Helpful advice for parents from the experts
5 December 2019| Last updated on 8 January 2020
Searching for the right school for your child in Dubai can be a little overwhelming without some guidance.
Moving to Dubai soon? Selecting a school is one of the most important decisions for families settling in Dubai, and, for many newcomers, the school and its location drives the bigger decision of selecting a residential neighborhood!
The Admissions Team at Dunecrest American School shares some key points to consider when looking for a new school for your little ones in Dubai.
Is education in Dubai good for young children?
Dubai offers parents many great options when it comes to education. It’s different from other cities around the world, with over 200 international schools.
Expat parents with young children, as well those in secondary school, have the choice of many different curricula to choose from and decide what suits their child’s learning best. American, British, French, and IB are all offered to children in Dubai at very competitive standards. It’s a very attractive aspect of living and moving to Dubai.
How early should kids start going to school?
In Dubai, children can start school in Pre-Kindergarten or Foundation Stage 1 (FS1) as early as 3 years old.
While age is the most common factor to gauge when a child is ready to start school, knowing where your child is in terms of their skills and independence should also guide your decision in starting school.
For example, are they able to pick up their toys after playing, can they bring placemats to you after dinner, can they put away their crayons and tidy up? Bilingual or trilingual families also need to consider their child’s communication abilities, comprehension, and vocabulary, as instruction in most private schools in Dubai is in English.
Developmentally speaking, for three-year-olds, even a few months can bring big changes, and our Early Childhood team is able to assess and advise on school readiness. However, children develop at different paces, and you will know your child best. If your little one is still showing signs of separation anxiety at being away from mom, dad or familiar people, delaying the start of school to 4 years is perfectly acceptable. To build independence, confidence and social skills, a few hours per day in a pre-school or nursery setting will help ease into a new routine, introduce the idea of school, and gently transition a young child to starting school the following year.
A child starting school is also a major family milestone and changes the entire family’s routine. It changes seemingly simple things like if daddy will be able to be home before bedtime or bath time. These are simple elements but they are essential to a child’s emotional and mental development. Children thrive on routine and managing this big change is vital to helping them transition successfully to starting school.
How should parents select a school for their children?
Many parents base their schooling decision purely on curriculum, however, the bigger question they should ask is: what type of learner is my child? Does he or she prefer prescriptive structure or a more independent learning style? Research shows that children learn better by doing and that real-world connections are also vital for children’s learning, so at Dunecrest, for example, we have a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) approach that ties in different subjects with cross-curricular projects. We see a lot of parents coming to us who are interested in this project-based learning style which starts right from early childhood!
Parents should also consider other questions such as:
- What kind of school do I want my child to go to? Will my child thrive in a smaller community style school or in a larger one?
- What kind of relationship do I want with my child’s teachers and administrators? Do I prefer an open door policy or a more formal communication style?
- Beyond academics, does the school offer a large choice of extra-curricular activities such as robotics clubs, coding clubs, language clubs?
- Does the school have a well-defined sporting program, do they participate in local and international leagues?
- Does the school have a good experiential learning program? Do they have class trips and projects that collaborate with businesses and programs in the top of their field?
We advise new parents looking for schools in Dubai to explore schools with programs that are near and dear to their children. For example, for families who value community service, you may want to consider a school that intertwines service-learning initiatives with the curriculum.
How do I transition my child from a nursery to school?
Prepare them months ahead of the start date for “big boy/big girl” school and get them excited about it! Keeping them involved in preparing them for school will help make them feel really good about going to their new school.
Let them participate in making small decisions about their school - the bag they’ll take to school, the socks they’ll wear in the morning, what they want to be packed for lunch. All these small decisions go a long way in helping children get excited about starting a new school and feeling good about being at their new school.
Practice new routines and take them to see the new school and their classroom ahead of time. Ask the school in advance about opportunities to meet your child’s homeroom teacher and bring your child into school. For example, our Early Childhood team at Dunecrest organizes several orientation events and back-to-school nights to help parents and children familiarize themselves with the school.
Positive comments and questions about school helps the little ones feel good about going to school. Ask them: what exciting things did you do today? What new things did you learn today? Who did you play with today? Who was kind to you? How did you help someone today? Reinforcing these positive themes can help children can transition more smoothly.
Stay connected with the school and your teachers through all the communication channels available. We have a range of apps that we use for daily communications, booking trips and activities, which supplement our parent emails, and of course, follow your school and teachers on social media!
What should every parent ask teachers?
Most parents regularly ask if their child is doing ok at school. What teachers would love for more parents to check instead is if their child is thriving at school.
Every parent wants their child to succeed in life and get the proper education to do that. The early years are foundational to learning for later in life. Every child will be different, but in these early years, small proactive steps with small additions or modifications to their learning will put them in the best position to flourish in the future.
:: For more information about Dunecrest American School, located near Al Barari in Dubailand, visit www.dunecrest.ae or schedule a visit with their knowledgeable and experienced admissions team by pressing click to call.