Secondary School

Curriculum Overview 

The Secondary School at GEMS American Academy (GAA) 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, to think and act with intelligence, to express ideas and feelings in a socially acceptable manner and to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences of them. We promote honesty and integrity together with developing citizenship and leadership skills.

At GAA we are committed to providing an international learning environment grounded in what is best practice from the American education landscape. We work together with the GAA community to develop the attributes of the International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile. The aim is to develop internationally minded citizens who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.


From the Secondary Principal

Mr.Garth Wyncoll
At GAA, our focus is on learning. Our standards-based grading and reporting systems are comprehensive in its feedback to students and parents. Combined with our focus on approaches to learning (AtLs), we can guide all students across the learning continuum. We empower students to take ownership of their learning, and our student progress speaks to the quality of our faculty.




Explore the Secondary Curriculum

  • Course Options

    The Secondary School program is based on the US Common Core Standards and International aims – with a focus on deep understandings and transferable skills. An 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. This core is supplemented by instruction in Visual Arts, Music, Drama, Informational Technology, World Languages and Physical Education.

    The American approach offers more than a larger selection of course offerings and activities; this American education can be described as a student-centered, inclusive and adaptive approach to learning. Curriculum and instruction at GAA celebrates and cultivates students’ ability to problem-solve, and use their imagination and creativity while becoming critical thinkers. Our students also develop important social/emotional skills and confidence that is essential in personal development.

    At GAA, each student’s program is made up of a combination of different courses:

    • GAA Core Academic Courses
    • ADEK Required Courses
    • GAA Elective Courses

    Grade 11 and 12 students may also take the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or individual courses matching their interests and goals. 

    Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) requirements vary depending upon a child’s nationality and religion. (Our school uses information provided by parents during the school registration process.)  

    In order to comply with ADEK regulations, every student has specific course requirements for Arabic Language, Islamic Studies and UAE Social Studies according to one of the following four categories:

    • Group 1 – Arab Muslim
    • Group 2 – Arab Non-Muslim
    • Group 3 – Non-Arab Muslim
    • Group 4 – Non-Arab Non-Muslim

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


  • IBDP Program

    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 communication, collaboration, thinking and self-management skills. 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 innovative.

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

    • Creativity, Action and Service (CAS);
    • Theory of Knowledge (ToK) and
    • Extended Essay (EE).

    Currently at GAA we deliver 18 taught courses from which students must choose 6 in order to earn 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. Three subjects must be taken at Higher Level (HL - 240 hours of instruction) with the other three subjects taken at Standard Level (SL - 190 hours of instruction).

    This list is subject to change based on student demand.

    All students take a DP Core class which covers areas such as Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS), the Extended Essay (EE) and the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) which are all requirements of the Diploma Programme.

    GROUP 1

    GROUP 2

    GROUP 3

    GROUP 4

    GROUP 5

    GROUP 6

    Studies in Language and Literature
    Language Acquisition
    Individuals and Societies
    The Arts
    English Language and Literature
    (SL & HL)
    Arabic B
    (SL and HL)
    Business Management
    (SL and HL)
    (SL and HL)
    Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation
    Visual Arts
    (SL and HL)
    Self Taught Literature (SL only)
    French Ab Initio (SL only)
    French B (SL and HL)
    (SL and HL)
    (SL and HL)
    Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation
    English Language B
    (SL and HL)
    (SL and HL)
    Computer Science
    (SL and HL)
    Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches

    Spanish (AB Initio SL only)
    Spanish B (SL & HL)
    (SL and HL)
    Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches



Standards-Based Learning

A grade has one purpose: to communicate a student’s learning. Standards-based grading is designed to do just that.


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