In the UK, schools and Further Education Colleges typically offer a broad spectrum of BTEC courses in subjects as diverse as Childcare, Construction, Media and Land Management. In the UAE, the subject offering is considerably less broad, with schools typically offering one or more BTEC programmes in Business, Art & Design, Performing Arts or Sport. That said, an increasing number of schools are keen to offer BTEC to their students, clearly intent on creating a Post 16 pathway that complements the more traditional academic routes of A Level or IB.
With more than 95% of UK universities accepting BTEC for entry, these high-level courses are clearly a well-established pathway into university. Even more than that, and with 33% of UK job vacancies considered to be hard to fill and therefore “skill shortage vacancies”, clearly there are many industries and lines of work where employers will value skills just as highly as academic qualifications.
We spoke to three UAE school to understand why they see BTEC as an exciting option for their students. At Kent College Dubai, the team have recently launched a Performing Arts BTEC course in collaboration with UK based performing arts centre, Urdang Academy in London.
Caroline Kelley, Head of Performing Arts at Kent College Dubai had this to say on the school’s latest vocational pathway.
"The wonderful thing about BTEC is that it appeals to parents and students because it is preparing students for the world of work, whilst equipping them with a recognised qualification. This couldn’t be truer than with the Performing Arts BTEC, where the course is designed as a stepping stone for students to study at a specialist three-year vocational training course, Conservatoire or University degree programme and then go on to work in the entertainment industry.
"What is so exciting about what we are offering at Kent College Dubai, is that our students will be trained by industry specialists from the Performing Arts industry, including staff from both Urdang International and Kent College Dubai. All practical delivery will be overseen by Urdang Academy, to ensure that students in Dubai receive a similar standard of world class delivery as the flagship colleges in London. The course content commands a high level of talent in either singing, acting or dance. We aim to nurture an all rounded performer who is prepared for auditions or application to their next stage of training or education.”
It is perhaps easy to understand why a career in Performing Arts might well lend itself well to a skills-based qualification, but what about that broad-based sector, “Business"? With so many activities under this umbrella term, how does a Post 16 qualification begin to prepare students for their career? Mr Kosta Lekanides, Deputy Head Teacher, Key Stage 5 at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) explained how their course was structured to be a springboard to work and university.
“At JESS, we offer the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business, which provides learners with the unique opportunity to specialise in studying business specific modules in a manner which reflects real workplace situations and scenarios. We offer a 180-credit programme consisting of 18 units delivered over the course of two years. The content is delivered through engagement with the local community (businesses and other organisations) alongside classroom-based theory. In addition, many of our students receive a BTEC+ Diploma as they complete a course in Investment and Finance with CISI (The Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment).
"As the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business equates to three A-Levels, students can apply for a range of University Degree courses linked to the discipline of business (for example Marketing, Finance, HR, Accounting). Our graduates have been accepted in a variety of business programmes at some of the UK’s top universities”.
Indeed, the 2019 cohort of JESS Business BTEC students left to pursue degrees at the University of Bath, Newcastle University, Avans University of Applied Science, Netherlands, Middlesex University and Abertay University.
There’s perhaps no more practical passion than Sport, so for students wanting to purse higher education and careers in the sporting industry, a BTEC Sport qualification may well prove an obvious choice. We could not write a feature on vocational education without the inclusion of the winner of the SchoolsCompared.com Top School Awards, Best School of the Year 2019, Dubai English Speaking College (DESC). Known for offering a superb standard of education in a wholly non selective school, vocational education has long been on the agenda at DESC. For the sports department, this means a course that is tailored around the passions and strengths of each student. One of the PE Department Leaders at DESC, Charlotte Roxburgh had this to say of the course on offer,
"Within the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport, DESC are able choose the optional units alongside those specified as mandatory. This allows some freedom to decide which units are best suited to our students, facilities and teachers’ specialisms. This not the case for A-level PE whereby the specification is prescribed and non-negotiable.
"DESC is also able to design how we wish for each unit to be assessed, this enables students of different abilities to showcase their skills through various methods. We find that this is particularly advantageous for those students who do not perform in exam situations, or who are particularly strong when completing practical tasks. The A-level PE course is more suited to students who have a strength in written examinations at the end of the two-year course.
The BTEC Sport course also allows students to manage their own assignments, ask for feedback and have an understanding of their current progress. There are plenty of UCAS points on offer which opens many doors to a range of different courses at many universities."
Are you a student considering a BTEC qualification? Or perhaps present or past BTEC student with experiences to share? We would love to hear your thoughts on studying for a BTEC qualification in the UAE – email firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
Click on the link for all schools in the UAE currently offering the BTEC.