New grading system for GCSE students in Dubai


New grading system for GCSE students in Dubai
The new scheme is set to separate average students from the high-performing pupils

Dubai - The new system will be more challenging for students but beneficial in the long run, say education experts


Kelly Clarke

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 23 Aug 2017, 9:42 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Aug 2017, 11:48 PM

Today, thousands of students across the UAE will be receiving their IGCSE/GCSE results. But for many, it will be the first time they'll be seeing a set of new grades on paper.
As per a new grading system, students will be marked using a 1-9 number scale, rather than the previously recognised A*-G letter scale. But for now, this new system will only apply to English language, English Literature and mathematics - meaning students will receive a variation of numbered and lettered grades.
According to the new system, 9 will be pitted as the highest grade, with 1 noted as the lowest.
There has been a lot of questions circulating about the new system and you may have noticed that as per the old system, A* to G accounts for eight grades, whereas the new system has nine separate grades. So what does the additional '9' mean for students?
Well, according to the new system, a grade 8 will be the equivalent of an A*, and a grade 4 will be the equivalent of a C.
That means grades 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 will fit into the previously available B, A or A* grades; and if a student achieves a grade 9, that will be deemed higher than the previously available A*.
The new scheme means it will be easier to separate average students from the high-performing pupils. The intention is that a set of 'straight 9s' will be harder to achieve than an old set of straight As or A*s. But not all examination boards will be using the new system. With 6,000 schools in 145 countries using the Cambridge International Examinations' (CIE) IGCSE papers, a spokesperson told Khaleej Times it will continue to grade as per the letter format.
"A*-G is trusted, understood and recognised by universities worldwide. In August 2017, some GCSE results in England will be reported on a different, 9-1 grading scale."
Reaction to new system
As expected, the new system has created some panic among parents and students, but school principals in the UAE have urged people not to worry.
Simon O'Connor of Jumeirah College, Dubai said the new system will inevitably bring with it a fear of the unknown.
"I think the new system is a very good one. It is raising the bar and making it more challenging for students. There is more emphasis on the examination now, so in terms of achieving qualifications, this is a significant step up."
Calling the new system "tough", he said that is actually a good thing for students.
"If you stretch students, it helps them move towards their highest level of potential. As per the new system, an 8 will be the equivalent of an A*. There are students who can achieve higher than this but never had the opportunity in the past, and that is where the new grade 9 comes into play. It's a good opportunity for them."
But, O'Connor said it is vital that students and teachers be educated on the new system.
"Students who are typically predicted all A*s won't necessarily achieve all 9s. If a student gets a 9 it will be a phenomenal achievement, but achieving straight 9s will be a very hard task at this stage."
If there are glaring errors in terms of today's results, he said, a common sense approach to finding a solution will ultimately prevail.
"If a mark comes through that seems completely out of place, we will of course be on guard for this and papers will be sent back for re-marking. But this is the case whenever results day looms, so it has no direct correlation to the new grading system." Like O'Connor, Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School, said the immediate reaction to the new system from both teachers, students and parents, has been as expected. "I think the key thing to remember here is that people have had a bad resp-onse to the unknown. But the same applies for the people setting and marking the exam papers. This is new for all, so teething issues will persist." He said although the new papers and marking system is more challenging for students, the rationale behind it is to "bridge the gap between GCSE and A Level work".
"In the short-term, it will be difficult to adjust to, but in the long-term it will be beneficial for stud-ents. Because of this, there will be a period of reflection and leniency with regards to the grade boundaries," Fulton noted.
 The five boards offering GCSE examinations
Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA)
Council for Curriculum and Examinations Assessment (CCEA)
Pearson Edexcel
Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Exams (OCR and CIE)
Welsh Joint Examinations Committee (WJEC)

More news from