Head of one secondary school says grades are well above the average for UK students because culture states 'it is cool to succeed'
Reactions mixed after release of GCSE results across the UAE
ABU DHABI // Ahmed Faiz opened the brown envelope as fast as he could. For a moment, he was elated.
Then the Yemeni student's broad smile crinkled with concern. He had scored four A*s and four Bs in his GCSEs.
But there was one C, in physical education, which he said tainted all of his other results.
"My parents will not be happy with this C," said Ahmed, 16, from Al Yasmina school. "They never pushed me to study, they just expected all A*s. I did not tell my parents yet. I don't plan to call them, I'll tell them later."
He has still scored better than the average British pupil, as did many others in the UAE yesterday.
While General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results in Britain were lower than in previous years, Al Yasmina School managed its best results yet.
Its 43 pupils scored grades A* to C in 93 per cent of their exams, with 39 per cent receiving A or A*, and 75 per cent A* to B.
"These are well above the national average of grades in the UK," said Darren Gale, the school principal. Last year, 89 per cent of pupils scored A* to C.
But parental pressure in the UAE remained much higher than that in the UK, Mr Gale said.
"There is a culture here that it is cool to achieve," he said. "Parents come here wanting a better standard of living."
Ahmed's classmate Faisal Ali, from Iraq, was also worried after scoring an A*, two As, six Bs, and two Cs.
"They will look at the Cs, not the other grades," Faisal said. "I did OK, but I could have done better.
"I got A* in physical education, but D in the theory, leading to one of the Cs.
"And geography was hard and some things in the exam were not even covered in class."
For some, the results were better than expected.
"I am pleasantly surprised," said Emily Simpson, from Plymouth, who scored an A*, three As, six Bs, and one C.
"Last night I couldn't sleep."
Although Emily had already check-ed her results on the internet, she wanted to be at the school as soon as the doors opened "to see the results on paper".
"We will have dinner out to celebrate tonight," she said as she skipped out of the school, hugging her parents.
Clara Ziada, from Egypt, said she was in shock after her six A*s and three As.
"I will prepare a party for her and have a surprise gift ready for her," said her father Samir.
At the British School Al Khubairat, all 110 GCSE pupils achieved at least C grades - widely regarded as the "pass mark" for continuing to A-level study.
And 96 per cent of grades were A* to C grades, with almost half (49 per cent) A* or A - up from 42 per cent last year - and 79 per cent A* to B.
"I hope students celebrate these successes," said Stephen Rogers, the school's head of secondary.
"They are well deserved and will enable them to progress to the next stage of A-level with confidence."
In Dubai, Gems Jumeirah College's 38 pupils all managed A* to C grades in their GCSEs, with 84 per cent receiving A* to B, and half scoring A* and A.
"We are incredibly pleased. The students have exceeded targets and expectation," said Fiona Cottam, the school's chief executive and principal.