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Which Post 16 Curriculum – How to Choose

In our first Guide, which you can read here, we covered the many reasons why parents may need to change the school their child(ren) attend at the critical two-year period of secondary education between 16 and 18/19 years of age. We also covered why, in many cases, changing school for these years is in practice often the best course of action for children and something that many should do.

The reason why many students and families choose to stay in the same all-through school is often driven by security of what is known – but there can be a high price paid for this, particularly in ensuring the best qualifications for an individual child.

If there is a right time to consider changing schools, arguably this two-year post 16-period in which young men and women secure the qualifications needed to move from school to university or industry is the best time to make the change.

Many Year 11 students across the UAE are already now visiting Sixth Form/Senior/High School open days at UAE schools to consider their future options.

The options are diverse. Increasingly, with the background of a hugely competitive global economy as the backdrop to their decision-making, families will need to consider whether each child(ren) should study A-levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma, International Certificates, the High School Diploma, APS, or, for many Indian Students, the ICSE or CBSE Grade XII exams.

For local families studying in government schools the stakes are just as high, with a two year window to transfer to a recognised international curriculum school.

Add to this choice a landscape that is witnessing an increasing move towards technical qualifications (something we believe is not before time) including the International Career-related Programme in IB schools, and BTEC and newly announced T levels (the technical variant of the A Level) in British schools.


Many parents and students will simply have no choice but to change schools – there are no schools in the Emirates currently offering parallel stream A Level and IB – or parallel stream US High School Diploma and A Level – or parallel stream Grade XII exams and either the IB or A Level. Only a limited number of hybrid US schools offer a parallel stream IB and High School Diploma option – and often in these schools only a limited number of students will have the option to study for a full Diploma.

In this, the second part of our 10-part series on Post-16 education in the Emirates, we explore each of the curricular options facing young men and women at this age – and provide signposts on the strengths – and weaknesses of each.

For parents and young men and women considering changing school, the choice of curriculum offered is, we believe, in the three top areas to consider in deciding the optimum school for each child.

To put it differently, the consequences of choosing a curriculum that does not meet the needs, potential and abilities of the student can be long-lasting.

By way of clarification, this period of schooling is known by a variety of different terms. In UK schools this period of schooling is usually referred to as “Sixth Form”, in US and Canadian schools, “High School”, in IB schools there are many descriptions including Senior School. The description arguably is less important than the complexity caused by the different grade progressions and year grouping of schools – particularly between US and Canadian schools on the one hand and IB and British schools on the other. This can make transferring schools more difficult, particularly in the case of US or Canadian students seeking to transfer to the IB or A’ Level. This is covered later in the Guide.

Prospective parents should note too that we do not cover in this Guide transfer into other country-specific school curricular, including those within the French, Russian or German school systems. This is because it is very unlikely that children will transfer into these schools, although it may well be the case that children may wish to transfer out of these systems and the following will assist with this decision.

Next: The options

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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