UAE international school becomes first in the region to offer IB and A-levels
International school students in the UAE typically have to choose between an international school that offers IB or A-levels. Source: Shutterstock

It was recently announced that GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis (WSO) has gained the necessary approval to become the only IB World School in the UAE. WSO is now accredited to offer A-levels, the IB Diploma Programme and the IB Career-related Programme.

This means that students and their parents don’t have to choose a school based on the offered curriculum, as they now have a choice to pursue either college pathway if they enrol at GEMS. Other international schools in the region are either IB World Schools or offer A-levels only.

According to a press statement, the offering is “part of a GEMS Education wider initiative to offer all-round quality education.”

In line with this, they have also recently partnered with ArtsEd, a 100-year old UK performing arts academy which will be launched in Dubai this year.

Kevin Loft, Principal and CEO, GEMS Wellington Academy, said, “We are thrilled to be able to offer students a choice in either A Level programme of study or IBDP and IBCP. This is a first for the region and for GEMS Education, and we hope to pave the way for other schools so that there are a variety of pathways and options for academic study.

“Our partnership with renowned UK performing arts academy ArtsEd is a welcome addition to our offering in extra-curricular training and will ensure that we deliver on our promise to educate ‘World-Class World-Ready’ future citizens of the world.”

It’s difficult to compare which is the better programme for students as both have overall objectives and different ways of disseminating knowledge.

According to Times Higher Education, “The International Baccalaureate diploma programme is better at encouraging a “global outlook” in students, while A-levels give students more “in-depth” expertise, according to the findings of the University Admissions Officers Report 2017.”

A-level is the official high school qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where students normally take three or four subjects, although there is no limit to the number of subjects allowed. The IB on the other hand, consists of six subjects and is an international qualification.

In recent years, international schools around the world have been quick to adopt the IB for its rigorous and well-rounded curriculum.

GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis now offers both IB diploma and A Levels. Source: Gulf News

The UAE is no exception. According to The National, “UAE students are surpassing global standards in International Baccalaureate (IB) exams – and setting their sights on a fresh university challenge in Europe.”

In 2018, several schools in the UAE performed better than the worldwide benchmarks in the IB Diploma Programme.

“Pupils at GEMS Education…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.”

This is probably due to the fact that more international students and young people from the UAE plan to further their education in countries like Italy or Czech Republic.

Stuart Walker, Head of Gems World Academy Dubai, said, “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.”

Despite the popularity of the IB, students should still have choices when it comes to education as not everyone learns the same way.

A-levels are well-established and have been around for several decades, giving students the chance to choose from a range of subjects.

While not focused on a ‘global outlook’, they are recognised worldwide and serve as pre-university qualifications.

The news of WSO providing both pathways for students highlights the growing need for the UAE to cater to the international student influx, granting them flexibility and freedom of choice.

Now WSO is providing both options, it remains to be seen if other schools in the region will follow suit.

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