Dr. Rabaa Al Sumaiti, of UAE Ministry of Education

At the second UAE Higher Education Forum, Her Excellency Dr. Rabaa AlSumaiti, of UAE Ministry of Education stressed the importance of pre-university education in preparing young people for the next phase in their lives.

50 representatives from the UAE Ministry of Education, and over 1,300 delegates from universities and schools from across the Middle East attended the event to discuss International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes and the ease of transition from studying an IB programme to higher education.

The forum, which was hosted at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in Dubai, is the only one of its kind in the region and brings together university recruiters and admissions teams, as well as school heads, coordinators and government officials.

Universities value IB students

Dr. Peter Fidczuk, IB’s UK Development and Recognition Manager, gave a keynote, emphasizing how UK universities value the Diploma Programme (DP). The IB works closely together with higher education institutions across the world on recognition policies for IB students, including fixed point entry requirements from institutions, no matter what subject an IB student is applying to study.   

Fidczuk said: “The IB is recognized as providing a standard of education matched by no other curriculum, and the world’s greatest universities, including Oxford, Harvard, MIT and Yale, value and welcome applicants who have studied IB programmes. 16 universities across the UAE alone have established official admissions policies for IB students in recognition of the programmes’ value”.

The mission of the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030 — launched earlier this year— to empower students “with the knowledge to face the future” aligns with that of the IB.

Discussing why universities value the IB, Dr. Hana Malhas, President of the Middle East IB Association, said: “IB programmes provide students with life skills which are considered pillars to the students throughout their undergraduate career. Some of the skills that DP students in particular develop are critical thinking, analytical and communication skills—all qualities that are needed for university success. This is coupled with an international way of thinking, which means that the IB plays a vital role in strengthening and powering the global futures”.

Growing interest in career-focused education

The event also provided attendees with a greater understanding of the IB Middle Years (MYP) and Career-related Programmes (CP). Dina Khalaf, UAE Development and Recognition Manager at the IB, has seen a growing interest in the CP, in Dubai in particular. She said: “There are currently nine schools in Dubai offering the CP. This year we have already received five applications from other schools and we expect two more by the end of the year. Schools, families and students clearly value a career-focused education—an exciting development since schools have historically been predominantly academically focused”.

Kosta Lekanides, Assistant Head Teacher and Head of IB Programmes at JESS, said: “The IB has seen tremendous growth in the Arab world in the last few years, in-line with the region's increased presence on the global stage. As increasing numbers of people from all parts of the world begin to call the region home, the need for greater intercultural awareness and appreciation is higher than ever. As a curriculum that is specifically designed around principles of international-mindedness, the IB is a perfect fit for the current makeup and aspirations of the region”.  

Increasing figures

Jon Halligan, Head of Development and Recognition for Africa, Europe and Middle East at the IB, said: “In the same year that the IB celebrates its 50th anniversary, we have over 10 candidate schools and 26 candidate programmes in the UAE; we expect to reach 50 schools and 100 programmes by 2020. We are proud to see our programmes playing a strong role in supporting the Ministry of Education’s National Agenda to help the UAE reach its potential”.

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