When it comes to the best secondary education for your child in the UAE, what are the options, benefits and qualifications pupils can expect from the British, American, International Baccalaureate and Indian curriculums? We reveal all…
British: The compulsory national curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects. Core subjects are English, maths and science, while foundation subjects are computing, physical education and citizenship. Schools must also offer at least one subject in the areas of arts, design and technology, humanities and modern foreign languages. American: The US Curriculum is based on American Common Core State Standards for English language arts,
math, history/geography, science, social studies and physical education. International Baccalaureate (IB): Consists of a core and six subject groups, designed to give students a balanced education combining arts, sciences and extra-curricular activities. The core is made up of three elements. Theory of knowledge (TOK), a 4,000-word essay, and CAS (creativity, action, service), usually made up of artistic, sporting and voluntary projects. Students then take six subjects, three at higher level and three at standard level, which must include literature, a foreign language, maths, a science and a humanities subject. The sixth choice can be from one of these categories or from a list of arts courses. Indian: In the syllabus laid down by the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) the key subjects taught are, mathematics, social studies, science, English and one other language as compulsory. Then a choice of information education, home science and physical education as optional.
Who sets the curriculum?
British: Set by the Department for Education, responsible for children’s services and education, including higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England. American: State governments set overall educational standards, mandate standardized tests and supervise state colleges and universities. International Baccalaureate (IB): The Board of Governors sets the strategic direction of the organisation, makes policy and ensures autonomy and integrity of the IB Diploma Programme examinations and other student assessment. Indian: Set by the Central Advisory Board of Education, the Department of Education.
British: Secondary students work towards taking GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education).
In higher education, they can take AS-Levels, A-Levels, GNVQs, BTECs or other such qualifications. American: The high school diploma is awarded to students who graduate from secondary school. Additionally, the GED (General Educational Development) and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) are certificates recognised in the US. College Board Advanced Placement (AP) allows secondary graduates to earn undergraduate credits for first-year university courses. International Baccalaureate (IB): Students are awarded the IB Diploma, working towards a maximum of 45 points. Indian: Students are awarded the Higher Secondary (School) Certificate (HSC / HSSC).
How work is graded
British: For GCSEs, a grading scale of nine to one is used, with nine the top grade, replacing the former A*-G grades. Assessment is mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills. American: For the GED, students can earn a score between 200 and 800 for each section of the test. The minimum passing requirement is an average of 450 points in all content areas, and a minimum score of 410 in any of them. SATs are scored between 200 to 800 points per content area, with total scores between 600 and 2,400. International Baccalaureate (IB): Each subject is graded from one to seven, while a further three points are available for the CAS (creativity, action, service) element, for a maximum of 45 points. Indian: CBSE uses a relative scale with nine positional grades in each subject, which are based on the performance of all the candidates who passed the exam in that subject in a given year. Positional grades are marked from zero to 100, based on a comparative curve rather than on absolute grade ranges. Grades are A -1, A -2, B -1, B -2, C -1, C -2, D -1 and D -2, with E a fail.
Advice from the experts…
Mark S. Steed, Director of JESS Dubai: “The British Curriculum is renowned for being the most rigorous in the world. It is one of the few curricular that have external assessments at age 16, which makes it a particularly attractive option at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 (aged 11-16). [It] has a long-standing tradition of developing public service, citizenship and moral education. These aspects give young people a broader perspective on society than a simple utilitarian approach that is about preparing them with the skills for the workplace.”
Mrs Gaynor Dale, Head of Whole School, Regent International School: “An outstanding school curriculum should demonstrate ethos and values which underpin everything that the children learn, interest children and ‘hook’ them in, be relevant, experiential and link with the real world, consider all types of learners and have an eye on the future.”
Bridget Justen, Principal, Al-Mizhar American Academy, A Taaleem School: “The American curriculum builds a solid foundation at the younger years and offers advances placement courses at the high school level. These higher level courses provide additional challenge and rigor in preparation for attending American universities in the UAE and aboard.”
Mrs Deborah Bond, Head of English at Foremarke: “From the very start of the British curriculum, three year olds are encouraged to play together constructively and so learn, first-hand, how to relate to each other, to listen and to respond. Behaviour of pupils and staff is key to our shared goal of becoming responsible, considerate and confident members of society. As teachers continually model how to communicate and promote positive interaction, a culture of outstanding behaviour grows.”