School pupils across the UAE who studied A-levels this year can attend their universities of choice after the British government reversed an exams-grading policy, which improved their results.
Under the original policy, British curriculum pupils, whose exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, were awarded grades lower than those predicted by their teachers.
This led thousands to appeal after being denied the qualifications needed to get into their first-choice university.
The about-turn means pupils such as Nour Ahmed, of the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, can study medicine at Queen Mary University of London as she had hoped.
Her teachers predicted an A* in mathematics, an A in chemistry, and an in A in biology, but she was disappointed when she was awarded a B in chemistry and a C in biology.
“I did not get what I deserved. I have never stooped below B in biology and have always got an A or a B. I was really surprised,” said Ms Ahmed, 18, from Egypt.
She planned to appeal against the grades but now no longer needs to.
“Our mock exams were like trials, and to be graded on those was very unfair, especially because, for a lot of people, the push is at the end.”
Ms Ahmed was excited to begin her undergraduate studies next month. She is hoping to specialise in orthopaedics.
The algorithm used to produce a pupil’s results was based on predicted grades from teachers, marks in other subjects, and the school’s historical performance. Their adjusted results were based solely on predicted grades.
Shruti Ananth, a British pupil at Brighton College Abu Dhabi, was dejected when she was awarded two As and a B, which were not enough for a place at St Andrews University in Scotland.
Teachers predicted an A* and two As. The change in policy means she now has the grades to be accepted to study economics.
“I’m extremely relieved. It was such a confusing process because there was not much information given on how the results would be calculated,” said Ms Ananth, 18.
“To open my results and find that it seemed completely unrelated to anything I had done was shocking and I didn’t get into university at first.”
She said many pupils could not get into their first-choice university when the results were announced.
“Now, it’s like a scramble for seats because we are all trying to contact our first-choice universities.
“If you take the exams, you know if you did well, but this year we had no idea what was going to happen."
Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said he was pleased that pupils would receive the grades they deserved.
“There were some pupils at Dubai British School who had been disadvantaged through the algorithm applied by the exam boards, and so the decision to stick with assessed grades is very welcome news for them,” Mr Fulton said.
Pupils have officially received their revised A-level grades and will be able to confirm their university places.
On Monday, the International Baccalaureate programme said it would be adjusting results awarded this year for the diploma programme and career-related programme, using predicted grades and coursework.
As a result, almost a quarter (23.8 per cent) of IB subject grades have been changed worldwide.
Pupils whose final result had a disparity of one grade will have their internal assessment grade reinstated instead.
David Fitzgerald, senior vice president of education at Gems Education, said the improved IB results meant eight pupils at Gems schools achieved a perfect score of 45 this year.
“Gems IB schools around the world appreciated the grade adjustments made by the IB as a result of the recent review. Our schools have had their average scores, pass rates and individual subject grades increased as a result of the review,” he said.
Of the 295,000 private school pupils in Dubai, 109,894 children attend UK curriculum schools while 18,015 pupils attend IB schools. Across UAE, there are 51 IB World Schools.
Dr Allan Weston, principal at Greenfield International School, said pupils at his school had also gotten improved results following the review.
Over 70 per cent of diploma pupils and 60 per cent of career related pupils saw improved final results.
Overall for the Diploma, the school’s average score has risen to 34.07 and more than 56 per cent of pupils have scored 35 points or more.