part of the international GEMS Education group which is the world’s largest K-12 private education provider and is the first full International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum school in Singapore by offering all four IB programmes: IB Primary Years Programme, IB Middle Years Programme, IB Diploma Programme and the recently added IB Career-related Programme.“One of the reasons why the school is developing quickly is because of the brainpower we have behind it”, explains Sebastien Barnard, Head of Marketing Communications and Admissions. GEMS’ global academic council and leadership team exist of world-renowned education leaders who bring a wealth of experience to GEMS education. Moreover, they act as advisors for the further development of the school.Apart from being part of GEMS Education, GEMS Singapore has several other unique features that make the school one of a kind in Singapore. For example, the school does not have any single nationality dominating the school and is therefore a truly international school with 60 different nationalities.
The student to teacher ratio is 9:1, which ensures that teachers have enough time to dedicate to each student.Furthermore, the criteria for hiring teachers are comprehensive; the school does not hire anyone with less than 10 years’ experience in IB and international schools. “This is important for the emotional side of the students. We’re in a unique environment where kids are moving to different countries every 2 to 5 years. Therefore, our teachers need to be able to be aware of this and give the students the support they need”, argues Barnard.Another important aspect is the very engaged parent community. The school values the triangular relationship among students, teachers and parents. They proactively involve parents in the school via advisory bodies and the co-organization of events in order to make them part of the school community.
A GEMS Education is based on three pillars: academic, sports and arts. The school encourages students to remain in these three pillars so that they gain a holistic outlook towards education. Sports are a big part of the school. Besides the regular physical education, the school organizes extra-curricular activities, internal competitions and competitions with other schools in Singapore. Furthermore, the school offers dedicated sporting academies in swimming and rugby for students who have a special aptitude for these sports. The academies are run by top athletes so that the kids get the opportunity to learn from people who have actually been at the top in their field. Soon a triathlon academy will be added.
The school looks at innovation in two ways. Firstly, they want to create an innovative, creative and entrepreneurial environment that is holistic in nature and makes sure students learn the skills that are needed in the 21st century environment.The second way is related to integrating technology in the curriculum. Two programmes have been set up for this which are closely related: the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and EdTech programmes. Via STEM subjects – also known as STEAM where the ‘A’ represents the integration of Art – the school aims to teach across subjects. They do so by applying project-based learning where they involve students in solving authentic problems, working with others, and building real solutions.
This approach means students need to access knowledge and skills from two or more disciplines to complete a task. It is through the integration of the STEM projects that this type of learning can occur. STEM teachers are being brought in to enhance the learning in the classrooms by applying technology. For example, students were asked to design a building that can withstand an earthquake. In doing so, they not only learned about earthquakes, but also about building materials, shapes, mathematics. For this approach to be successfully implemented it is crucial to have skilled and flexible teachers who can address the needs of all students in a supportive and resource-rich environment. “Teachers need to be willing to take the kids along on a learning journey”, summarizes Barnard.
Another initiative is the setup of the Design Centre which will be completed in the beginning of 2019. The Design Centre will prepare students for careers in advertising, animation, fashion, graphic design and similar fields. The new IB Career-related programme in partnership with Savannah College of Art and Design will provide the framework for education and the Design Centre the hardware where the work can be executed. “This initiative shows that we’re always trying to find new pathways for our students”, emphasizes Barnard. In addition, an Accelerator Centre was set up for EdTech start-ups. The start-ups are based in the school and can use the school as a living lab. In return they are asked to teach the students what entrepreneurship is all about. Barnard concludes: “All these initiatives together are part of the school becoming an entrepreneurial and creative hub of innovation that best prepares students for their future”.