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    How to choose the right school for your children in a new country

    One of the biggest worries for expats moving to the UAE is finding the right school for their kids. Navigating a new country is hard enough, but choosing the right school system with the right ratings and fee structure is a herculean task! On the plus side, with almost 80% expatriates, the country is a melting pot of nationalities, ethnicities and religions. Catering to this wide a range of people, there are as many kinds of schooling systems. So, fear not, there’s definitely something that will work for you!

    Below, we give you a broad overview of the UAE educational system, which in turn, will help guide you in choosing the right school for your children.

    Schooling system

    The educational system in the UAE is divided into three broad categories: public schools, private schools and higher educational institutions. As of the most recent government reports, there are 511 schools in the UAE – currently, the highest number in the GCC. 

    While there are public, private and Emirati schools to choose from, the western expatriate community generally prefers the private schooling stream. There are 185 private schools in Dubai, with an approximate total of 273,500 students. The largest percentage of private schools that cater to the English-speaking world are British and follow the national curriculum, which culminates in the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) / O’ Level and A’ Level examinations. This is followed closely by the American and International Baccalaureate (IB) schooling systems, with an increasing number of schools also beginning to offer the French, Canadian, German and Japanese curricula.

    Most western expats prefer to choose the same schooling system in their home country for their children. As mentioned above, the majority of private schools in the UAE follow the British or American curriculum, but it is worth mentioning that the Indian, Pakistani and Filipino systems also remain hugely popular. So when it comes to choosing a school system for their children, expatriates tend to gravitate to the one that is most familiar. 

    It is also worth keeping in mind that all students in the UAE must also study Arabic and social studies, in addition to the usual repertoire of subjects. Arabic is incorporated into the curriculum pretty early on in nursery and reception, whereas UAE social studies kicks in by Year 2 or 3. 


    Schools in the UAE, especially in Dubai, follow a system of ratings issued by the governmental educational body, the Dubai Education Council and Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). The other emirate states also have similar educational governing bodies that issue ratings. 

    These ratings are given after a detailed inspection that places schools on a range from outstanding, very good, good, acceptable, weak, to very weak. These results measure an institution across six performance areas: students’ achievement; students’ personal and social development and innovation skills; teaching and assessment; curriculum; the protection, care, guidance and support issued to the students; and lastly, the leadership and management at the school. 

    Choosing a school that falls upwards of ‘good’ on the KHDA ratings ensures that the education being dispensed within the institution is of quality, and will place your children in good stead. 

    Fee structures

    It is no secret that schooling in the UAE is amongst the priciest in the world. A 2017 study by HSBC further endorses this view. While schooling is free for locals, all expatriates need to pay school fees, which most often, increases with every progressive academic year. While rumour has it that the better a KHDA rating, the higher the school fee, some emirate states like Dubai have introduced an annual fee cap that fixes the tuition rates for a certain number of years – making it a more equitable fee structure for expatriate parents. 

    Since most schools in the UAE offer a good level of academic education, expatriates end up choosing an institution according to the academic system it follows, its rating, its proximity to their home and its fee structure.

    GAC offers schooling advice to corporates looking to move families to the UAE. To find out more, drop us an email or give us a call and we will guide you so that your move can be as easy as possible – not just for you, but also for your little ones!



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