GEMS American Academy Qatar: Setting a Benchmark for Quality Education
GEMS Wellington School Qatar

A rigorous American curriculum teamed with a robust set of extra-curricular activities, various after school clubs, multi-cultural diversity of the international student community with dedicated and qualified professionals are all that any parent aspires for their child today.

GEMS American Academy Qatar, which is a global name today practices all these and much more for the holistic development of tomorrow’s global citizens. The school is also a global leader when it comes to providing students with safe, transformative, experimental learning opportunities.

The Beginning

GEMS American Academy Qatar (GAAQ) was founded during the 2014-2015 school year. At this time, the school offered KG1-Grade 5 and started with an inaugural cohort of 30 students. In January of the same academic year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) approved GAAQ to also offer Pre-K. In the following academic year, Upper School was established for Grades 6-9.

In due time, QPPSSA and QUESS sports teams were introduced, annual school community programs (United Nations Day, Qatar National Day, Sports Day, Spring Fair, Autism Awareness and Earth Day) were first planned, and the school’s award-winning music program was developed. Fast forward to today and the school has earned full NEASC (New England Association of Schools and College) accreditation, received one of the highest parent satisfaction ratings in the entire GEMS Education network, provided 14+ Advanced Placement college-level courses as well as garnered distinction as just the third school in Qatar to win the prestigious, international Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

Mission, Vision and Core Values

The mission of GEMS American Academy Qatar is to “become one of the best schools worldwide and the school management believes “the best schools produce learners who are purposeful, tenacious, innovative and respectful leaders.”

GAAQ has developed core values and learning principles to empower students to attain their goals and to become successful citizens of the global community. Thus, the school’s core values are respect, innovation, leadership, purpose and tenacity. Moreover, the learning principles include:

  1. Developing healthy connections
  2. Goals first
  3. Authentic assessment and constructive feedback
  4. Effective use of time
  5. Nurturing independence and inquiry

Being Different

The school explains that there are five main benefits of the American Curriculum, that makes GEMS American Academy stand distinguished from its counterparts. These are –

A Time for Exploration

The freedom that Americans love are also expressed in their education system. What does that mean for you? The American curriculum provides students a one-of-a-kind experience where there is the ability to choose certain subjects to study. In addition, students have the choice to take college-level classes called Advanced Placement (AP) courses or they can enrol in regular, grade-level classes with the same goal in mind – graduation with an American diploma.

Students are given the opportunity to take a wide variety of subjects such as Science, Mathematics, History, English/Language Arts, Arabic, French, Spanish, Islamic Studies, ICT, Instrumental Music, Choir, Drama and Qatar History, to name a few. This exploration helps students understand the value of empowerment to select the education that they desire.

Stronger Teacher-Student Relationships

Compared to other cultures, the American-style of education embraces a more casual and friendlier relationship with parents and students while still gaining respect for a challenging teaching approach. As a result, parents and students have historically remarked about the positive, engaging learning environments that promote open discussions, sharing of opinions and the independence to inquire and explore. Lastly, teachers also serve as mentors to help guide the development of students.

Creativity is Prioritized

Arguably, America is known as the most innovative country in the world as it pertains to advancement in technology and setting the standard in entertainment. So, it is natural to think that the American curriculum is structured to encourage creativity, innovation, liberal thinking and brainstorming out-of-the-box concepts to solve problems. This is achieved through open and transparent communication, participation, peer-to-peer work, collaboration and discussion with groups or individuals.

Holistic Development for the Child

American education emphasizes exposure to a diversity of academic subjects and extracurricular activities such as sports and performing arts.

Additionally, the curriculum encourages students to actively participate in the community through volunteering and internship opportunities.

In summary, this educational approach is well-known for its focus on developing the person wholly – physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and mentally – as a means to bolster and support the natural patterns of growth and development within a child. Students become more motivated to attend school and learn as the curriculum encourages curiosity and creativity. Most important, holistic development is attuned to each child’s persona and learning style because American education appreciates student individuality without stifling growth.

A More Comfortable Pace of Education

American education holds tests to evaluate student comprehension and progress as well as quizzes, mid-terms and final exams. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is the American assessment that was designed to evaluate a student’s college-specific skills; this test measures how well test-takers can analyse and solve problems which are skills that are typically learned while in school and will be needed in college/university.

The big difference with the American curriculum, in comparison with the British education system and CBSE (India), is that students in an American school do not experience the immense pressure of a comprehensive singular final exam. Instead, students are continuously evaluated through a mixture of assignments, presentations, group projects, class attendance and participation, quizzes and tests. Therefore, students have less stress around the academics and have a large opportunity to pace themselves comfortably in order to progress more dynamically throughout the semester.

Dedicated Leader

Head of the School/CEO – Mark Lentz, is dedicated, fearless and visionary school leader with nearly 30 years of educator and leadership experience in the United States and internationally (Switzerland, Egypt and Qatar). He is a hands-on leader who is collaborative at the core and trusts the people that he hires to do their role at the highest levels. Mr. Lentz is an accessible leader to parents, students, staff and stakeholders and always looks for new challenges to consistently deliver a higher-level of education and community that GAAQ Raptors deserve.

Developing Global Citizens

The school also organises International Summers Program or Global High School Programs for students to participate and develop into global citizens.

GAAQ students regularly participate in The Hague International Model United Nations (THUMUN), have opportunities to pursue the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and submit essays for the University of Cambridge’s Immerse Education Essay Competition. In addition, GEMS American Academy, in partnership with Ecoventures, launched its first overseas ski trip to beautiful Gudauri, Georgia.

In a post-COVID world, GAAQ’s goal for overseas trips is to continue developing students as global citizens through real-life experience. Service trips are an important aspect of learning because these opportunities take students out of their comfort zones and place them within the culture, lifestyle and communities of those they are trying to aid.

Holistic Development

At GAAQ, there are a plethora of afterschool activities (ASAs) and student organizations for our scholars to engage in. From the Eco Club that incorporates Lower School and Upper School to MUN delegates, student clubs and organizations are considered an important part of GEMS American Academy Qatar’s programming.

Lower School

Teacher-led afterschool activities provide more opportunities for students to bond with educators as well as participate in the school’s 30 extracurricular options. Please note that these ASAs start at KG2 and students can choose to participate up to two days a week in these programs.

Upper School

In Grades 6-12, students have diverse opportunities to participate in student organizations or initiatives that are local, regional or international. Participation is encouraged and membership is open to all Upper School students (depending on the criteria of the program):

  • The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN)
  • Qur’an Recitation Competition
  • GAAQ Student Council
  • Doha Medical Conference Review
  • Qatar Green Building Council
  • Immerse Education Essay Competition | Cambridge Summer School
  • The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award
  • Visual Arts Creators Exhibition
  • Inter-school Battle of the Bands Competition

Additionally, there are more than 30 afterschool activities that Upper School students can participate in throughout the year.

Counselling for Overall Growth

GAAQ closely monitors the development of each child within the care of the school through Student Support Team systems in Lower School and the professional school counsellor in the Upper School. This department provides students with strategies and support in all areas of concern and development growth. School counsellors not only support students’ social and academic needs, but they also have a strong emphasis on college/career advice and guidance through the application process.

Grade 12 Career Internship Program

GEMS American Academy Qatar offers a wonderful opportunity for students who are dedicated to their career planning and education. The internship program is designed for seniors who are interested in first-hand experience in a particular role or career field. Students who participate in the internship program work with a professional or group of professionals to gain experience and insight into their chosen career interest for 12 to 16 weeks. This program offers students the opportunity to explore various careers at different Qatar companies spanning fields such as medicine, computer science, finance, accounting, administration, sales, journalism, music, engineering, technology and many more.

Assisting in Admissions

To continue with the school’s 100% college and university acceptance rate, the Upper School professional school counsellor works directly with students and parents to provide workshops, small group and one-on-one assistance throughout the application process. In addition, the counsellor provides a layer of accountability to ensure that parents and students are aligned with progress as well as serving as the trusted advisor to assist families with college and university admissions in notable higher education institutions in the United States, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East/Qatar and Asia.

Achievements, Accolades, Awards

Under the leadership of Mr Lentz, GEMS American Academy Qatar has become a fully-accredited NEASC school, earned one of the highest parent satisfaction ratings in the GEMS network (two years in a row), introduced and expanded the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses, approved to offer the internationally-lauded Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, gained membership in Qatar’s QPPSSA and QUESS sports leagues and received environmental sustainability awards from the Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) and the Foundation of Environmental Education’s Eco-Schools Green Flag.

Safety First

Due to COVID-19, school leaders created a comprehensive COVID-19 school re-opening plan to provide robust hygiene and safety measures. The school community was prepared through a series of Zoom town hall meetings as parents were given the opportunity to review and provide feedback. “Since our parents are our best ambassadors, we revised some elements of the plan to strengthen our proactive defense against the virus. Even though COVID-19 has been a prolonged issue for Qatar residents and expatriates alike, GAAQ has been commended by Qatar’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) on several occasions regarding the effectiveness of our COVID safeguarding protocols to prevent the spread of the virus within the school,” informs the management.

Going Forward

The future of GEMS American Academy Qatar is to meet and exceed the five major learning plan goals that are guiding its academic and curriculum improvement plan over the next half-decade. “Growth, while bolstering our strengths and addressing areas of weaknesses, is an important aspect to how GAAQ views student learning and development, parent engagement, school security and staff professional development”, says the management.

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