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Sun 9 Feb 2014 01:56 PM

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Top US educator signs up to lead new Dubai school

Thomas B Farquhar is currently principal at school attended by President Obama's children

Top US educator signs up to lead new Dubai school
President Barack Obama, daughter Sasha, first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia. (Getty Images)

A leading US educator, who has taught the daughters of President Obama, has been named as principal of a new American-curriculum school planned by GEMS Educations in Dubai.

Thomas B Farquhar, who GEMS said has led some of the best K-12 schools in the United States, will lead the team at the Dubai school, which will open in September 2015.

Farquhar, who has led the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC for more than four years, will join GEMS in the 2014-15 academic year to lead the development of the new K-12 academy, GEMS said in a statement.

Enrolment for the school will open in 2014, GEMS said, adding: "The new GEMS school will be one of the most prestigious schools in the region, offering an unparalleled level of education, facilities and support for parents, led by an experienced team from some of the world's most storied schools."

Sidwell Friends is one of the most respected schools in America. Among its current students and alumni include the children of several presidents, such as Sasha and Malia Obama, the daughters of President Obama, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of President Bill Clinton.

Other prominent alumni include Nancy Reagan, the wife of President Reagan; Charles Lindberg, the famous flyer; and comedienne Anna Gasteyer.

"Tom Farquhar's rich experience in developing modern curricula to answer modern challenges has prepared some of America's top students for a rapidly changing world," said Dino Varkey, Group chief operating officer and board member of GEMS Education.

"He will apply that experience to help build one of the foremost schools in the region and prepare a new generation of international students to tackle the world's ever more complex problems."

Farquhar added: "My speciality is in bringing the experience of the school into alignment with the skills students need in the future workforce. The American education system, at its best, is focused on critical thinking and the development of student voice, and I hope to help bring that to students in the UAE."

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Anonymous 6 years ago

So where is this new hotshot (and no doubt expensive!) school going to be located in Dubai?

Brian Deane 6 years ago

As if they need any more schools. More Hospitals with experienced doctors is what is needed (but wait, they will have to pay a realistic salary) not possible and that's why most UAE Hospitals are staffed with inexperienced and low paid docs etc. I know I worked in the health fied there for many years.

Parent 6 years ago

Does anyone know when GEMS might release further information about this school? Ie: realistic timescales for enrollment, opening, location, fees etc?

Steady 6 years ago

Well it might be more worthwhile getting teachers who taught Obama and Clinton and not their kids!

It is definitely a status symbol though to have the Presidential kids teacher for your kids in mega rich Dubai, the Rolex's and Porsche's simply do not cut the ice anymore so how does a poor little got "seriously" rich in Dubai guy differentiate himself from the "not so seriously" rich guy!

Rgeorge 6 years ago

Yes it is a status symbol.....but lets not forget that there a reason world class educators are being head hunted and brought into town..not just to raise fees but to somehow better education from the top of the pyramid.....and under the leadership of one like tom is just just....yes its for profit and its a business...but its one that has delivered.....consistently for over 40 years.

Like any economy...its serves various classes of consumers and this move is one to ensure one of those classes are met with... on par, to bring about a possible harvest of tomorrows leaders.

As far a gems is concerned ....for as long as they bring in such folks consumers "parents " will keep coming and they have.....in fact their roll of students is testament of this....we don't complain when profit is exploited in other industries but we do when it is in education.

rgeorge 6 years ago

and its not like gems was given exclusive rights to setting up....no else did...and they filled a gap....

Can we even fathom the cost of construction and land and infrastructure. e.g. : at the current rates of commercial construction itself is as follows :
500 aed * 100,000 square feet = 50,000,000 AEd

add to this the cost of IT,infrastructure and land that costs at least
400 AED per square foot on acquisition , meaning an additional 30-40 million AED.
Then theres the land owners who exploit the Business owners for sizeable and exorbitant amounts for lease of land,sponsorship and other fringe benefits
If anything we must appreciate this One individual who singlehandedly manages financial credibility and raises funds to build this to only break-even 10 -sometimes 15 years.
most banks barely give away a million without adequate security and atleasst 40 % secured margins and or a fat book value....Sunny Varkey has garnered this without none of the above when pitching for a facility

Paul 6 years ago

It is being built as we speak between The American School of Dubai and Sheik Zayed Road.

Mark Renton 6 years ago

Rgeorge, nobody likes being "exploited" in any industry. There is a cultural issue here, as most parents here are used to education being provided by the state or not-for-profit organisations and there is not much that GEMS or any other school provider can do about that. But the fact remains that even in a for-profit environment education is not like any other business and conflict will inevitably arise if parents feel they are being taken for a ride.

There is no guarantee that a "celebrity" principal will ensure better education; that will depend on the owners' commitment to providing top-quality teaching staff throughout the school. There are plenty of examples of schools in the UAE where much fanfare is made about the principal but that quality does not flow down to the people actually teaching your kids. However I think you are right insofar as no doubt plenty of parents will flock like lemmings to this school because of the head's reputation without much further thought.

Headmaster 6 years ago

Ok thanks Rgeorge, you can stop now, your promotion has been approved.