New to the UAE? Here is what expat parents can expect when enrolling their child in a UAE private school
5 May 2023| Last updated on 10 May 2023
Here are some things expat parents can expect when applying for and enrolling their children into a UAE school for the first time.
1. Most expat children go to private schools.
Most Emirati children attend public schools which follow the curriculum set by the UAE's Ministry of Education, with a smaller percentage of foreigner students from expat families.
Majority of expat kids enroll in private educational institutions of which many have waiting lists, especially highly-rated schools.
2. There are plenty of curricula on offer in the UAE
The UAE has over 450 private schools following different curricula, including but not limited to the British National curriculum, International Baccalaureate (IB), American programmes, French, Indian CBSE, Filipino syllabus, the UAE's Ministry of Education (MoE), and more.
How to pick the best curriculum for your child?
With parents spoiled for choice, it might be difficult to narrow down the school you'd wish to apply for your kid. We recommend researching schools that follow a similar curriculum as the one on offer back home, or opt for an IB school as the International Baccalaureate programme is generally accepted worldwide if ever your family decides to relocate again. Don't let that stop you though from considering other curricula.
3. School tuition fees vary widely in the UAE
Tuition fees in the UAE can vary. For example, annual school fees for year 12 students can start from AED 8,000 for some schools, while top learning institutions in the UAE can charge up to AED 97,000.
The annual tuition fees per grade level are usually displayed on the school's official website, or visit the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) website (for Dubai schools) or the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) website (for Abu Dhabi schools) to find more details about each learning institution.
Have a look around and see which schools suit your budget.
4. School Open House events and campus tours
School Open House events
Open House events allow parents to get a feel of the school's learning environment, culture, teachers, and more. If you're eying a school, we recommend attending one of their Open House events with your child.
During these events, teachers and other school staff are typically available to answer any questions you might have about their school. Some schools might also have admission tests available on the same day.
If you're unable to visit an Open House, some schools also offer campus tours which usually require an advance appointment beforehand. To save time, drop their office a call and inquire about getting a campus tour so you can explore during a time that suits your schedule.
5. Support for students with unique learning needs
KHDA ensures that inclusive education for students with SEND (special education needs and disabilities) are provided in all schools across Dubai.
If your child requires a unique learning plan tailored to their special needs, we recommend inquiring about how the school works to achieves inclusivity so that every student feels confident, happy, and safe, from their lessons and lunch breaks to extra-curricular activities and playtime.
Every school is different in what they offer and provide for students with SEND.
6. After-school activities and extracurriculars
A good school knows that learning isn't confined to the classroom. After-school activities and extracurriculars in the UAE provide students a chance to explore sports, activities, and other fields of interest where they can also grow and socialise.
Some schools have sports facilities that your child might be interested in, such as a proper-sized football or basketball pitch, swimming pool, or track field. Other schools may have a large, sprawling auditorium and focus more on public speaking and performing arts.
Many UAE schools are also investing in tech equipment to produce 21st century individuals in their students, with after-school activities focusing on robotics, engineering, coding, etc.
It pays to inquire about what each potential school has on offer so that your child can discover new interests beyond academics.
7. How to apply for UAE schools for your child?
Once you've done your school research, including budget and how they fit with your child's learning needs, personal interests, and growth, the next step would be to send an application.
Depending on the school, they may either require an online application form to be filled in or a hardcopy that needs to be submitted in-person.
Attach the required documents (child's passport copy, pre-school/kindergarten certificates, etc.) that are requested by the school, and pay any application fees.
Your child will then need to undertake an assessment or entrance test.
If the assessment is successful, you will receive an offer letter which should be signed and any deposit must be paid to secure your child's seat. Some children may be put on a waiting list, as there are usually a lot of successful applicants.