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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Tres bien! Al Ain student scores highest grade in the world in GCSE French

Roy Hayyat, who also took his exams one year early, said 'I thought I’d made a few mistakes'

Roy Hayyat who scored the highest mark in the world for Edexcel GCSE in French receives the award from the principal Andrew Thomas at the Al Ain English Speaking School in Al Ain. Satish Kumar / The National
Roy Hayyat who scored the highest mark in the world for Edexcel GCSE in French receives the award from the principal Andrew Thomas at the Al Ain English Speaking School in Al Ain. Satish Kumar / The National

A 15-year-old student at the Al Ain English Speaking School has scored the highest grade in the world in his GCSE French exam.

Roy Hayyat received an award for his accomplishment this week. “I was in awe when I first found out I got the results and refreshed the page three or four times to make sure it had actually happened,” he said.

“I still didn’t believe it. I was waiting to come back to school to see if there was a change in the result. I just thought it wasn’t real.”

The Syrian-Turkish student came first out of the 37,428 students who took the exam worldwide. “Once I walked out of the exam, I was kind of happy because I was stressing out,” he said. “I didn’t really think of it that much. I was happy to be done with it. I even thought I’d made a few mistakes.”

His parents were in another country when he first shared the news over Skype. “My mother laughed at first because we both couldn’t believe it and we were both very surprised,” he said. “When she realised it was real, it was unbelievable.

"Both of us were so happy about it. She might have been happier than me. She might have even cried tears of joy.”

Roy, who has been living in Al Ain for the past five years, kept the news a secret at first to avoid attracting attention.

“But when I was presented with the award, I got a standing ovation from my friends,” he said. “I’m still undecided as to what I would like to do in the future, but I will most likely head into dentistry. My father himself is an orthodontist, he thinks it will be a good fit for me and the topic itself is very interesting.”

He was previously living in Aleppo, but had to move due to the ongoing war which ravaged the country. “It was great, I loved it so much,” he said. “The people and the city were beautiful, but due to the situation, most of us had to slowly start leaving.

"I miss it so much and I’m very proud to be able to represent my country in this way.”

He said the move to the new school in Al Ain was smooth. “It’s a great school,” he said.

“The people took me in straight away when I thought it would take me a year or two to fit in. But in the first month, the people were great to me and everybody was very welcoming.”

Andrew Thomas, the school’s principal, was thrilled with the results.

“Nearly every year, we get something from the exam board that says we get a student with the highest grade in the UAE, but this year it was a piece of paper that said the highest in the UAE and the highest in the world,” he said.

“I was totally in awe and we had to hold off to double check it wasn’t a mistake because we knew Roy had scored 100 per cent on his papers, but we had to check with the exam board. We thought maybe something went wrong.”

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Students normally sit the exams at the end of year 11.

Roy sat his one year early.

“So what he’s achieved means even more because he’s taken it a year early. It’s absolutely phenomenal,” Mr Thomas said. “The hair on the back of my neck stood up. You want all your children to aspire to be the best in the world, we tell them to spread their wings and be the best, which is a bold statement.

"But when a student’s actually done it, it’s a career-defining moment and it was the highlight of my career.”

His teacher, Ms Ashton, retired this year after 15 years in the school.

“We called her back for the celebration,” Mr Thomas said. “That’s a very nice way to retire. We normally get once a year the highest in the UAE, except for last year.

"But these exams are very difficult – only seven per cent of GCSE exams sat received an A* last year in the UK and not all people hit that top grade. It’s not a walk in the park by any stretch and to do it in a foreign language is even better. I’m very thrilled. It’s unbelievable and I really wasn’t expecting it.”

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