Secondary School

Grade 6-12


The Secondary School at GEMS American Academy offers students in Abu Dhabi a responsive and nurturing environment. Our blend of American and International Baccalaureate programmes offers students opportunities to graduate with US and IB Diplomas. We strive to address the unique needs of adolescents and young adults aiming to make learning worthwhile and rewarding. Students learn to take initiative, develop leadership skills, think and act with intelligence, and express ideas and feelings in a socially acceptable manner.

To prepare our students for an ever-changing world, we must anticipate the skills that students will need in the future. As secondary school educators, we are charged with the task of anticipating and preparing our students for the jobs, opportunities, technologies and uncertainties that await for them tomorrow. In response to this challenge of creating successful adults, we must enable students to:

  • practice living within a Culture of Kindness,
  • develop a balanced and principled lifestyle,
  • become thinkers, and be reflective
  • embrace differences and consider the ideas of others, and to
  • question, take risks, collaborate, and assume responsibility for independent work.

GAA’s secondary school educators use a variety of methods, strategies, and instructional techniques and understand their appropriate fit into the curriculum. We provide a wide range of learning opportunities for our students and encourage them to be active participants in their educational plan. Significant accomplishments can be achieved with perseverance and hard work if high standards are maintained and challenging goals are set. We also know that secondary students will need to gain skills that will enable them to communicate, create, debate, and innovate. Fluencies for the 21st Century also include the ability to think critically, solve novel and complex problems, and communicate in multiple languages. We not only want our students to gather all the tools and abilities they will need to thrive in the future, but we want them to develop social and emotional intelligence as well. We want them to develop a sense of personal responsibility and a sense of environmental stewardship. We want them to care, commit, act, respond and engage with the global community. We want our students to become open-minded, whole-minded thinkers with uncompromising character. We want to inspire and prepare every student to make a difference.


The Secondary program is based on the US Common Core Standards and International aims – with a focus on deep understandings and transferable skills. American curriculum offers a wide range of academic subjects along with a holistic approach to learning. The core academic program intends to build knowledge, skills and understandings around literacy, numeracy, creativity and sustainability across the subjects. This core is supplemented by instruction in Visual Arts, Music, Drama, World Languages and Physical Education, where Technology is not simply taught as a "stand alone" class, rather every effort is made to incorporate technology into specific subject areas.

The American approach, however, offers more than a larger selection of course offerings and activities. The American style of education can be described as a student-centered, inclusive and an adaptive approach to learning. In addition, the American approach to curriculum and instruction celebrates and cultivates students’ ability to problem-solve, and use their imagination while developing critical thinking skills. Our students also develop important social/emotional skills and confidence that is essential in personal development.

For promising grade 11 and 12 students we offer the opportunity to take the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The IBDP is an academically challenging and balanced program of education with final examinations. It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students. This program has gained recognition and respect from the world’s leading universities. GEMS American Academy is an authorized IBO World School (schools that share a common philosophy of commitment to high quality, challenging, international education).

Please click on the link below to view our Secondary School Program of Studies and UAE High School Equivalency Requirements:

Secondary School Program of Studies 2018/2019

UAE High School Equivalency Requirements


IB Diploma Handbook

(Grade 11 and Grade 12)

Increasingly seen as the ‘Gold Standard’ in education worldwide by students, parents and Universities alike, the IB Diploma is more than just a qualification. At GAA we offer an extensive and exciting IB Diploma Programme involving students in the widest range of academic offerings in Abu Dhabi alongside the core elements that make an IB education stand out as a holistic preparation for future study and life beyond school.

Our IB Diploma students study native and acquired languages, sciences, mathematics and a range of social studies and arts offerings. The rigour of the Programme is maintained through external moderation and assessment from the IB, who carefully guard the high standards required from thousands of schools worldwide.

IB Students at GAA learn to become lifelong learners as they progress through their final two years. Building on a foundation developed from as early as kindergarten, students develop skills such as communication, collaboration, thinking and self-management. These transferable skills will be vital in the lives of this generation as an adapting world requires a generation taught to be creative, resilient and and innovative.

In addition to taught academic subjects, our IB Diploma Programme seeks to develop the whole student through the embedding of skills refered to as Approaches to Learning and through three core elements;


Creativity Activity and Service is at the heart of the IB programme and is a core component that runs for the first 18 months of the students IB Programme.

Any CAS programme is intended to be a collection of enjoyable and challenging experiences determined by the student which allows them to extend their abilities and take them beyond their comfort zone. As students embark on their 18th month CAS journey they need to look for opportunites to show self-determination, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment.

The CAS program should have a balance of short-term and long-term experiences and the experiences should have a balance across the three strands of CAS.

  • Creativity: any activity in that involves creative thinking and design.
  • Activity: physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Service: an unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student.

Through CAS experiences, students are to achieve seven Learning Outcomes.

  1. Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
  2. Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
  3. Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience
  4. Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences
  5. Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively
  6. Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
  7. Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions

A Learning Outcome is the product of an experience in which the student has gained some knowledge or skill(s).

The completion of CAS is based on the achievement of seven Learning Outcomes realized through the students’ commitment to the programme over the 18 months.

Students need to demonstrate that they have achieved each Learning Outcome at least twice. Completion of an experience also requires reflections, which is a way to make students aware of their own strengths, limitations, and areas for further development. It is also a way to make them think how they may use previous learning into new contexts. Reflections are the evidence to achieving each of the seven Learning Outcomes. Some Learning Outcomes may be achieved many times, while others may be achieved less frequently.

Students are not graded when doing CAS, however at the end of the program, and based on the students’ work, it is decided if the student met (or not) the CAS objectives which determines a pass or fail to one of the core components of the IB programme.

GAA provides ample of opportunity for students to fulfil a successful CAS programme. We offer after school activities, lunch time activities as well as clubs that cater to the Service aspect of CAS.

And as a growing school there is plenty of opportunity for students to initiate their own clubs that can fit the CAS requirements.


Theory of Knowledge is a class which brings together the core within the IB Diploma Programme.  Within this class we explore our personal knowledge gained through CAS and question the concepts identified within it.  We go deeper into the content of their studies and define possible questions that could arise from research.  The Extended Essay plays a role within Theory of Knowledge, as here we explore not just our personal knowledge but also our shared knowledge.

Theory of Knowledge is not solely based on what we claim to know, but on how. Theory of Knowledge does not focus on content within the knowledge claims, but the framework upon which an argument is formulated.  How we know something, meaning, how we have gained knowledge, how we justify the knowledge gained, and how to properly frame the argument is what makes up Theory of Knowledge.

Extended Essay

One of the reasons Universities are so keen to take on IB Diploma graduates is for the vital skills they bring with them. Many of the writing, thinking, communication and research skills they develop are honed during the process of writing their extended essay.

Teachers are often asked “Why do we have to learn this?  Why can’t we learn about……?”  In taking on a research project entirely of their own choosing, the students get the opportunity to learn about a subject of personal interest to them.

Over the course of roughly one year, students must research and write a 4,000 word essay that is submitted and marked by examiners accross the world. The very highest standards of academic honesty are demanded and the research skills required are fostered and developed through regular interactions with a designated supervisor.

Course Offerings in IB Diploma 2018/2019

Currently at GAA we deliver 19 taught courses from which students must choose 6 in order to obtain an IB Diploma. There must be at least one course from each of Groups 1 to 5 as well as a 6th choice from Groups 2 to 6. 3 Subjects must be taken at Higher Level (HL). The other subjects may be taken at Standard Level (SL). With the exception of Mathematics, HL courses are generally the same level of difficulty but require more time to investigate more concepts.


This list is subject to change based on student demand.