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Education curriculum Dubai UAE

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Emirates International School in Umm Suqeim Dubai - main entrance
The Modern High School Dubai - main entrance
Al Ahmadiya School (historical - first school in Dubai) class
Al Mawakeb School in Dubai graduation ceremony

Education system and curriculum in Dubai and UAE schools

School names, curriculums, culture, in the UAE

This information repeated further below but a TLDR version is:

The UAE has many resident expats from a variety of countries. When considering school education consider the following:

School calendar dates in UAE 2015-2018

24 Feb 2015 (Tue, WAM): the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) announced school calendar dates for the next 3 years was approved by the UAE Cabinet. Private schools have up to one week of flexibility with dates to allow for foreign curriculum examination schedules. Total number of school days per year is supposed to be 175 (reduced from 189 in 2014-2015). More holiday time, less study time for students and less work time for teachers. Whether that's good or bad news depends on your perspective.

2015-2016 Semester 1 - Autumn Term Semester 2 - Spring Term Semester 3 - Summer Term
First day for staff 23 Aug 2015    
First day of term 30 Aug 2015, Sun 10 Jan 2016, Sun 10 Apr 2016, Sun
First day KHDA   03 Jan 2016, Sun  
Last day of term 20 Dec 2015, Thu 27 Mar 2016, Thu 23 Jun 2016, Thu
Thanks for visiting Education in Dubai Tell your friends  
Vacation length Winter, 2 wks (KHDA) 3 wks (MOE) Spring, 2 weeks Summer
Last day for staff     [Check] 05 Jul 2016
2016-2017 Semester 1 - Autumn Term Semester 2 - Spring Term Semester 3 - Summer Term
First day for staff 21 Aug 2016    
First day of term 28 Aug 2016, Sun 08 Jan 2017, Sun 09 Apr 2017, Sun
Last day of term 18 Dec 2016, Thu 26 Mar 2017, Thu 22 Jun 2017, Thu
Vacation length Winter, 3 weeks Spring, 2 weeks Summer
Last day for staff     [Check] 04 or 06 Jul 2017
2017-2018 Semester 1 - Autumn Term Semester 2 - Spring Term Semester 3 - Summer Term
First day for staff [Check] 03 Sep 2017    
First day of term 10 Sep 2017, Sun 07 Jan 2018, Sun 08 Apr 2018, Sun
Last day of term 17 Dec 2017, Thu 25 Mar 2018, Thu 28 Jun 2018, Thu
Vacation length Winter, 3 weeks Spring, 2 weeks Summer
Last day for staff     [Check] 03, 05, or 10 Jul 2018

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.

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

Education complaints hotline in Dubai and UAE

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 more difficult 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 since the transfer procedure varies depending on school, curriculum, nationality of student.

*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:

  1. Child's full name (same as passport details).
  2. Date of birth (same as passport details).
  3. Type of curriculum (American, British, Indian, IB, etc).
  4. Date of admission to school.
  5. Class level admitted to at start date.
  6. Class level at departure date from school.
  7. Highest Grade or Year level completed.
  8. Reason for leaving.
  9. 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.

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

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.

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  
    middle school  
    high, secondary, senior
System Age 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
American (US) Grade Nursery KG1 KG2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
National Curriculum (UK) KS0 KS1 KS2 KS3 KS4 KS5
British (UK) Year FS1 (KG1, Nursery) FS2 (KG2, Reception) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Indian Class, Grade       I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII
International Grade Nursery KG1 KG2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Pre-school education and childcare in the UAE

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).

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 rankings in UAE

School rankings and ratings in the UAE

School opening dates in UAE 2013-2014 (not confirmed)

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:

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 Government school calendar dates 2010-2011 (private schools might have different dates)

  Start date Examinations start date End date
Term 1 15 Sep 2010 12 Dec 2010 19 Dec 2010
Term 2 02 Jan 2011 20 Mar 2011 27 Mar 2011
Term 3 03 Apr 2011 19 Jun 2011 14 Jul 2011

Nursery and preschool ratings in UAE - Quality Services Standards

Category % Sub-category %
Administrative and financial management 20 administration and financial policy 5
    registration system 5
    human resources 10
Community responsibility 10 promotion and awareness of services 2
    building community partnerships 3
    adopting community and national values 5
Management and technical curriculum development 25 educational programmes development 18
    program review 5
    program development based on review 2
Parents and children's rights 15 participation 3
    information 6
    empathy and responsibility 6
Security, health and safety of buildings and transport 30 transportation 5
    general hygiene 10
    emergency systems 5
    building and facilities 10

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 ...

Student information for schools in Dubai

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):

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

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.

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.

Description of English and other foreign curriculums and qualifications

A-levels - Advanced levels (UK/British)
AERO project - American Education Reaches Out curriculum
AP - Advanced Placement (US)
CBSE - Central Board of Secondary Education (Indian)
CBSE-i (i-CBSE, iCBSE, CBSEi) - International CBSE (Indian)
Core Knowledge USA
GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education (UK / British)
FBISE - Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Islamabad (Pakistan)
IB - International Baccalaureate (International in English, French, Spanish)
IGCSE - International General Certificate of Secondary Education (International)
ICSE - Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Indian)
IPC - International Preschool Curriculum
IPC - International Primary Curriculum
NC - National Curriculum for England (UK, British)
SSC - Secondary School Certificate (Indian)

UAE Education System

New School Model (NSM) curriculum Abu Dhabi

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).

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 ...

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.

Headings removed or moved to new pages

Last update Wednesday 23-Mar-2016
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