Educational institutions play a vital role in shaping a child’s future and career. It’s important to compare curricula before choosing the school that you think best suits your child’s needs. Image Credit: Supplied

Choosing a curriculum that fulfils the requirements of your children's future career is indeed a gargantuan task. In the UAE, thanks to its multicultural environment, we are blessed with a multitude of schools offering a wide range of curriculum to choose from. We offer you a low-down of some of them.

Indian curriculum

For Indian curriculum in the UAE, you have a choice between the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE).

CBSE conducts public examinations at the end of class 10 and 12, and grants certificates to successful candidates of the affiliated schools.

To reduce exam trauma and stress and prevent unrealistic competition among students, CBSE has recently made board-conducted examination for class ten optional and introduced a nine-point grading system inplace of marks. Under the new scheme, schools have been empowered to evaluate studentsin classes nine and ten.

The academic performance of a learner is reflected in the forms of grades and percentile ranks. Prakash Abraham, Principal of Boys' Section (classes five to ten) at the Indian High School, Dubai explains, "Semester assessment is organised through two terms duringa year for students in classes nine and ten. Each term comprises two [tests], a formative and a summative assessment where the examinations are conducted by schools but questions are set by the board." He adds that if a student decides to leave the CBSE system or the school, then he/she can opt for an on-demand board-conducted examination for class ten.

For classes 11 and 12, students need to opt for either science, commerce or humanities subjects in addition to other compulsory subjects and sit for a board-conducted examination at the end of class 12.

CISCE is a private board of educationin India that organises two examinations — Indian Certificate of Secondary Examination (ICSE) and the Indian School Certificate (ISC). The Council focuses on conductingschool examinations only through the medium of English.

"All students compulsorily study science (physics-chemistry-biology) until class eight. In accordance with rules laid down by the Council (effective from the academic year 1999-2000), a candidate for the ICSE (class ten) examination must study English, social studies (history/civics and geography as separate papers), mathematics, environmental education and a second language," says Kapil Chaudhary, Career Counsellor, Dubai Modern High School, one of the few offering the curriculum in Dubai.

A candidate must also choose between the science stream and the commerce stream from class nine, hence they study twoadditional subjects.

For ISC examination, a candidate needs to study English and environmental studies as compulsory subjects. Additionally, >students choose subjects from either science, commerce or humanities streams.

British curriculum

The National Curriculum of England is extremely popular in the UAE among expatriates. The planned structure of the curriculum takes care of a child's education requirements from the age of 3 to 18.

The National Curriculum of England is framed on the basis of four key stages — key stage one: ages five to seven (years one to two); key stage two: ages 7-11 (years three to six); key stage three: ages 11-14 (years seven to nine); key stage four: ages 14-16 (years 10-11) — at the end of key stage four students appear for General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations.

Many schools in the UAE also offer students opportunities to appear for International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examinations, which is an internationally recognised qualification for students in the 14-16 age group. "IGCSE is different from the GCSE in the sense that this is more attuned to the needs of the international community, it's a modified English curriculum. GCSE has more UK specific topics for its examinations whereas IGCSE covers more international topics," explains David McLaughlin, principal of Cambridge International School in Dubai.

The Advanced level (A level) is usually studied over a two-year period and is split into two parts — Advanced Subsidiary (AS level, year 12) and A2 (year 13). A student has to study both the levels to achieve a complete A level certificate.

American curriculum

The American system of education places a lot of importance on co-curricular activities in addition to theoretical learning to ensure a balanced development of students. The American diploma is accepted for entrance by all US universities and colleges, and is increasingly being recognised by international schools of higher education, says Robin Appleby, Superintendent of Dubai American Academy.

"In the elementary school, the curriculum is designed to offer every student exposure to a full range of age-appropriate subjects so that young learners have access to all areas of knowledge and they can begin to develop their passions. In the middle school years, more arts electives and second languages such as French or Spanish are added. In the high school, options expand further still to include more languages, business studies, sciences and design technology. Students have choices in both middle and high schools, but must study a minimum of six subject areas throughout — and most study seven or eight," she says.

"The exams are based on the standards set for each course. The American diploma is awarded when the number of credits required by the school are earned by the student, generally at the completion of grade 12, when students are 18 years of age."

Australian curriculum

Australian States and Territories have their own educational authorities and their own certifications/qualifications. The curriculum structures and pedagogical principles in each state are often very similar and the general educational ethos is common across authorities, points out Dean Pyrah, Head of Secondary School, Victoria International School of Sharjah.

Victoria International School of Sharjah, for instance, follows curriculum of Victorian State. The Victorian Curriculum is based on the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS). VELS draws on national and international research about how students learn and outlines what is important for students to learn and develop during their time at school from ‘prep to year ten'. In the final two years of school (classes 11 and 12) students study the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE)that gives them a qualification recognisable by universities worldwide.

International Baccalaureate

There are schools in the UAE that offer pupils scope to pursue International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. IB offers three educational programmes for pupils aged three to 19. Though very few schools in the UAE offer all the three IB programmes, you can find a sizeable number of schools offering IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). n