UAE students are surpassing global standards in International Baccalaureate (IB) exams - and setting their sights on a fresh university challenge in Europe, says an education chief.
Many schools in the UAE performed better than the worldwide benchmarks in the IB Diploma Programme, aimed at learners aged between 16 and 19.
Pupils at The British International School Abu Dhabi achieved a 100 per cent diploma pass rate which is not only above the world average of 79 per cent but is the highest in the school’s history.
Pupils at GEMS Education students also exceeded global averages, with a 2018 average pass rate of 92 per cent. Many pupils exceeded an average score of 40, out of a maximum of 45, with GEMS Wellington International School and Dubai American Academy both achieving an average score of 34 points.
Dutch universities are making a huge play for international students and young people from UAE are heading for studies to European countries like Italy and Czech Republic.
Stuart Walker, head of Gems World Academy Dubai said the IB is still seen as the gold standard by universities.
“An interesting shift has been an increased interest in European universities, particularly Dutch and German universities. The Dutch are making a big strong play for international students and IB students in particular. Their fees are lesser than UK or US universities and parents are finding them quite attractive. Some of these universities are also doing some of the best research in the world," said Mr Walker.
Mr Walker believes the fact that Dutch universities use English as a medium for teaching, has also lead to increased interest.
According to Times Higher Education, last year, international students paid between £10,000 and £35,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees in UK.
In the Netherlands, students from outside the EU or EEA countries can be charged up to £5,337 a year, but the amount depends on the institution, the degree, the residence permit type, previous study history and scholarship opportunities.
Shyamala Elango, director of education consultancy, Inner Universe, believes North America and Canada remain the most popular destinations for pupils in UAE while Ireland is gaining favour.
Patrick Horne, principal at The British International School Abu Dhabi, also noted a trend of students heading to Europe for higher education.
Mr Horne said that countries like Hungary and the Netherlands have become very popular now. The educator found that students in UK are also going to Netherlands for studies, though financial reasons may be behind this.
“People seek international experience and good education while these countries are also cheaper,” he added.
The school also has pupils heading to the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia among other destinations.
“In terms of getting places at universities, IB is more recognised worldwide. In the UK a high IB score was judged ahead of A levels. Universities value IB,” added Mr Horne.
The educator said that, despite its successes, the IB programme needs to work on its reputation as being difficult.
“There is still that perception IB is hard and A levels are easy which is untrue. Some people find IB daunting and the IB really needs to work on that message,” he added.
“The IB is growing rapidly and the courses are excellent. As the IB continues to grow, they need to make sure they can maintain their level of support as the number of schools increases,” he said.
Ameerah Parvez from Gems Wellington Academy Silicon Oasisscored a perfect score in the IB diploma and will be heading to UK to study medicine and surgery at University College London.
“My future plans involve opening my medical school for impoverished women in India and other countries. I also want to start my own businesses in medicinal technologies," said Ms Parvez.
Ms Parvez said the pupils at her school typically applied to the US, the UK, and European countries such as Spain, Italy, and Czech Republic based on factors such as duration of study, scholarship and funding opportunities, and employability.
“From my experiences, three of the most common subject areas for my cohort's university pursuits were business, engineering, and STEM-based subjects - this being encouraged by the emphasis our learning placed on the rise of exponential technology, and how this may influence one's career in an ever-changing future," she added.
“The UK was a perfect fit for me but many of my friends are traveling to different parts of the world for their studies,” she added.