x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Record university test result of boy, 9

'His work is fabulous,' a teacher says as little Mohamed sets his sights on Harvard after schoolboy shows gift for language.

A nine-year-old Emirati boy has become the youngest person to score high enough on an international language test to meet university requirements.

Mohamed al Amiri, who was born and raised in Al Ain, scored 5.5 out of a possible grade of 9 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Now he says he wants to go to Harvard University in America, although he and his parents accept that he may have to wait a few years.

The result, which was confirmed by Fouad Charlie, the director of the IELTS centre at UAE University, was not the first time Mohamed has broken records.

At seven, he became the youngest person in the UAE - and the second youngest in the world - to pass the International Computer Driving Licence exam.

His parents say their son has been a prodigy since he was a baby.

"We were driving and I was pointing out the trees and birds and cars," said his mother, Bakhita al Fallahi. "He memorised everything and kept repeating them in both Arabic and English."

"He spoke much older than his age," his father, Salih al Amiri, said. "He had, and still has, a strong personality, he wouldn't cry like other kids. If he wanted to drink milk or something, he would tell me or his mum."

Mohamed's parents decided to send him to a private school and help him develop both English and Arabic simultaneously. He is also fluent in French.

"I sometimes read books in French," he said. "This year I have read over 50 books, some of which are in French."

Mohamed's love of books, and encyclopedias in particular, started three years ago when his parents took him to a library. His real passion, though, is science.

"I want to be a scientist in energy," he said. "This field is new and not many people are in it from the UAE and in a new field, citizens of the country need to be in these fields.

"I want the UAE to become a better place gradually and later become the best in the world.

"This has to be gradual. What goes up fast, comes down fast."

Mohamed has already started to make university plans.

"I want to go to Harvard in the United States," he said.

"It is famous for being a great university and it's stronger than other universities, including Cambridge. I will then come back to work here. The most important things to me is to be a very important man in the UAE and not be forgotten when I pass away."

Until he is old enough to go abroad, his parents are struggling to work out what to do with him.

"We wish there is a way for our son to skip school years," his mother said. "He should be in mid-secondary, but we tried everything, and the teachers have too, but it hasn't been possible."

His English teacher, Helwa Ahmed, has tried to help keep him engaged by giving him extra work.

"The way he writes and presents his work is fabulous," she said. "I sometimes give him extra projects and extra vocabulary."

Mohamed has had some trouble blending with his classmates in grade five.

"Sometimes my friends don't understand me - if they don't I just go off at break time and eat my lunch quietly, there is no point is wasting my time," he said.

Mohamed's parents will continue to push him to reach his potential and make his country proud.

"He is very patriotic to his country, he gets teary every time he hears the national anthem," his mother said.

"He is happy that his accomplishment is by him, an Emirati, to show others that Emirati children can do a lot."

That sense of patriotism is echoed by Mohamed. "What I did is for the UAE and for the rulers," he said.

osalem@thenational.ae