If you are moving to Dubai with kids, then schools will be top of your mind. It's a major decision wherever you are, and in Dubai that's no exception.
There are so many schools to choose from in Dubai, and competition is strong. There are a number of considerations that you have to understand before you start shortlisting your schools, so let’s look at how you can choose the best school for your child – it may even help you define which area you live in.
Public or Private
There actually isn’t much choice – most expatriates cannot access Dubai’s public schools, so private schooling is usually the only way. Public schools are free for Emiratis, and are compulsory.
Private Schools in Dubai – Which Curriculum?
There are 169 private schools in Dubai, and their curricula differ greatly. In fact, as Dubai is often a place where people live for a few years, you need to decide whether you are going to stay at this school for a long time or a short time.
If you’re staying for a short time because you know you have an expat assignment somewhere else in a few years’ time, then it may be best to stick to the curriculum that your child knows – or at least one that is similar – so that the introduction to the school, and subsequent schools, is seamless.
This will ensure that the language and the style of teaching is similar.
You will find British, American, Canadian, Australian, Arabic, Indian and European (using the International Baccalaureate system). All children in private schools, if not of Arab heritage, will have to study Arabic language. Muslim and Arab students must also take Islamic studies.
Competition, Fees, Quality & Waiting Lists
Your choice might be further limited by over-subscription. Many schools have wait-lists so you might be limited to the schools with availability when you arrive.
Some schools have an entrance exam and an interview, while others might ask you to bring across certificates and records of exam performance.
Each school has a different admission process, so take care to read them fully.
Fees are also a consideration – there are some schools that cost relatively little, while others are in the “Eton” category, with fees of up to AED 100,000 a year. It’s a good idea to understand where your fees go and what the financial performance of the school is like.
Another consideration is school performance. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is a government authority not unlike Ofsted in the UK, which grades schools according to performance.
Location, location, location
Choosing a school is not a lot unlike choosing a home – you have to consider your location first and foremost. It’s no good going to an International School and paying tens of thousands for it if your child has to spend an hour and a half crossing Dubai in traffic jams to get there.
Try the journey out for yourself during rush hour and see if it’s manageable.
Choosing a school is never easy wherever you are, and Dubai has its unique considerations. However, the private system in Dubai is renowned for its quality, and you should be confident that you will find the right school for your child.
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