There are many private international schools in Dubai catering specifically to the large foreign community that calls the emirate home, and expats generally choose this option over the emirate's public schools.
For the most part, schools in Dubai adhere to high standards, but often have different approaches. Expats must consider what kind of learning environment will best benefit their child, and what their priorities are in choosing an institution. That said, many private schools in Dubai offer a brand of education that allows students to enter any university in the world.
The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau publishes annual reviews of all private schools in Dubai, and reports published on its website are a good place to get objective information about schools.
International schools in Dubai
There are a number of options when it comes to choosing an international school in Dubai. Many schools follow the British education system and teach the National Curriculum of England in primary school, then offer IGCSE and A-Level qualifications at the senior level. Others follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, with a handful following other curricula such as the Australian National Curriculum. Several schools also offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), which is internationally recognised.
There is a local syllabus requirement even for international schools in the UAE, so expat children will study Arabic and Islamic studies or UAE social studies. In some cases, only basic proficiency in Arabic is required, while at others an A-Level or equivalent is offered.
School fees have seen a sharp rise in the last few years; so much so, that many expat parents are choosing to homeschool their children or send them back to their home country for an education.
Most schools in Dubai have full uniforms, and many have a school bus transport system. Along with textbooks and other equipment, expats should remember to factor in these extra costs.
It's important to check whether a relocation package includes a school allowance; unfortunately, the days when this was a given are long gone. Also, most allowances won't be enough to cover a top school's tuition in full – so expats should make sure their salary is enough to cover the extra costs. We recommend expats negotiate for a better school allowance, especially if considering a senior position in Dubai.
Admission to international schools
Good international schools in Dubai are flooded with applications each year, and primary schools, in particular, are over-subscribed. Some of the best primary schools may be full for the next three or four years.
It's absolutely essential to apply as soon as possible, especially if one's child is between three and seven years old. Most schools will post admission requirements and application procedures on their websites. In many cases, it's possible to begin the application process from abroad. This should be the first priority for expat parents when planning the move to Dubai.
Tutoring in Dubai
Private tutors are extremely popular in Dubai. Despite the rising cost of school fees in the emirate, many parents are reaching even deeper into their pockets to afford the hefty fees charged by tutors.
For expat families, tutors can be particularly useful in helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language or maintain their mother tongue.
Though the tutoring industry was previously unregulated, the Knowledge and Human Development Centre (KHDA) has recently implemented strict quality guidelines and licencing requirements. Parents should therefore research prospective tutors carefully to ensure they are KHDA approved.
A few tutoring agencies worth considering are Tutoring Club, International Training Institute, and Sage Education, all of which have good reputations in the emirate.
Special needs education in Dubai
In recent years, the UAE government has begun to focus on providing support to students with special educational needs. As a result, more public schools are now equipped to support such students. The ultimate goal is integration so that even those with special educational needs can develop alongside their peers.
Some international schools have excellent special needs education programmes, while others don't offer support in this regard. Parents with children with special needs should be sure to do their research before settling on a school.
Are you an expat living in Dubai?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Dubai. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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