gems seeks independent review into KHDA, as new Modern High campus opens today

Published May 3rd, 2009 - 02:10 GMT

KHDA policies and decisions flawed and inconsistent

GEMS Education announced that they opened the new Dubai Modern High School at Nad Al Sheba today.

“GEMS is about education and education is about students. We will never, ever jeopardize the ability of our students to attend classes. Their welfare is paramount,” said Founder and Chairman of GEMS Education, Mr Sunny Varkey.

He was responding to the decision three days ago by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) who stated that the new Dubai Modern High School could accept students but without the 45 per cent fee increase that KHDA had earlier agreed to.

Mr Varkey stressed that GEMS will be seeking an Independent Review by higher Government authorities into the KHDA. “The policies and decisions made by the KHDA are flawed and inconsistent,” he commented.

“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has a clear vision for education and developing human capital and GEMS has, for the last 40 years, supported that vision by investing in education,” Mr Varkey said.

Mr Varkey believes that KHDA are now standing in the way of achieving that vision. It is now difficult for private school operators, such as GEMS, to confidently re-invest into education and therefore the economy, given this decision.

“It is time to put all the facts on the table in relation to KHDA’s announcement with regards to the new Dubai Modern High School. GEMS believes the decision does not reflect the agreement with GEMS that the KHDA approved last year. The agreement was for GEMS to invest AED 156 million to build a new Modern High campus in Nad Al Sheba and to help recuperate this investment, KHDA had approved a 45 per cent increase in the fees for the first year and a further 31 per cent in the second year of operation. GEMS, due to increased costs, has now invested AED 178 million. GEMS invested in this school based on the approval provided by the KHDA to increase fees.”

“KHDA said in a statement last Wednesday to GEMS that “the school is incomplete when compared with the original plans submitted” and that the “ongoing construction activity on the site is evidence that the school is not ready in its entirety as per plan.”

GEMS provided background on the process they followed with KHDA:

• A master plan was provided to KHDA in September 2007. KHDA are calling this the ‘original plans’. These are conceptual drawings that do not identify actually facilities in detail.

• In October, 2007 GEMS submitted a business plan to KHDA.

• After six months of reviewing the business plan, which included facilities to accommodate 2,400 students, KHDA approved the plan in May, 2008 and granted the 45 per cent and 31 per cent fee increase over two years.

Mr Varkey said, “Let me be clear, the 45 per cent and 31 per cent fee increase approved in May 2008 by KHDA was based solely on the business plan and has nothing to do with the master plan shown to KHDA back in September, 2007.”

As per the business plan GEMS has completed a state-of-the-art building that can accommodate 2,400 students. The number of students assumed for the 5 year plan period was 1,655 in Year 1 to 2,314 in Year 5.

This is just one of a series of inconsistencies by the KHDA.

Another recent example relate to KHDA’s two inspections of the new Dubai Modern campus.

At no time in either of KHDA’s two inspections did they mention anything in relation to the school being incomplete as per their statement to GEMS and the press on Wednesday. If there was a problem why did they not highlight this during their inspections?

Indeed KHDA, following their first visit, asked that five facilities be completed. These included: the prayer room, the medical clinic and the canteen. Surprisingly KHDA inspectors did not ask to see these facilities during that visit. Had they done so they would have seen that they had already been completed. They confirmed that all the items on the KHDA’s visit report were “sufficiently addressed.”

GEMS believe the ‘new’ Dubai Modern High School has the best facilities of any Indian day school in the world and international Research studies prove that the better facilities in areas like sport and the creative arts the higher the academic performance. This new campus is five times bigger than the old campus and the classrooms are almost twice the size.

From a health and safety perspective the Dubai Modern High School has received its building completion certificate from TECOM and approval from the civil defence authorities. GEMS is responsible for the health and safety of hundreds of thousand of students every day.

Any assertion that KHDA or the plans assumed that the new site would include provision for facilities beyond those projected student numbers of 2,400 is fundamentally flawed.

GEMS has not compromised on any of our commitments made to KHDA in our business plan and have only ever had the welfare of our students education in mind.

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