Education system and curriculum in Dubai and UAE schools
Education complaints hotline in Dubai and UAE
- The UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the launch of a call-center with a toll-free hotline, tel 800-51115 in UAE, for parents and students to make enquiries and lodge complaints about education and schools in the UAE (Gulf News 01 april 2011).
- The telephone number is the same as the general UAE MOE enquiries number.
- The call center will answer calls in Arabic or English. Call center location is at Mall of the Emirates Dubai?
General UAE education system information and choosing a school
In our opinion, it is essential that you physically visit the nursery, school, college, or university before your children sign up to study in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or other UAE emirates. A first-hand impression and your instincts could be worth far more than any research you do on the internet, or advice you receive from an educational consultant. If you live overseas, flying to Dubai to visit the institute should be a worthwhile investment. If you cannot do that, then try harder. If you still cannot make a visit, then try and find a trusted friend or relative living in the UAE to go on your behalf (no, mynewbestfriend338 that you met online last week doesn't count).
Like most places, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the other emirates in the UAE have a wide range of schools ranging from ones that students hate to ones they simply dislike intensely. Homework is almost always given in sufficient quantities so that students begin to see child slavery as an appealing alternative, and a wheelbarrow for all their textbooks would be a very useful purchase. School buses are warm enough in the summer heat so that if your wee darlings bring food with them, it will arrive at school cooked to perfection.
Having said all that, not to worry. It is possible to find buses with reasonable air conditioning and smaller books. Generally, you get what you pay for. Kindergarten and primary school students will usually have a great educational experience. Secondary school students will complain like they do anywhere.
One of the great things about education and schooling in Dubai is the opportunity to meet students from a variety of countries and cultures and form valuable life-long friendships with them, as well as gaining a much greater global awareness compared to reading a social studies book in your home country. This effect is of course lessened if children attend a school with predominantly one nationality eg the Icelandic school of snowmobile maintenance and walrus wrestling (with apologies to any Icelanders reading this). Focus on the benefits of getting educated in a Dubai or other UAE school, and it will be a great time and a highly memorable experience. But do investigate carefully where you're going before packing up, so you don't wind up in an intolerable situation.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai have the greatest number of schools, unsurprisingly, and Sharjah and Al Ain also have a reasonable range of schools but it's harder to find a good one. The smaller emirates of Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah have a limited number of options, and some parents living in those emirates opt to send their children to schools in one of larger cities.
Transferring students to a school in the UAE, or between UAE schools
*This section not confirmed or verified and might contain inaccuracies. Check with the school where student is expected to be registered for exact details.
*All students above KG or nursery level need an original transfer certificate or letter from their current school to be permitted to enrol at a new school in the UAE. The letter needs to be on paper with the current school's letterhead and *should or must (not confirmed)* contain the following information:
- Child's full name (same as passport details).
- Date of birth (same as passport details).
- Type of curriculum (American, British, Indian, IB, etc).
- Date of admission to school.
- Class level admitted to at start date.
- Class level at departure date from school.
- Highest Grade or Year level completed.
- Reason for leaving.
- School head's signature, dated, with official school stamp.
Attestation of school transfer certificates for English-speaking curriculum schools in the UAE
*This information might not be valid for Indian curriculum schools even if English is the medium of instruction, or non-English speaking curriculum schools - check with a school in the UAE with such a curriculum what the correct procedure is.
- Transferring between schools in the UAE:
- Transferring from another GCC country: Transfer Certificate must be attested by the Ministry of Education in that country.
- Transferring from most western English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, NZ, UK, USA): original school letterheaded paper, school stamp, and head's signature should be sufficient.
- Transferring from other western countries (western Europe, Japan, Singapore): possibly same as for UK, USA, etc but check with school applying to. Requirements might vary depending on nature of the school, international English speaking curriculum school more likely not to require attestation of certificate for example. Unclear if South Africa can be included in this list.
- Transferring from any other country (probably includes central and eastern European countries even if they are EU members) all of the following attestations are required, not just one, in the following order:
- Leaving country Ministry of Education attestation.
- Leaving country Ministry of Foreign Affairs attestation.
- UAE embassy or consulate in leaving country. If one doesn't exist, try either the nearest country with a UAE representation, or another GCC country representation in the leaving country, or another Arab representation in the leaving country. Iran is not an Arab country.
As a general rule when attesting documents (of any sort), you need an official letter or certificate from the original issuing institute. That needs to be attested by the ministry or authority in that country governing that institute, then needs to be attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in that country, then needs to be attested by a UAE embassy or consulate. In that order. Always get the original attested. Occasionally attested copies can be accepted but don't count on it. And try to get it done before leaving the country, it's usually much easier.
Compulsory education in the UAE
- 07 Nov 2012 - the FNC (Federal National Council) is reviewing legislation that would make education compulsory for children from 6 to 18 years of age, including expat residents according to a report in The National (The law will apply to non-nationals too ...). Which possibly clears up a question mark from the July 2012 news about who the new law applies to. Unknown how this would affect home schooling in the UAE, although the report did say there could be exemptions permitted due to health or social reasons.
- 23 Jul 2012 (WAM) - a UAE Cabinet meeting "passed a motion for issuing a federal draft law on compulsory education which replaces the operating law." The amendments include free education up to 18 years of age, and compulsory education up to 18 years (news release not entirely clear)? The parent or guardian is responsible for making sure their children attend school. Parents or guardians could be fined AED 10,000 for breaches of the new law. This applies to UAE Nationals only, not expat residents, as far as we know.
- Education is compulsory for UAE citizens (not necessarily residents) up to the end of elementary school level only.
- Education is free for UAE citizens in government (public) schools and institutes.
Education reform in the UAE - 2013
During a UAE Cabinet retreat on Sir Bani Yas Island, a number of proposals were made for improving the UAE education system. Generally they will apply to the UAE public government education system, unknown if or how they will affect the private school system.
- Foundation year at universities and colleges to be removed. Secondary school education to be upgraded to university entrance level instead.
- Dual-stream arts or science options in secondary schools to be removed (same as the decision announced in Nov 2013?).
- Teacher licensing system to be introduced or improved, and teaching incentives to be offered or improved.
- Educational performance assessment and ratings to be introduced for nurseries, and universities and colleges.
Schools in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other emirates in the UAE
For expats, children will often go to a private school catering to whatever nationality and qualification preference you have, or an international school with a more mixed student body. There are American and British curriculum schools of course. But there are also Arabic, Australian, French, German, Indian, Iranian, Japanese, Russian etc curriculum schools based in Dubai and the UAE. Some of these schools are governed by the embassy of that country (a total of 18 in the UAE in 2006).
The name of the school won't tell you very much on its own. It is not unusual for schools in Dubai with Indian curriculums to be called an English school of some sort. Dubai and UAE schools with an Arabic sounding name eg Al Khubairat School will not necessarily have an Arabic curriculum. Dubai schools with an international sounding name could well be solely Arabic or Indian curriculum schools. Schools in the UAE with French sounding names will be French though. Which, in an odd way, is quite surprising.
Some names will sound a little odd. The Little Flock English School for example obviously had admirable intentions but unfortunately it sounds like an angry father had a hand in the naming process.
Ages and equivalent grades can vary a little. Some schools will have Year 13 as the final year (usually British curriculum schools), but other schools will call it grade 12 (usually American curriculum schools). A rough guide is in the table below (KS = Key Stage - UK National Curriculum).
||nursery, kindergarten, preschool
||elementary, primary, junior
||high, secondary, senior
|National Curriculum (UK)
||FS1 (KG1, Nursery)
||FS2 (KG2, Reception)
- Age in years is for student at the start of the academic year - about early September for most schools in the UAE, early April for Indian and Pakistani schools. Check the exact date with the school if your child has a birthday around this time. In the rest of the world, northern hemisphere schools start the academic year in August/September, southern hemisphere schools in January/February.
- Years 12 and 13 in the British system might also be referred to as Lower Sixth Form and Upper Sixth Form
- There is some overlap between where a junior school ends and a senior school starts - different schools have different start and end points.
- Terms often used in reference to school levels are:
- Elementary School - a US term for a school for students aged about 4 to 12 years.
- High School - a school for students aged 11 to 17 years.
- Infant School - usually the first years of a UK primary school.
- Junior School - the later years of a UK primary school.
- Middle School - US intermediate school between elementary and high schools - range highlighted in table is approximate only.
- Nursery - for young children / toddlers (from 3 months to 4 years or a range in between).
- Preparatory School - UK private primary school.
- Public School - a government funded school in most countries, a private school in the UK (go figure ...).
- Reception - one or both of the first years of a UK primary school (FS1 & FS2), FS1 might also be referred to as "nursery".
- Sixth Form College - a UK school for 16 & 17 year old students, usually doing A-levels. None in Dubai.
- There is some overlap between where a junior school ends and a senior school starts.
- FS1 means Foundation Stage 1, KG1 (or K1) means Kindergarten year 1, KS1 means Key Stage 1.
- US schools often refer to first grade, second grade etc instead of grade one, grade two etc.
Pre-school education and childcare in the UAE
- Minimum starting age at kindergartens in the UAE revised to 3 years 8 months by the UAE MOE, starting from the 2014-2015 academic year (first reported 22 Sep 2013?). Which means 01 Jan 2014 for Bangladeshi schools; 01 Mar or 01 Apr 2014 (information unclear) for Asian, Indian, Pakistani schools; 01 Sep 2014 for UAE MOE and all other curriculum schools (American, British, International, etc). New rule in Jan 2014 says that children enrolling in KG1 must turn 4 yrs old by 31 July for schools starting academic year on 01 April, and 31 December for other schools. Previously the minimum age for KG1 entry was 3 years. Some confusion reported Feb 2014 according to quotes given by Emirates 24-7:
- ADEC says they have been notified by the MOE about the change ("All Abu Dhabi schools have been notified of the new admission age changes...",
- KHDA says they haven't ("We still haven't received any order from the ministry. Until such time, we will leave it to the discretion of the schools...").
- 26 Mar 2014 - further confusion about the new minimum age rule in the UAE reported in the Gulf News: Clarifying the issue, Marwan Al Sawaleh, Undersecretary at the Ministry, told Gulf News that since the decree was issued later this year, Indian and Pakistani schools are exempted from the admission criteria this April. However they must abide by the circular issued by the ministry from the 2014-2015 academic year.
- Which didn't clarify things at all since first he said (or the GN says he said) that Indian Pakistani schools are exempted and then he said they're not - the 2014-2015 academic year starts in April 2014, not April 2015. Good luck figuring that one out.
- The rest of the report was also confusing, or perhaps we started our own KG1 education too early in life to understand. We gave up trying to figure it out. However ...
- ... The MOE Ministerial Decree No 820 of 2014 on Registration Terms for Student [sic] Article (4) (from Jan 2014?) says Age of Student Acceptance:
- 1. A student is accepted in the first year of kindergarten if he/she completes four years of age before the 31st of December of the year in which they have been accepted.
- 3. In private schools whose academic year starts in the month of April, 31st of July is the date considered to calculate the completion of student age for the target grade.
- Which sounds clear enough to us: the minimum age is 3 yrs 8 months on 31 March to enrol in Asian curriculum schools starting their academic year on 01 April, and 3 yrs 8 mths on 31 August for most other schools starting 01 September. Children will then be 4 yrs old by 31 July or 31 December respectively in the same year (academic or chronological) they were enrolled.
- Dubai schools and kindergartens might be different though since they come under the ... jurisdiction of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which allows the admission of children before they are four years old.
Difference between a nursery and a kindergarten in the UAE is with age (0 to 4 years for nursery, 3yrs 8 mths to 6 years for kindergarten) and government authority (MOSA for nurseries; MOE, ADEC, KHDA for kindergartens).
- Nurseries operate for babies, toddlers, children, and brats up to 4 years of age and might include daycare and creche facilities. They operate under the authority and licensing of the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA).
- Kindergartens are for children from 3yrs 8 mths to 6 (or less) years of age (KG1-2 and Grade 1), and operate under the education authority in the emirate in which they are based. UAE education authorities, councils, and zones, operate under the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) umbrella. Even if it's not raining.
- Class levels are KG1 for 3-4 years old, KG2 for 4-5 years old, Grade 1 for 5-6 years old (approximately) - with a variation introduced by new minimum Kindergarten entry age in 2014.
- FS2 is regarded as equivalent to KG1. FS1 is equivalent to nursery level. Sort of, in British system schools, FS1 and FS2 might be seen as equivalent to KG1 and KG2, and they go to Year 13 instead of Grade 12 so it balances out in the end.
- Pre-schools (or preschools) might refer to nursery establishments or kindergartens. But probably kindergartens, although some nurseries use "Preschool" in their names.
A 30 July 2010 report in the Khaleej Times clarified that parents should not have their children over 4 years of age in nursery establishments, based on comments from Moza Salem Al Shoomy, Director of the Child Department at the UAE MOSA, who said ...
- "Nursery schools are only concerned with early education, known as day-care, and do not qualify children for preliminary stage. MOSA has received several complaints from parents who could not register their children in Grade-1 because they were enrolled at nurseries till the age of six,"
- "Both nurseries and kindergartens have different licences, methods, classes and requirements. Nonetheless, some nurseries put advertisements offering kindergarten education and play tricks with parents who are not aware of the procedures,"
Nursery rankings in UAE
- 02 June 2012 (Gulf News) - Nurseries in the UAE will be rated A to E by the end of 2012 according to a report of comments by Moza Al Shoomi, Director of the Child Department at the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs (which regulates nurseries in the UAE). The ratings will be made public in December 2012. Nurseries with an E grade will be expected to improve within 6 months or face closure. The report also said "Fees will depend on the level of service" but didn't elaborate further.
- 15 February 2012 (The National) - Nurseries in the UAE will be ranked by the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) on a scaled from A (excellent) to E (unacceptable). Those with an "unacceptable" rating will have to improve or face the possibility of being closed down. The nursery ratings will be published online ... maybe - at the time of the report, the MSA website doesn't even list nurseries in the UAE, it only has online application forms for establishing a new nursery or renewing a licence. There are about 300 nurseries in the UAE as of the date of the report?
School rankings and ratings in the UAE
- ADEC school inspections - for private schools in Abu Dhabi
- KHDA school inspections - for private schools in Dubai
- State schools (government run public schools) in the UAE - pilot scheme of school inspections run by the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) in mid-2012 for schools in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain (total of 29 schools). More inspections to start in September or October 2012 for state schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Inspections run by the Public School Inspections Department at the UAE MOE (head is Jamila Al Muhairi).
School calendar dates in UAE 2014-2015
Note that the UAE MOE calendar for schools has 3 "semesters" per year, not 2.
24 Mar 2014 - the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) announced calendar dates for the 2014-2015 academic year for UAE schools, adding an additional 10 days to length of the school year compared to the previous year. Partly due to reducing the first break in December 2014 to 2 weeks from 3 weeks, however the MOE didn't clarify where the other 5 days came from. Emirates 24-7 said "This has been achieved by deducting 10 days from the first semester break in December," which contradicts what the MOE said.
- Number of school days for students is 74 days for semester 1 (first term), 60 days for semester 2 (second term), 55 days for semester 3 (third term), total of 189 days for the academic year.
- The dates apply to public government schools, private schools, polytechnic institutes, universities (and tertiary level colleges?), and adult education centers.
- Working dates for teaching and administrative staff also announced but foreign schools have up to one week allowance for adjusting dates (announcement didn't make it clear if the allowance meant schools could require additional days of work, give additional days of vacation time, or choose either).
- Indian and Pakistan curriculum schools are exempted from the MOE calendar dates due to having and Apr-Mar academic year.
- ADEC in Abu Dhabi and the KHDA in Dubai will follow the MOE calendar - an unnamed official (from ADEC?) was quoted in the Gulf News 26 Mar 2014 as saying "ADEC, the ministry and KHDA worked together to produce this calendar, which will apply to all public and private schools as well as higher education institutions with regard to holidays."
2014-2015 school calendar dates
||Semester 1 - Autumn Term
||Semester 2 - Spring Term
||Semester 3 - Summer Term
|First day of term
||31 Aug 2014, Sun
||04 Jan 2015, Sun
||12 Apr 2015, Sun
|Last day of term
||18 Dec 2014, Thu
||26 Mar 2015, Thu
||25 Jun 2015, Thu
- *01 Jan 2014 - first day of academic year for Bangladesh curriculum schools? Not confirmed, source unknown.
- 01 Apr 2014 - first day of academic year for most Asian curriculum schools - Indian, Pakistani but not Bangladeshi?
- 24 Aug 2014 - first working day for staff and faculty at UAE schools and universities.
- 31 Aug 2014 (Sun) - first day of academic year for public MOE curriculum schools and for most private schools.
- *Thu 18 Dec 2014 - last day of term 1
- 21 Dec 2014 to 01 Jan 2015 - holiday period at the end of term or semester 1.
- *Sun 04 Jan 2015 - first day of term 2
- *Thu 26 Mar 2015 - last day of term 2
- 29 Mar 2015 to 09 Apr 2015 - vacation break at the end of term or semester 2.
- *Sun 12 Apr 2015 - first day of term 3
- 25 Jun 2015 (Thu) - last day of the academic year (AY) for students.
- 09 Jul 2015 - last working day for teaching staff at schools and universities in the UAE.
School opening dates in UAE 2013-2014 (not confirmed)
- 01 Sep 2013 - academic year starts for teachers and administrators.
- 08 Sep 2013 - classes start for students.
2013-2014 school calendar dates (not MOE dates, not confirmed, might vary in Asian schools and Dubai schools)
||Semester 1 - Autumn Term
||Semester 2 - Spring Term
||Semester 3 - Summer Term
|First day of term
||01 Sep 2013, Sun
||05 Jan 2014, Sun
||20 Apr 2014, Sun
|Last day of term
||19 Dec 2013, Thu
||03 Apr 2014, Thu
||26 Jun 2014, Thu
School opening dates in UAE 2012-2013
The UAE Ministry of Education announced a unified academic calendar for all public and private schools in the UAE. The dates will also be synchronised with semesters and holidays of universities and colleges in the UAE (WAM news 15 April 2012). This prompted some discussion and consternation amongst parents, students, teachers, administration at schools and tertiary institutes over conflicts with exam schedules, holiday bookings, synchronisation with overseas parent institute schedules, and Asian schools which start their academic year in April. Dates as announced by the MOE are:
- 02 Sep 2012 - all administrative, teaching and technical staff to begin work.
- 09 Sep 2012 (Sunday) - all KG to higher secondary classes start, public and private schools, all curricula.
- 16 Dec 2012 to 03 Jan 2013 - first school vacation (3 weeks), second semester or term classes resume on 06 Jan 2013.
- 31 Mar 2013 to 11 Apr 2013 - second school vacation (2 weeks), third semester or term classes resume on 14 Apr 2013.
- 07 Jul 2013 - start date of the summer vacation.
2012-2013 school calendar dates (might be some variation in Asian schools, and schools in Dubai).
||Semester 1 - Autumn Term
||Semester 2 - Spring Term
||Semester 3 - Summer Term
|First day of term
||09 Sep 2012, Sun
||06 Jan 2013, Sun
||14 Apr 2013, Sun
|Last day of term
||13 Dec 2012, Thu
||28 Mar 2013, Thu
||04 Jul 2013, Thu
A later report in Business 24-7 (18 April 2012) said "All Asian schools, which began their 2012 academic year in April, will be exempt from the recent Ministry of Education decision to unify the educational calendar for the year 2012-2013."
13 May 2012 update - Private schools in Dubai will have some flexibility with school term dates for 2012-2013 according to news reports which quoted Mohammad Darwish, Chief of the Regulation and Compliance Commission at the KHDA, as saying "We cannot have one-size-fits-all solutions, we have schools attached to their respective education boards who have different schedules for examinations, external assessment dates and other similar commitments." Schools in Dubai can submit their calendars to the KHDA for approval. Private schools in other emirates seem to be stuck with the MOE calendar for the time being.
19 May 2012 update - the UAE MOE contradicted the KHDA statement by reportedly saying "All schools and colleges in the country, except for some Indian and Pakistani schools, are expected to implement the unified calendar from the next academic year onwards," and Ayoub Habib, Head of Media Relations at the Ministry of Education was quoted by Emirates 24-7 as saying "If the KHDA is announcing something different than what the Ministry has decided, that is not our problem ... There might be some minor exceptions, but in general all schools are expected to implement the unified calendar for the upcoming academic year."
School opening dates in UAE 2011-2012
School calendar dates in UAE 2010-2011
Summer holidays for schools in the UAE will start later and finish later than normal since Ramadan 2010 runs from mid August to early September 2010. The Eid Al Fitr holidays start when Ramadan is finished (UAE Ministry of Education circular issued to schools 26 February 2010).
- UAE private and public (government) schools will end the 2009-2010 academic year and close on Sunday 11 July 2010.
- UAE privates schools opening date for the 2010-2011 Academic Year might be around Tuesday 14 September 2010 after the Eid holiday, but confirm with the school since some schools will open much earlier.
- UAE government schools opening date will be Wednesday 15 September 2010 (changed from 12 September 2010) for students, and teachers should report for duty on 12 September 2010 (changed from 05 September 2010) according to a WAM news reports 26 May 2010.
- Updated WAM news report on 07 September 2010 said administrators should return on 04 Shawwal 1431 (Hijri calendar date) which will be either 12 or 13 September 2010 depending on the start date of Eid Al Fitr in UAE. Start date for students was unchanged.
- Government schools will change from 2 semesters to 3 terms for the 2010-2011 academic year, with a total of 180 school days.
- Indian, Pakistani, and Iranian schools with academic years that run from April to March will still close and open on those dates for summer hols.
UAE Government school calendar dates 2010-2011 (private schools might have different dates)
||Examinations start date
||15 Sep 2010
||12 Dec 2010
||19 Dec 2010
||02 Jan 2011
||20 Mar 2011
||27 Mar 2011
||03 Apr 2011
||19 Jun 2011
||14 Jul 2011
- Public school teachers are expected to return to work on 12 September 2010 (previously 05 September 2010)?
Nursery and preschool ratings in UAE - Quality Services Standards
- Moza Salem Al Shoomi, the Director of the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs Child Department said, according to a Khaleej Times report 16 April 2011: "We want all nurseries to implement the standards this year. Based on the results, they will be graded as A, B, C and D in 2012,"
- Nurseries graded as 'D' will be given one year to improve their services.
- Fees allowed to be charged will depend on the grade awarded.
- The Quality Services Standards (QSS?) received academic approval from Zayed University, and development based on systems and experiences in Singapore, New Zealand, UAE, and USA.
- Grading system is made up as follows:
|Administrative and financial management
||administration and financial policy
||promotion and awareness of services
||building community partnerships
||adopting community and national values
|Management and technical curriculum development
||educational programmes development
||program development based on review
|Parents and children's rights
||empathy and responsibility
|Security, health and safety of buildings and transport
||building and facilities
Summer camps at nurseries in the UAE
A Khaleej Times report, 30 July 2010, about nursery and pre-school education in the UAE, warned parents to be careful about sending their children to summer camps at UAE nurseries. Nurseries are permitted to run summer camps but with the appropriate authorisation from the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA). Concerned parents could ask to see that the establishment has the correct documentation. Or if they are concerned, they can enquire at the UAE MOSA in Dubai on contact tel +971-4-6011260, 6011263, or 6011259.
Moza Salem Al Shoomy, Director of the Child Department at the UAE MOSA said, according to the report ...
- "Some nurseries were found to be using improper plastic swimming pools with no filters or sanitised water or following safety procedures, which ended in many children's serious infection and illness."
- "Should any nursery school wish to hold a summer camp, they can simply contact the ministry to get a No Objection Certificate and learn about the right procedures, methods and tools. Nurseries can make business but not at the cost of children,"
School fees in Dubai
Student information for schools in Dubai
- Students are expected to wear uniforms in most schools (one or two of the American curriculum schools, French, German and other European schools might not have this requirement).
- The school day usually starts between 0700 and 0800, and finishes between 1400 and 1500 with a standard lunch break. KG and primary students will normally have a shorter day. Extra-curricular activities run later in the afternoons. Non-western curriculum schools might have have two shifts with girls attending in the mornings and boys attending in the afternoons.
- Strictly speaking, the UAE Ministry of Education requirements are that students should be segregated according to gender. At least at secondary level, and teachers should be the same gender as the class. Most schools following a western curriculum however, have mixed classes from K-12. Every now and then there is some discussion regarding stricter implementation of the segregation rule but then the summer comes and when students return, things seem to carry on as they were.
- UAE Ministry of Education requirements are also that Muslim and/or Arabic students must study Arabic and Islamic Studies in high school to Grade 10, and to Grade 12 if they want a UAE High School diploma. Each school implements that in different ways - some expect all their students to attend Arabic and Islamic Studies classes for example, others exempt non-Muslims and non-Arabs. Check with the school what the policy is.
Compulsory Arab language education in Abu Dhabi Indian curriculum schools
After reports in Nov 2013 that Abu Dhabi Indian schools were making Arabic language compulsory for senior students in 2013-2014, claiming that it was a new rule from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), ADEC apparently clarified that (reference ADEC Private Schools Regulations 2013 manual, but no ADEC announcement or press release supplied or found):
- Arabic language is compulsory for all Arabic speaking pupils up to Grade 10 in Abu Dhabi schools, both native and non-native Arabic speaking students (ADEC didn't clarify what "non-native" meant for the purposes of deciding whether or not it was compulsory).
- Arabic language is optional for students in grades 11 and 12, both Arab and non-Arab nationalities, unless they want a UAE MOE High School Diploma, in which case Arabic study up to Grade 12 is a requirement.
Some Indian schools in Abu Dhabi reportedly ignored what ADEC said and continued to make Arabic studies compulsory anyway. Oddly, only the Gulf News reported the story and ADEC statements. Other papers did not report the story, and the alleged statements made by ADEC were not published by the Gulf News or on the ADEC website.
Extra-curricular activities in Dubai schools
- Parents and students may find after-school options more limited than they are used to. Sometimes because schools themselves focus more on the academic curriculum. Sometimes because it's difficult to find teachers who will volunteer for extra-curricular duties. The hot climate also means that outdoor activities have to be shelved for several months a year.
- The schools with a good range of activities on offer tend to be the well-established non-profit organisations with an active Parent-Teacher Association and Board of Governors interested in the education of students as a priority. Most of the private schools in Dubai and the UAE are profit-making establishments, and the clash between business interests and education seems to be most evident where extra-curricular activities are involved.
Admission requirements for schools in Dubai
Usually a selection of the following documents will be needed to succesfully register a child at one of the Dubai schools or colleges. Check with the individual schools in Dubai for exact details - requirements differ between schools, age groups and nationality.
- Passport copies with a valid residence visa or Khulasat Al Kaid for Emiratis.
- Birth Certificate copies (check with school if English and/or Arabic translation is required). If they're not in English and you're applying for the first time to a school in the UAE, take them to the UAE embassy in your country to have them attested before you leave.
- Passport photographs (less than a hundred should be enough).
- Health card or evidence of medical insurance.
- Vaccination card or immunisation record.
- Transfer Certificate from previous school. Check with school for details - if coming from overseas, you will need to have a transfer certificate certified by (if it's not in Arabic, authenticated translations will be required - English maybe not):
- the education authority in that country (check with the UAE Embassy if this step needed)
- the UAE Embassy in that country
- the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE
- the UAE Ministry of Education in the UAE or possibly your country's embassy in the UAE
- Transcript/Progress Reports from previous school (same certification process as for Transfer Certificates).
- Letter of recommendation or similar from previous school.
- Successful completion of any entrance tests/exams and personal interviews.
Expat students at UAE government schools
Expat students were able to attend government schools in the UAE, then they weren't and had to attend private schools. Then in June 2006, the UAE government said that expat students could go to government schools again. The Gulf News reported on 26 January 2007 that UAE Public Schools would allow expatriate students to enrol from the beginning of the new academic year (September 2007). Students may need to complete an entry exam for Arabic, English, and Mathematics. Fees of 3000-6000 dhs per year are payable.
Note that almost all UAE government schools educate students in Arabic and offer local UAE qualifications which do not have much value if applying for English-speaking Universities outside the UAE (and not so much for some universities in the UAE either). Only students of Arab nationalities are expected to apply for places at government schools. Latifa School for Girls and Rashid School for Boys (both in Dubai) are two excellent government funded schools where, although the majority of students are Emirati, they are educated in English and follow a British curriculum. It is difficult to get a place there (or a job as a teacher).
A report in The National 19 January 2012 said that Expatriate pupils - including children of GCC nationals, diplomats and orphans sponsored by Emiratis - can apply at government schools, too. But conditions are that schools give priority to Emirati students, do not accept more than 20% non-Emirati students, and applicants must have a minimum of 90% in Arabic, English, and Mathematics in previous school exams to be eligible to apply. It wasn't clear if this applies to the emirate of Abu Dhabi only, or the whole of the UAE.
Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, Autism, Down's Syndrome, Dyslexic, Special Needs and disabled children
For non-Arab expats, there are limited facilities for special needs children. There are a number of government funded establishments but they are usually restricted to Emirati nationals, or possibly Arab and Arab speaking nationals. Most mainstream private schools will not accept special needs students except possibly for mild cases of dyslexia. A handful of schools might consider mild cases of ADD, ADHD, and autism. This situation is improving though, some of the newer schools are making an effort to establish special needs units or provide teachers and assistants with appropriate training. There is also an increasing number of parent support groups. The list of special needs facilities includes these schools and groups if that information is available.
- Special needs Abu Dhabi - schools, support groups, and clinics offering special needs services in Abu Dhabi
- Special needs Dubai - a similar list for Dubai
- Special needs UAE - UAE special needs facilities including Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain. There appear to be no facilities in Umm Al Qawain, Ajman for non-UAE nationals.
- Special needs UAE forum - add information about special needs facilities not included in the lists above.
Description of English and other foreign curriculums and qualifications
- British schools in Dubai - the KHDA Dubai announced on 24 May 2012 that schools offering a British curriculum in Dubai would undergo an additional inspection (to the annual KHDA-DSIB inspections) by the British Schools Overseas (BSA) organisation. See British school inspections in Dubai.
A-levels - Advanced levels (UK/British)
- Assessment by exams at age 17 or 18 (grade 12 or 13) after a two year course of study in each subject.
- Students attain awards in individual A-level subjects and normally do 3 at a time.
- AS-levels are a watered down version of A-levels and may be completed in one year.
- Universities will specify minimum A-level grades required for entry and in which subjects. Investigate carefully before making A-level choices as it's not easy to change your mind later.
AP - Advanced Placement (US)
- Similar level to A-levels and IB although some would argue that APs are easier.
- Prerequisites for entry to American universities.
CBSE - Central Board of Secondary Education (Indian)
- Governing body for a syllabus with exams at the end of class X and XII in Indian curriculum schools.
CBSE-i (i-CBSE, iCBSE, CBSEi) - International CBSE (Indian)
- A new CBSE International curriculum (CBSE-i/CBSEi/iCBSE) will become available in Indian curriculum schools outside India for the 2011-2012 academic year (starting April 2011 in UAE). The new International Indian School in Dubai has said they will be offering the International CBSE curriculum when they open (Khaleej Times 19 March 2010).
- The CBSE International (CBSEI) curriculum will be introduced in classes I and IX in 2010-2011, classes II, VI, VII and X in 2011-2012, and classes III, IV, V, VII, XI, and XII in 2012-2013 (not confirmed).
- Press reports said that Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development in India, launched the CBSE-International curriculum in Dubai on Tuesday 25 May 2010 at the Indian High School of Dubai.
- Sharjah Indian School is also reportedly introducing the CBSE-i from 2011.
GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education (UK / British)
- Assessment by exams done at age 15 or 16 (grade 10 or 11), each subject is a two year course.
- Students attain awards in individual GCSE subjects but it is common to do up to 10 subjects at a time.
- Schools will have their own required list of subjects which will probably include English, Maths, Science.
FBISE - Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Islamabad (Pakistan)
- Administers Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) courses and qualifications in national and international Pakistani schools.
IB - International Baccalaureate (International in English, French, Spanish)
- Qualification gained after two years of study at senior levels - age 17-18 or grades 12-13. Courses can be done in English, French or Spanish - depending on the school (currently, unlikely there are any French or Spanish schools offering IB in the UAE).
- Well respected qualification around the world for entrance to universities - some UK universities express a preference for it over A-levels.
- To complete the full IB Diploma, students must complete courses in 6 different subjects and something called Theory of Knowledge, do additional activities involving community work and sports/hobbies, and do an original project/essay.
- Six subjects will be assessed with final exams. The course overall is quite challenging and some of the Higher Level exams can be especially difficult.
- Students need to be careful of any particular university entrance requirements when choosing subjects. Not all subjects are equal depending on which university attended.
- Students can do less than six subjects at IB level (depending on school rules), they will receive IB certificates for each subject they successfully complete.
IGCSE - International General Certificate of Secondary Education (International)
- Similar to the British GCSE but intended for students of all nationalities wishing to study in English and move on to an English speaking University not necessarily in the UK.
- IGCSE itself is not a university entrance qualification (although apparently some American universities do accept it) but usually leads on to an IB or A-level course.
ICSE - Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Indian)
- Administered by the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations) for Class X (Class 10) students.
- ISC - Indian School Certificate.
IPC - International Preschool Curriculum
- IPC is an nternational nursery curriculum developed by a USA based organisation. The IPC pre-school curriculum is "based on academic research" and is intended for children from 6 months to 6 years of age. The program includes daily lesson plans and Thematic Units for infants, toddlers, and 3-6 year olds. IPC says their program "has received widespread praise from parents, schools and governments for its quality and rigor."
- Nursery schools can apply to become members (if they have lots of things that IPC likes) or join the Franchise Program (if they don't have quite enough things the IPC likes, or they are in the process of being astablished). Preschool Franchise Program launched in 2010. First two nurseries in the UAE (as far as we know) offering IPC curriculum are Orange Tree in Dubai, and Little Gems in Abu Dhabi.
- For nurseries, IPC will assist in establishment, design, marketing, etc.
- IPC offers a 6 month IPC Teacher Training Course which gets you an IPC Teaching Certificate.
- IPC says "The IPC is the leading international organization in the field of early childhood education" but it's not clear who else says that.
- Not clear if IPC curriculum is accredited or recognised by any governments or authoritative accreditation recognition organisations.
IPC - International Primary Curriculum
NC - National Curriculum for England (UK / British)
- Sometimes referred to as just the "National Curriculum". The abbreviation NCE is not usually used.
- The National Curriculum is program of study that was introduced into schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland after the Education Reform Act 1988.
- The NC consists of 4 'Key Stages' with educational goals to be attained during each stage, and assessments at the end of each stage. Subjects studied at each stage in the UK are:
- Key Stage 1 (KS1) age 5-7: Art and Design, Design & Technology, English or Literacy, Geography, History, Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Mathematics or Numeracy, Music, Personal Social & Health Education (PSHE), Physical Education, Religious Education, Science, Welsh.
- Key Stage 2 (KS2) age 7-11: same as for KS1.
- Key Stage 3 (KS3) age 11-14: Art and Design, Careers Education, Citizenship, Design & Technology, English, Geography, History, ICT, Mathematics, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, PSHE, Physical Education, Religious Education, Science, Sex Education, Welsh.
- Key Stage 4 (KS4) age 14-16: Careers Education, Citizenship, English, ICT, Mathematics, PSHE, Physical Education, Religious Education, Science, Sex Education, Welsh, Work-Related Learning.
- UAE schools following the NC will not offer Religious Education, or Sex Education. Welsh is unlikely to be offered - in the UK it is only a requirement for schools in Wales. There may be other variations with the UK NC guidelines.
- GCSE or IGCSE exams usually follow KS4.
- There is a Foundation Stage for 3-5 year olds (sometimes called Key Stage 0 / KS0), and a Post 16 stage (sometimes called Key Stage 5 / KS5) for 16+ but they are not compulsory education levels in the UK.
- The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is the governing body for the National Curriculum, and associated exams and tests.
SSC - Secondary School Certificate (Indian)
- Indian state run curriculums/exams. Some regard the courses and exams as easier than ICSE or CBSE.
UAE Education System
- Government schools in the UAE are segregated for boys and girls, there are no mixed schools.
- Schools are divided into age groups: KG (KG1-KG2), Cycle 1 (Grade 1 - Grade 5), Cycle 2 (Grade 6-9), Cycle 3 (Grades 10-12). Some schools will combine 2 or 3 cycles. Some elementary or junior level Cycle 1 schools might include KG classes, others will be only Grades 1-5.
- Cycle 1 schools are usually co-educational. Cycle 2 and 3 schools are segregated for boys and girls sections (different school campuses, never or rarely sharing a campus).
- UAE education reform - see the Abu Dhabi Private Public Schools Partnership.
- School leaving age in the UAE is 14 years of age. Update 24 Jul 2012: A draft law was reported, raising the school leaving age to 18 years of age, or requiring students to continue to Grade 12 - it wasn't clear which; unknown if when law will be implemented, or if it will apply to Emiratis only or both Emirati citizens and resident expats.
- 23 Nov 2013 - the UAE public school system (government MOE UAE curriculum) will merge the senior level Arts and Science streams. Previously students had to choose one or the other system before starting senior level classes. The decision was announced by Humaid Al Qattami, UAE Minister of Education, at the Federal National Council (FNC) meeting.
New School Model (NSM) curriculum Abu Dhabi
- The New School Model (NSM) curriculum is a new curriculum launched by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) for government schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
- As of September 2013, the NSM curriculum is running in public schools for students up to Grade 5 level.
- 2013-2014 - ADEC plans to implement the NSM curriculum to Grade 6 students.
UAE Education Guide
See the Dubai tutor page.
Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll
10 Sep 2012 - "Spice" or "K2" in Dubai - a new drug has appeared on the scene. The British Embassy in Dubai has reminded schools that such drugs are illegal and can (usually) result in harsh penalties for those caught using or possessing them - a 4 year prison sentence followed by deportation is normal.
Teenagers around the world show an enthusiasm for learning about sex, drugs, and rock and roll that seems to far surpass their interest in Fundamental Calculus and the Battle of Waterloo. This section isn't intended to be alarmist but as a parent, keep in mind that the penalties for getting caught breaking the law in the UAE can be much harsher than in other countries. Teenagers have ended up in prison for drug related offences (standard miminum sentence is 4 years). Sex or alcohol related offences are less likely to see your offspring locked up for a long time but they could be deported, especially if crashing a car after drinking. Underage drinking (minimum age is 21 years) in public bars is common enough, and most teenagers seem to be more civilised about it than elsewhere - perhaps a combination of the international mix of nationalities and likelihood of harsher punishments keeps them subdued. That's not to say there aren't unpleasant incidents - there are, but far fewer than in many western countries. Here is a summary of our opinion of what the law says, and related issues (note it is only an opinion, not any sort of legal advice or moral point of view).
- Sex outside marriage is illegal in the UAE (at any age - adults are not exempt). So is living together in the UAE (unmarried couples that is). Unmarried couples caught having sex can end up in jail for 3 to 6 months before deportation, and there have been a couple of cases of judges handing out a prison sentence to 14 year old girls, and/or rape victims.
- Public displays of affection (PDA) are frowned upon, especially in Sharjah, and especially during Ramadan. A police warning would be more likely than an arrest (unless you're unlucky, abusive, drinking / drunk, naked, not in Dubai, or it's Ramadan - applies to adults too).
- If your daughter gets pregnant in Dubai (assuming she's not married), you'll probably have to export her since unmarried mothers usually end up in jail.
- The contraceptive pill is freely available at pharmacies without prescription. Condoms are available at pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations etc.
- A non-Muslim male getting involved with a Muslim female will be a much greater issue for families and the authorities than a Muslim male involved with a non-Muslim female. Emirati and Muslim females have disappeared from school and the public eye when parents have discovered their liasons. However, honor killings seem to be very rare in the UAE.
- Minimum age limit for drinking alcohol is 21 years, and residents are supposed to have an alcohol licence (permission to drink).
- Minimum driving age is 18 years (driving without a UAE driving license could result in the car being impounded and at least a hefty fine).
- Maximum level of alcohol permitted while driving is zero (of any unit you like).
- Drugs in the UAE - conviction of drug use or possession usually carries a minimum 4 year jail sentence. Convictions can, and have, resulted from blood or urine samples containing evidence of drug use, even when drugs have been used outside the UAE. Some over-the-counter medicines in other countries (codeine for example) fall into the illegal drugs category in the UAE.
- Technically, secondary school boys and girls are supposed to be in segregated education but most western schools don't take any notice of that.
For the most part, the UAE, and especially Dubai, is generally reasonably tolerant of western excesses. Just stay away from drugs in Dubai, and keep your head down for the rest of it. See the page about kissing and sex in Dubai for more information, and a few stories of how it does go wrong for some. Some other examples ...
- 08 April 2012 - The National reported that a 15 year old pregnant girl was sentenced to deportation by the Juvenile Court. She said that she'd had sex with two boys (a 17 year old and a 19 year old) at different times but didn't know which one was the father. One of the boys admitted to having sex with her and was also sentenced to deportation. The other denied having sex with her and was sentenced by the Court of Misdemeanours to to two months in prison followed by deportation. It wasn't clear how they ended up in court in the first place - sometimes hospitals in the UAE will call the police if a female patient is pregnant and obviously single but it wasn't reported if that's what had happened (government hospitals, or private hospitals with a connection to an Islamic country are perhaps more likely to do this).
Safety on school buses in the UAE
We're not trying scare parents unnecessarily with this section, but at the same time, if an adult sexually abuses, assaults, or molests a child, it is an abhorrent action, and there have been a number of stories reported that indicate school bus transport in the UAE is not entirely without incident. Whilst there are other situations where children can and have been taken advantage of by adults, it is particularly heinous in a school, or school bus, or similar situation because the adult concerned is taking advantage of the trust placed in him (or her in theory, but very rarely in reality) by children, their parents, employers, and school management.
- On 18 February 2011 a school bus driver was convicted by the Criminal Court of Fujairah of indecent assault. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison, followed by deportation. The sentence resulted from a complaint made in January 2011 that the driver had molested a 14 year old student. A Gulf Today report 18 February 2010 said that The driver confessed to the charges ...
- On 19 January 2011, Gulf News reported that a bus conductor from the Indian High School in Sharjah has been accused of ‘misbehaving' with a class VIII girl he befriended on Facebook. Emirates Business 24-7 reported that The mother of a girl student attacked the bus driver of Indian High School in Sharjah for allegedly misbehaving with her daughter. ... The conductor is said to have misbehaved with the girl who is studying in Class 8 after having befriended her on Facebook. ... “The parent only had an argument with the driver. It could be for many reasons but I can tell you it is nothing serious,” said Mini Menon, Vice Principal of girls wing at the Sharjah Indian School.
- In the same report, Gulf News also recalled a previous incident where a father ended up in court for assault after allegedly attacking a school bus driver whom he had earlier accused of abusing his children. The father was quoted as saying "I asked him to step out of the bus so that we could talk… he yelled at me so I grabbed him but he hit me on the head … he was quick to get a medical report, but I didn't. From being the accuser, I have now turned into an accused,"
- In January 2011 a story was reported of a 4 year old girl at Dubai Modern High School who was allegedly raped by her school bus driver and two associates. This traumatic incident has prompted a review of school bus transport procedures that should make it safer for students on school buses.
- In April 2010, a 14 year old student was allegedly raped by a school bus driver in Abu Dhabi, however she later retracted her allegation. What was particularly unnerving about this story was that as a result of making the complaint, the girl was subsequently prosecuted and convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage. As was the driver. After appeals, the girl's conviction was quashed but the driver's conviction was upheld (he received a 6 month jail sentence followed by deportation).
- On 20 May 2007, Gulf News reported an incident where parents of a Grade 2 student at The Winchester School had complained about a bus conductor pinching their child - The bus conductor, working for Winchester School run by the Global Educational Management Schools (GEMS) group, has been suspended and an enquiry is on.
- According to a Gulf News report 22 February 2007, on 21 February 2007, a school bus conductor was arrested by Sharjah Police after parents complained that he had molested their 5 year old daughter, a kindergarten student at Our Own English High School Sharjah. The conductor was reportedly assaulted by one of the parents before the police came. A statement from GEMS, the school owners, said "We understand that a bus conductor of OOEHS was arrested yesterday morning by the authorities following an allegation by a parent concerning an incident of inappropriate physical intervention with a student. As a result of this information, we have launched a full scale independent enquiry at the school. We have also met with the parents concerned." When the case came to trial, the court acquitted the conductor.
Last update Wednesday 02-Apr-2014