Pupils in the UAE are celebrating after this year's GCSE results were released on Thursday morning.
Their stellar performances were all the more remarkable given that fewer top grades were handed out globally as the exams returned to a tougher, pre-coronavirus model of grading.
The National spoke to staff and pupils from schools all across the Emirates who were over the moon at their performance.
More than 20 per cent of pupils at Brighton College Dubai received the highest result possible, Grade 9, bucking the global trend of a reduction in top marks.
“I am incredibly proud of the achievements of our GCSE cohort who have exceeded their targets,” headmaster Simon Crane said.
“I would like to thank our dedicated staff, pastoral support team and parents who have gone above and beyond in providing pupils with excellent teaching, support and subject knowledge. My warmest congratulations to our excellent pupils and staff on these fantastic achievements.
“As well as being academically dedicated, our pupils have been involved in all other aspects of school life, including taking on well-being initiatives, sports and leadership positions.”
The highest performer was the school's chess champion and cricketer, Henry Fliss.
“I got eight Grade 9s and one 8, and I’m especially proud of my Further Maths and History grades,” he said.
“I worked hard for them, having been doing four-hour revision sessions for History on Fridays, and doing every extra paper for Further Maths that has been available.
“The teachers helped me a lot and I'm so glad my hard work has paid off.”
More than three quarters of entries at the school were awarded Grade 6 to Grade 9, which is classed as outstanding, according to the KHDA framework.
Pupils at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park enjoyed a 100 per cent pass rate in this year's exams.
“On average, our students achieved over one grade higher than predicted against their target grade, which is a testament to their hard work and determination,” said head teacher Rebecca Coulter.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of Grade 9s awarded this year, compared to previous years, and we are delighted that over 30 per cent of our students have achieved the highest grades in their subjects.”
Also celebrating success on Thursday morning was the British School Al Khubairat (BSAK).
About one in five pupils there obtained a Grade 9 score, while just under 40 per cent of all exams taken were awarded Grade 8 or Grade 9.
“I am incredibly proud of their achievements and they deserve their success and more,” said Nigel Davis, head of secondary at the school.
“Thanks must be given to our outstanding teaching staff, our parents and the wider community for the way they have supported the students.”
Pupils at the school were only too happy to talk to The National about their performances in this year’s exams.
“I'm very, very grateful to my teachers who have given me consistent support and I'm also very thankful to my parents for being there for me during all the ups and downs,” said Maya Telang.
“I plan to study Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics at A Level with the possibility of also pursuing my favourite subject, which is Further Maths.”
Her schoolmate Kyle Glatley was also celebrating success on Thursday morning.
“I got eight Grade 9s and one Grade 8. I’m very happy,” he said.
“There was a lot of hard work behind the scenes but it was well worth it in the end.”
Making the grade
The overall number of pupils who obtained a Grade 9 increased to 16 per cent this year, from 9 per cent last year.
More than 3,600 pupils from 23 Gems schools in the UAE and Qatar sat more than 24,000 GCSEs/IGCSEs this year.
In the Gems network of schools, 7 per cent of all pupils obtained the highest mark possible, Grade 9.
“Today’s GCSE results round off what has undoubtedly been an excellent school exam season over the summer, despite the various challenges that all schools and pupils across the globe have had to navigate,” said Dr Saima Rana, chief education officer with Gems Education.
“We are incredibly proud of everything our students and teachers have accomplished and look forward to further success to come.”
At Gems Cambridge International Private School Sharjah, 17 per cent achieved Grade 9 results in the school's first GCSE group.
“These are our first ever GCSE results and they demonstrate the hard work of our students and staff, not only over the last two years, but also all the way back to when the students first joined our school,” said Albie Huyser, principal and chief executive.
“Our academic and pastoral support and guidance ensured that our students were fully prepared and are now able to take the next steps in their lives, whether that be further education, apprenticeships or employment.”
One of the school's pupils who received nine Grade 9 results said she felt relieved at her performance in this year's exams.
“I feel very grateful and thankful for my teachers and parents, and everyone who supported me and very excited and relieved to get these results,” said 15-year-old Snehal Thakkar.
According to her mother Vijaylaymi Thakkar, Snehal “gave up her mobile phone and stopped all entertainment” as she prepared for her exams.
Pupils at Bateen World Academy, Abu Dhabi, achieved an overall pass rate of 88 per cent, with 14 per cent achieving the prestigious Grade 9 result.
“We are immensely proud to announce the exceptional GCSE results achieved by our students,” said Neal Dilk, head teacher of Bateen World Academy.
“Their unwavering dedication and commitment to academic excellence have yielded outstanding outcomes that reflect both their individual efforts and the supportive environment fostered within our institution.
“These remarkable results not only showcase their hard work, but also inspire us as educators to continue nurturing and empowering the next generation of achievers."