Atharva Pulujkar, 17, set a record for his school when he became the first valedictorian to be named the UAE’s top science pupil.
When the Indian School Certificate Examination (ISCE) results were announced on Monday, the Gems Modern Academy pupil tied with classmate Soumil Banerjee to score the country’s highest mark in the science stream with a near-perfect grade.
“I wasn’t expecting to get 99 overall, but when I saw the results I was very happy,” said Atharva, who was born in India and has lived in the UAE most of his life.
Gems Modern Academy is the UAE’s biggest and oldest Council for the ISCE-curriculum school.
Three schools in Dubai and one in Sharjah offer the ICSE curriculum, which evolved from the Cambridge School Certificate Examination and is said to be more rigorous in English and science than the more popular Central Board of Secondary Education.
Of the 145 Gems Modern Academy pupils in Grade 12 who sat the exam, 55.9 per cent scored 90 per cent or higher.
Atharva was named his school’s valedictorian after scoring the highest grade in the preliminary exams in January. In the school’s 30-year history, this is the first time a valedictorian has also scored the highest grade in the final exams.
“We have never had our valedictorian – that’s our topper in our preliminary exams – top the ISC exam, but this year, our valedictorian is exactly the person who’s topped so he’s broken tradition,” said Nargish Khambatta, principal and chief executive of Gems Modern Academy.
Another 225 pupils sat the Grade 10 examination, with 41.8 per cent of them scoring above 90 per cent.
Adiba Ejaz, 15, led the Grade 10 candidates with a mark of 98.8 per cent.
“The thing is to be consistent,” Adiba said. “What a lot of people tend to do with exams is they don’t pay attention for the whole year and expect that you can cram everything within a month and get that grade. But the thing with exams, you’ve got to spread it out over a period of time.”
Adiba and Atharva said that, while getting high marks were important to them they did not let it overshadow their extracurricular activities.
“Basically, you shouldn’t treat getting marks like the biggest thing in life,” said Atharva, who will study mechanical engineering at Imperial College London this autumn.
“While you’re in school, you should study well, you should study hard, but at the same time you must focus on your other interests, like sports.”
Ms Khambatta said: “The people who’ve topped, they are all-rounders, they find the right balance, they focus on academics as well as pursue their extracurricular passions.
“The teachers have very high expectations of the students. Our students always live up to those high expectations.
“I’m very, very pleased that we are an all-inclusive school, so we have students with disabilities who appear for the exam and they sit the same exam, and we are pleased with their performance.”