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Chapter Six: Schooling in the UAE.

For a comprehensive, mandatory schooling system, you can’t look past Dubai in the UAE. The city offers a well-regulated, well-resourced education system that strives to reach the optimal standards of the developed world. Every child of Dubai’s citizens can access free education, from five years old to fifteen, in the primary and secondary public systems. However, the children of non-citizens must pay fees at public schools.

In Dubai, there is a wide choice of schooling available, with something to suit all requirements. There are good public schools to choose from and a great range of highly ranked private schools, meeting the needs of every individual student.

Until recently, expat children could not access the state-run public education system, and this resulted in the establishment of a large number of private, international schools. Even today, the majority of schools in Dubai are private schools. Places can be limited, particularly at primary schools, so families must apply early to secure a place for their child in the school of their choice.

While the international schools must provide compulsory Arabic language classes to all students of non-Arabic heritage, they are still able to offer their own national curricula, like French, British, American, Russian, and many others, to cater to the nationalities of the expat children who attend. Students can even move on to tertiary education within some of these international schools.

The consequences of this private educational system are that many expat families have struggled to meet steep fees and this has resulted in parents opting for home-schooling, or families have just left the country altogether.

Attendance at school from 5 years old is mandatory for both boys and girls. In the state-owned public schools, instruction is delivered in Arabic, with English often being taught as a second language. The private schools in the UAE often rank very highly, particularly compared with the public system, however, the government has made the redevelopment of the public education system an imperative.

While private schools are permitted to offer the national curricula of their choice, they must still operate under license and under the supervision of the UAE Ministry of Education and also under the auspices of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai.

The Ministry of Education supervises, oversees, and regulates all private schools to ensure that the UAE national educational policy is implemented. The curricula must be approved, and additional subjects like Islamic education, Arabic language, and Arab social studies must be included where applicable.

Nursery schools in Dubai can also be privately run and offer the appropriate curricula from various nations, for expat children, with many of the nursery schools offering a choice of languages. Many of the nursery schools have an affiliation with international schools and children attending them may be entitled to priority for gaining a place at the parents’ preferred primary school.

Other factors influencing a parent’s choice of nursery school for their child include the level of fees, locality of the nursery, and the hours of operation.

Children attending a particular private school during their primary years often remain within that system when they graduate into secondary education.


For further information:



Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) https://www.khda.gov.ae

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