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Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE has one of the highest number of international schools in the region, with 1,262 private and public schools, according to the Ministry of Education.

The options, then, whether it is to do with school fees or curriculum are endless. Here, we present the top five curricula that are offered in the UAE, so that you are better equipped to take the right decision for your child’s future.

1. UK curriculum

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File photo of a moral education class at The English College. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit:

In Dubai alone, 36 per cent of the students are enrolled in a UK curriculum school, with the growth rate of enrolment also being the highest in the past three years at 8 per cent.

This curriculum is organised into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, the teacher formally assesses a child’s performance.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is followed for children up to the age of five. It provides a framework for learning, development and care of children in the early years of their lives and covers teaching and support staff at child care centres and nurseries.

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File photo of students checking out their A level results at GEMS Jumeirah College. Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

The National Curriculum of England is a broad curriculum covering Arts, Sciences and Humanities. It is also easily adapted by students who might come from other curricula because of its liberal teaching style, and focus on analytical thinking and application rather than a heavy focus on rote learning. Its popularity across the world makes it easy for children to move from one country to another and continue studying in a British curriculum school.

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2. Indian curriculum

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File photo of Students of JSS Private School in Dubai Indian schools start a new academic year in April while most other schools start a new cycle in September. Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

Indian curriculum schools are also a popular option, with 79,000 students enrolled in this curriculum in Dubai alone, making it 27 per cent of the student population.

This includes the Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum, which is designed and developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi. The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) is also offered in some schools in the UAE.

The rigorous ‘board exams’ given by students in the Grade 10 and Grade 12 help students perform at a high level when they move to universities anywhere in the world. More recently the Indian curriculum has undergone changes to shift awat from its heavy focus on rote learning and include more ‘adaptive skills’. 

However, the curriculum has come under fire by some parents for still depending too heavily on rote learning.

The examination board, organised in its current form since 1952, is offered by more than 20,300 schools around the world, with nearly three million students attempting its Grade 10 and Grade 12 exams each year. In 2018, about 16,000 students appeared for the board exams from the UAE alone.

3. US curriculum

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File photo of students on the first day of school after summer vacations at GEMS Dubai American Academy. Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

The US Curriculum is based on American Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Math, History/Geography, and Next Generation Science Standards for Science. This gives more creative freedom to tailor the curriculum based on individual needs. Students are supported by a huge range of co-curricular activities that ensure they have the opportunity to develop fully as individuals. Personalised instructions are geared towards inquiry-based, hands-on teaching methods, and world class learning strategies.

In Dubai, almost 50,000 students are enrolled in US-curriculum schools. The curriculum’s standardised tests are benchmarked by American international schools around the world, which lead to SAT and advanced placement tests (standardised tests widely used for college admissions in the United States) for university admission.

4. IB curriculum

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File photo of students on the first day of school after summer vacations at GEMS Dubai American Academy. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit:

Only six per cent of students in Dubai (17,236) are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate curriculum but it is one of the fastest growing curricula in the Emirates. As the name suggests, this curriculum is not aligned with a specific country’s national curriculum.

The programmes offered by IB are:

  • Primary Year Program (PYP) for 3-12 years old
  • Middle Year Program (MYP) for 11-16 years old
  • IB Diploma for 16-19 years old
  • Career-related for 16-19 years old

Several schools offer IB curriculum along with other curricula. So, it is not uncommon to enroll students in schools which offer the Indian or British curriculum along with the IB curriculum. So, while the student might study under a British or Indian curriculum up to the age of 16, they would then shift to an IB Diploma programme for the final years of study at the school.

5. Ministry of Education

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File photo of a student of GEMS Modern Academy, an IB school. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit:

The UAE’s Ministry of Education programme is largely developed for public schools, that are government-funded. However, schools in the UAE are required to teach Arabic, Social Studies and Islamic studies courses that are part of the Ministry of Education curriculum. A few private schools also offer the complete MOE curriculum.

In the year 2018, five per cent of the students in the UAE were enrolled in MOE curriculum schools. While the primary language of education is Arabic, there are English translations of Social Studies and Islamic studies subjects as well.