The UAE's best-performing public school pupils have spoken of the moment Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, personally called them to reveal their results.
Sheikh Mohammed made the surprise phone calls on Tuesday, before the official release of nationwide results the following day.
Sumaya Al Ketbi, 17, an Emirati pupil at Al Ataa School in Abu Dhabi, was first in the general UAE stream, one of several tracks government schools use to educate pupils based on their strengths.
“I did not know I was the country topper and was surprised when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid called me,” she said.
“I felt happy and excited when he called me. I felt happier about receiving his call than about my grades.”
Ambitious Sumaya plans to pursue a degree in engineering sciences, at a time when there is demand for highly skilled workers.
“I will be studying aerospace engineering, possibly at UAE University,” she said.
Emirates Schools Establishment, the UAE’s public school operator, released Grade 12 exam results on Wednesday.
This year 28,775 pupils at public schools, plus a small number of private schools that follow the Ministry of Education curriculum, sat end-of-year exams and secured a pass rate of 94.4 per cent.
Mozoon Al Ketbi, a 17-year-old Emirati who ranked first in the elite stream, said: “When he called me, I cried. I can’t describe my feelings at that time. It was such a surprise.
“It was such a nice moment that he himself called and told me I’m the first in the country.”
Mozoon, a grade-12 pupil at Falaj Al Moalla girls' school in Umm Al Quwain, hopes to pursue studies in aerospace engineering at Khalifa University.
Meticulous planning was the key to her exam success, she said.
The pupil studied mathematics, calculus, physics, chemistry and biology in school, as well as taking advanced university-level courses in calculus.
Sheikh Mohammed also congratulated the top eight students across the UAE on his Twitter account.
Abdelrahman Elkhalafy, Faris Radwan, Asem Mahmoud, Mohammed Almansoori, Ali Al Hebshi and Mohamed Alteneiji all received his best wishes.
The grade-12 pupils were divided into four groups, with 648 in the elite stream with a pass rate of 98 per cent; 5,781 in the advanced stream with a pass rate of 98.6 per cent; 13,090 in the general stream with a pass rate of 90.7 per cent; and 1,038 in the applied stream.
As for grade-12 private school pupils following the MoE curriculum, 5,835 in the advanced stream had a pass rate of 98.6 per cent and 2,383 in the general stream achieved a pass rate of 93.2 per cent.
After finishing grade nine, pupils in MoE curriculum schools can choose either to remain in the general stream or join the advanced stream.
Pupils in the advanced stream receive more in-depth instruction in maths and sciences than those in the general track.
The elite group is an advanced science programme for academically outstanding pupils.
The applied stream offers pupils a set of core and vocational subjects.
Ali, 18, an Emirati-Yemeni who lives in Abu Dhabi, came first in the nation in the advanced applied technology high school stream.
“I had eagerly waited for these results and am very happy about these,” he said.
“I hope to be study electrical engineering in Khalifa University.
“I was surprised. I got my highest score in physics, which was 100 and was hoping for 100 in mathematics but got 99.”
Abdelrahman, a 17-year-old in Khor Fakkan, ranked first nationwide in the advanced stream.
The Egyptian pupil said he hoped to study medicine at Sharjah University and was still in the process of application.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling and my family are also very happy,” he said.
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology and chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Schools Establishment, also congratulated the pupils and their families on their end-of-year performance.