8 Best schools for expats in Dubai

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When considering moving to Dubai with family and children, one of the most pressing issues you will face is not only the choice of housing, but also the choice of schools for children and what options suit them best. Choosing the right school for your child can be stressful, as there are many factors to consider, including the curriculum, language and cultural characteristics, the price of tuition and of course the future prospects of the student. But since Dubai is an emirate with many expats from around the world, there is a wide range of educational options and programmes for children of all nationalities and cultures. In addition, the city’s schools focus on classic European education, so that your child will find it easier to integrate, even if it’s a change of school in the middle of the school year. There are dozens of international educational institutions and educational programmes from around the world that cater to every type of student with different talents and abilities. In this article, we will look at some of the best schools in Dubai and the specifics of getting into them.

Dubai School Features

What makes Dubai ideal for living is that there are a great number of opportunities in the realm of education. Schools and universities considering British, American and other international standards are a great baseline for a child which will allow him/her to enter the university of their dreams, no matter where in the world that may be. Schools are located all over the city, with many based near popular residential areas. If you want your child to study in a particular school but don’t have time to drive them yourself, you might be interested in a school bus option. Dubai institutions also offer a great number of after-school sports and leisure activities.

Dubai schools are divided into public and private. Public schools are controlled by the UAE Ministry of Education, while private institutions – by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). Notably, 90% of schools of the emirate are private.

Note: Dubai education is considered one of the best in terms of private schools. Some years ago public schools were low-rated. Nowadays it’s changing because the government has invested heavily in the education system there.

The academic year usually starts in late August/September and continues until the end of June, with breaks in winter and spring. Non-Emirati children can attend both public and private schools, however education will be on a fee basis. As for locals, public schools are free for all students.

Children start school at the age of 5. In all schools the teaching languages are Arabic and English, however, in international schools, Arabic is also mandatory. Moral Studies are obligatory for all students, while Islamic Education is only for Muslims. It’s possible to find schools where children study foreign languages, including French, German, Hindi, Russian, etc.

From 6 to 12 years, children attend primary school, from 12 to 15 years – secondary school, and from 15 till 18 years of age– high school. Parents normally pay from AED 30,000 (USD 8100) per year, per child for schooling in Dubai. The price includes not only tuition but school equipment, activities, student books and notebooks. As mentioned earlier, school buses are also available, with the fee around AED 2,100 (USD 570) per term for pick up and drop off.

As non-Emiratis need to pay for both public and private schools, parents usually send children to private schools, and some of them are world-renowned institutions. Application fees are usually around AED 500 (USD 140) and after the child is offered a place, a deposit for the yearly schooling fee should be paid. All schools meet international standards and study days are from Saturday/Sunday to Thursday. Friday is a non-working day in the UAE, and therefore a day off.

CBSE Schools

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is an Indian curriculum. Indian schools are less expensive than British and American ones. In Dubai, there are several schools with this curriculum, including Global Indian International School Dubai and Springdales School Dubai.

Global Indian International School Dubai (GIIS)

GIIS, which was established in 2017, is considered one of the best international schools based in Dubai. It offers the 9 GEMS(TM) model, an innovative programme that focuses not only on tuition but on sports and skills too. Hindi and French are offered as second languages.

Children can apply to the school throughout the academic year. The first step in applying is an application form on the school’s website. There is a possibility to go on a campus tour and at the end of the tour, children will be asked to take a test to evaluate their knowledge, in which they will find the most suitable programme for them. After this, you will need to prepare documents for enrollment. CBSE curriculum for students of Grade 1-12 and IBDP for Grade 11-12 are offered.

Apart from primary, secondary and high school programmes, the institution also offers pre-primary education. Children from the age of 3 can be enrolled in kindergarten, which corresponds to the Global Montessori Plus (GMP) for Pre KG to K-2.

Location: Al Meydan Road, Al Quoz 1.

Contacts: dubai.globalindianschool.org, +971 4 225 5681

Springdales School Dubai

Springdales is a private school founded in 1955 which operates campuses all over the world. It was opened in Dubai in 2013 and is considered as ‘Good’ by the KHDA. Springdales offers an EYFS (UK) curriculum for its kindergarten and primary school and CBSE is offered to secondary (middle and high) education levels. Hindi or French can also be studied as foreign languages.

The application process is the same as with GIIS – through the website form. The child will be invited to pass a test. While younger children will have a playing assessment, ones from KG2 till Grade 2 will need to have a test on literacy and some standard assessments. Students from Grade 3 will be given tests in English and Mathematics.

Location: Al Quoz 4

Contacts: www.springdalesdubai.com, +971 4 338 1311

American schools

American schools are known for their high standards, with the main idea of American education to master all possible skills which a child might need in the future.

GEMS Dubai American Academy

GEMS Dubai American Academy opened in 1998 in Dubai and is marked ‘Outstanding’ by the KHDA. The Academy offers the American Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The teaching language is English, but students also study Arabic as it’s the Ministry’s requirement. From Grade 6 children can study French or Spanish. Additional language programmes are also available for students who want to study them.

There is a possibility to apply online, however, as of October 2021, enrollments are open only for the 2022–2023 school year. All information can be found on the Academy’s website. In case you want to take an in-depth look at the school, you can book a school tour.

Location: on Sheikh Zayed Road and Hessa Street, Al Barsha

Contacts: www.gemsaa-dubai.com, +971 04 704 9777

Universal American School

Founded in 2005 and evaluated as ‘Very Good’ by the KHDA, Universal American School offers programmes that cater to the individual needs of the students. English is the main language of teaching here, while Arabic is taught from KG1. From Grade 6 children should choose a foreign language to study like French or Spanish.

Primary school corresponds to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) with American (AERO) and UAE Ministry of Education concepts. AERO standards are also applied to middle school. High school has two variants of studies, one of which corresponds to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Universal American School accepts students throughout the year, however, there is a waiting list by grade level because of the limited number of seats in the classes. In this case, you can submit all necessary documents to enroll your child in the school, and when a spot opens up, you will be contacted by the school committee in the order of the waiting list. Applications can be sent online and parents are invited on a school tour which is available daily. The school also offers campus meetings with a member of the admission team.

Location: Rebat St in Dubai Festival City

Contacts: www.uasdubai.ae, +971 4 232 5222

British schools

The number of British schools in Dubai tops more than 55 with the majority of them having high grades according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. They are popular both among foreigners and Emiratis.

Dubai British School

Ranked as ‘Outstanding’, the Dubai British School offers educational programmes to children from 3 to 18 years old. The school aims to provide students with the best learning experience and the learning process is based on the British Curriculum (National Curriculum of England).

Note: Students are placed in FS1, FS2, and Year 1 classes according to their age. For older classes, you should have the transfer certificate from the previous school.

Dubai British Schools boasts two libraries; a Primary Library that is spacious and has guest speakers during the Emirates Literature Festival, as well as a Secondary Library that is considered an ideal place for research work. Every term there is DEAR Time (Drop Everything and Read) to inspire the love of reading.

You can send an enrollment application online. In case there are no available places, you will be added to a waitlist. Real and virtual campus tours are available.

Location: Springs and Meadows area, Dubai’s Emirates Hills

Contacts: www.dubaibritishschool.ae, +971 04 361 9361

Dubai College

Considered as one of the oldest British institutions in Dubai, which was founded in 1978, Dubai College is one of the most popular education facilities in the emirate. The school is marked as ‘Outstanding’ by the KHDA and most of the students successfully pass their exams and go on to enter the top universities.

Year 7 is the first in the college years. Lower school (Years 7 to 9), Middle school (Years 10 & 11) and Sixth form (Years 12 & 13) programmes are all offered. There is no possibility to join Year 11 and Year 13, as the course structure is indivisible and continues for 2 years. Children can study Spanish and French and Latin can be chosen during Sixth form.

As of October 2021, there are no available places for the 2021/2022 academic year. Admissions for Years 7 and 12 which will start in August 2022, are already open. The application can be sent online.

Location: Al Sufouh 2

Contacts: www.dubaicollege.org, +971 4 399 9111

International Schools

In case you don’t want your child to study in an American, British or CBSE school, you might be interested in other international schools. The best ones are Hartland International School and GEMS Wellington International School.

Hartland International School

Considered as ‘Very Good’ by the KHDA, Hartland International School accepts both Emirati and expat children from different ability groups. The academic year is divided into three parts called winter, spring and summer semesters with studies starting at the beginning of September and end on the first dates of July.

In addition to English and Arabic, children have an opportunity to study French, Spanish, German and even Chinese from Year 2. The school believes that foreign languages will help students in cultural exchange and future trips abroad.

Note: Hartland International School in partnership with the Chinese Language Institute offers a unique programme aimed both at Chinese native speakers and ones who choose Chinese as a second language.

As for October 2021, applications are open from Foundation Stage until Year 12. The application form should be completed online and scanned copies of the documents should be sent via email. After that, the child will be invited for an assessment test with a small group of children. During the test parents will have an opportunity to talk to the team and get answers to any questions they may have. After a successful assessment to secure the child’s place you will need to pay an Admission Fee of AED 2,500 (USD 680).

Location: Sobha Hartland in Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City

Contacts: www.hartlandinternational.com, +971 4 407 9444

GEMS Wellington International School

Considered as ‘Outstanding’ by the KHDA, GEMS Wellington International School is a good option for children from 3 to 18 years as it operates according to the British curriculum. The school also offers the International Baccalaureate diploma programme.

GEMS students are accepted by top universities all over the world who go on to study in universities such as Cambridge, UCL and Princeton University and have a high success rate of obtaining scholarships.

Applications are made online, and the price of the application fee is AED 525 (USD 145). Parents should check that they have attached all necessary documents including information about allergies and received vaccinations.

Location: Al Sufouh

Contacts: www.wellingtoninternationalschool.com, +971 4 348 4999

Summary

  1. There are a great number of schools in Dubai which are considered as ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Very Good’.
  2. Every school has its own requirements, and you will need to apply to a school beforehand to get a place and avoid being on a waitlist.
  3. Non-Emiratis have to pay both for private and public schools.
  4. In most cases, the school week runs from Sunday to Thursday, but there are occasions when it may start from Saturday to Thursday. It all depends on the particular school.
  5. Children usually study French or Spanish as a foreign language, but other options are also available depending on the school.
  6. After graduation, children continue studies in top universities as they have a good basis and knowledge of languages and other subjects.
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