UAE: Ministry approves non-exam assessment system for IB schools

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi Filed on April 14, 2021
Reuters file photo

Alternative assessment based on teacher-predicted grades and internal ratings was used in November 2020

The UAE’s Ministry of Education (MoE) has approved an alternative assessment system for all private schools that follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum for the academic year 2020-2021.

While some students which who had been preparing diligently for the exams, expressed disappointment, heads of IB and British curriculum schools said they will be approaching the decision from a practical perspective.

Simon Herbert, Head of School / CEO of GEMS International School- Al Khail said the school will clearly explain the processes of how grades will be awarded to the students and parents and reassure them that the IBO is looking at parity throughout the world, whether students are taking exams or pursuing the non-exam route.

“GEMS IB Heads have already met with students, staff, and parents. GEMS IB Heads are a close-knit group and, together with other IB Heads in Dubai, have approached this latest decision from a practical perspective,” he said.

Karen Nyborg, Assistant Principal Secondary – Curriculum, Progress and Assessment, GEMS World Academy – Dubai said their students have been working diligently alongside their teachers in preparation for the IB world examinations.

“Our community was obviously disappointed by the decision to go the non-exam route, as we feel this is an important part of the IBDP experience; however, throughout the two years, students have shown outstanding achievement in internal assessments, mock exams, and summative assessments that support our students’ remarkable predicted scores this year, which will be used to inform final scores received,” he said.

“This now gives us time to deliver programming that will support students in their transition into post-secondary education. We will be running academic writing workshops, budgeting and financial literacy programmes and internship opportunities, among other noteworthy programmes to ensure each student has access to ongoing personal development which will support them in the years ahead.”

Herbert said: “Just as last year, when IB examinations were cancelled, many students will have mixed feelings. The chance to ‘show what you know’ in an examination situation after two years’ work, has gone. Some might be relieved, particularly as many IB students across the world are not taking exams. An excellent ‘pre-university and life skills’ course has been put in place to keep students engaged in their preparations for life beyond GEMS.”

According to Hebert, GEMS IB Heads and IB Coordinators are sharing resources and ideas, which include seminars, lectures, guest speakers, mentoring and service opportunities and live streams of excellent and relevant pre-university presentations from one GEMS school to another.

“These students do not want to leave school yet but are ready to contribute by engaging in the above courses and also ‘giving back’ in such a responsible way that reflects positively on their experience over the last few years. As for teachers, their predicted grades and assessments across the last two years now have added significance and impact,” he added.

The MoE had earlier said the assessment methods would be applicable for schools that follow the British and IB curriculums. The MOE said the step “reflects the confidence in private international schools to prepare or adopt solid evaluation methodologies”.

The non-exam assessment based on teacher-predicted grades and internal assessments and accredited by the International Baccalaureate was used in November 2020 as schools across the UAE adopted the hybrid method of learning following the Covid-19 outbreak.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.

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