The son of Indian teachers who immigrated to Dubai, Sunny Varkey followed in their footsteps, taking over the running of their Our Own English High School in 1980. Seeing a market among Dubai’s growing number of expats, he soon began opening Indian, Pakistani and British schools. Today he is the founder and chairman of global advisory and educational management firm GEMS Education, he controls over 250 K-12 schools across 14 countries, making him the single most successful entrepreneur in his field.
In 2010 he founded the Varkey Foundation to forward the cause of learning and celebrate truly exceptional teachers with the annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize, which has seen support from Bill Gates, Prince William and Bill Clinton to name just a few. The winner of this year’s award was British teacher Andria Zafirakou. Sunny has also joined the Giving Pledge, vowing to donate a full half of his wealth to philanthropic causes over his lifetime – a number that may soon rise astronomically if GEMS Education’s public offering of an estimated $5 billion goes ahead.
Quotes and Praise
“It has become a habit to treat education as a second order priority – but without it, how can we achieve other global goals?”
“If we only teach children about yesterday, they will never be prepared for tomorrow.”
“Teachers build a bridge from the future to the present – we must treasure them.”
Padma Shri (2009)
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (2012)
Forbes Global Game Changes (2016)
Arabian Business Achievement Award (2017)