UAE School Rules You Need To Be Aware Of
Is your child starting school soon?
20 July 2017
If your child is just starting school in the UAE, you may find these pointers handy to guide you through the initial enrollment. The same rules also apply to students transferring from overseas.
Schools in the UAE are governed by a UAE-wide authority – the Ministry of Education – as well as local regulators based in each emirate. Although there is officially a standard set of rules and regulations covering the registration process for the UAE, there are variations between different emirates so it is advised that you confirm requirements with the admissions department of the school you wish to enroll your child into.
The legal age to begin
Children are legally required to be in school in the UAE during the academic year in which they turn 6 (5+ years on entry). However, International curriculum schools start accepting children from the age of 3 years and 8 months, and in the case of the UK curriculum in Dubai, from the age of 3 years.
Start dates are fixed across the country (with a one or two day gap at best) and doesn't permit phased entry for younger children as is common in the U.K. Therefore, school starts in September for most international curricula or April (for Indian, Pakistani or Japanese schools). If you are relocating to the UAE during term-time, registration is usually possible throughout the first and second terms and early in the third term, but it is advised to check before hand in order to avoid last minute inconveniences.
Determining your grade
Up until the age of 6, a student's group or grade is determined by their date of birth. This is fine for children starting school here, but if a child relocates from another country having already completed kindergarten, they may have to repeat a certain grade depending on their date of birth.
This is only applicable to students transferring from overseas. The transfer certificate is completed by the School Principal of the previous school, which confirms the details of the child’s attendance – the date and year group/grade they started at the school, the date and year group/grade at which the child finished at the school, and, if, at the end of the academic year, whether the child has been promoted to the next year group/grade.
The Transfer Certificate must be prepared on official Letter-headed paper and must carry a school stamp.
Depending on where the children have been studying, this document may need to be attested by the local Education Authority/Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Home Country, the UAE Embassy, Consulate or Representative, and if transferring from overseas, on arrival in the UAE, by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All documents must be produced in Arabic or English, and otherwise must be legally translated. Schools will provide you with details of the exact requirements for attestation depending on your circumstances.
Moving from the Southern Hemisphere
For students coming in from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America, whose schools follow the Gregorian calendar from January to December, the September to June academic year tends to complicate the decision on the timing of their move.
Children who move for a September start are required to repeat the academic year because they are deemed not to have completed the previous school year at home. This remains the case in all emirates except Dubai, where Schools and the Regulator have become more flexible in this context. The KHDA now tends to allow a child who has completed two semesters in the home country to be “promoted” to the next year group/grade for September entry, provided that there is evidence (through an entrance exam in the UAE school and previous school reports) that the child is capable.
In all emirates, children who complete the academic year in the “home” country, can join the next year group/grade in January, provided they have a transfer certificate confirming that they have completed the last academic year and evidence of capability to cope with the promotion to the next year group/grade.
Points to remember once you've applied
- The admissions staff at the desired school will review the student's reports and may request additional assessments.
- Some schools also conduct interviews for middle and secondary school level students.
- The Transfer Certificate is only valid for 30 days, so it is best to have the Emirates ID and visa process complete before requesting for the TC in order to avoid inconveniences.
- In the case where a student's EID and visa process is delayed, it is best to inform the respective emirates' Education Council in advance, and exceptions may be made.
As is the case with any relocation, transfer of job etc. starting or changing schools is also a time-consuming and lengthy process. The key to successful enrollment is preparation and planning ahead. Most procedures can be carried out online or by email but it is important to ensure that all documents are readily available and in the desired format.