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Dubai: There are over 600 schools in the UAE. Which one is right for your child?

Selecting the right curriculum, finding a school that fits your budget and one that is highly rated … the process can be stressful and time-consuming. If you are new to the UAE or are just starting your hunt for the perfect school for your child, here is a comprehensive guide on the school system and admission process in the UAE.

1. Education authorities in the UAE

Before you start shortlisting schools, it is important to understand how the education system in the UAE is structured.

At the federal level, the Ministry of Education (MOE) handles all education institutions in the UAE, including public and private schools. However, for private schools MOE only sets the curriculum for Arabic, social studies and Islamic studies and provides overall guidelines for schools. It does not direct private schools for the rest of their curriculum, according to the official UAE government website,

While MOE operates at the federal level, within each Emirate, there are local bodies that oversee the education sector. In Dubai, for example, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is responsible for the growth and quality of private education insitutes in the Emirate. In Abu Dhabi, the body that oversees and regulates the education sector is the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK). In Sharjah, the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) is responsible for private education institutions.

Other Emirates - Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, and Fujairah – operate under MOE.

Knowing which authority your preferred school comes under is important because each of these authorities set the guidelines for schools in the Emirate. This would include school ratings, a limit on the maximum tuition fees a school may charge, as well as overseeing all the facilities and services a school provides.

2. Finding the right school curriculum for your child

Picking the right curriculum for your child can go a long way in helping your child develop their skills – while some curricula focus on an analytical, application-based approach, others may have a more rigorous, theory-based approach. Based on student enrolments in the UAE, the most popular curricula are:

• UK curriculum
• Indian curriculum
• US curriculum
• IB curriculum
• Ministry of Education programme (public schools)

But which curriculum would be ideal for your child? For an in-depth understanding of the curricula offered in UAE schools, read our detailed guide here.

3. Which school fits your budget?

School fees can be a big part of your monthly and yearly budget and finding a school which is within your budget can be a big help in keeping track of your finances. Apart from tuition fees – which can increase as your child progresses from primary to middle and then to high school – you would also need to factor in additional fees for extra-curricular activities.

For schools in Dubai, you can view the ‘The School Fees Fact Sheet’, a one-page report for each school, which gives parents a breakdown of all the fees a school may charge. To find out more about how you can use this to select the right school for your children read our guide here.

For schools in Abu Dhabi, you can view the fee structure for each school by visiting online directory of schools on the official Abu Dhabi government services website Tamm, here -

If you are looking for a school in other Emirates, you can always reach out to the school on your shortlist and find out their fee structure on their website, or by calling the administration office of a school.

4. What is a school rating?

KHDA and ADEK conduct school inspections in their respective Emirates, and the ratings provide parents with a better idea of the standard of education in each school.

ADEK has the ‘Irtiqaa’ rating system, in which during a four-day inspection, school inspectors evaluate the institution’s overall education quality as well as its effectiveness, and rate it on a scale of six – very weak, weak, acceptable, good, very good and outstanding.

You can find the Irtiqaa rating of private schools through the Tamm Abu Dhabi government portal by visiting this link:

KHDA’s school inspection reports are published every year, and schools are given a rating on a scale of five - ‘Outstanding’, ‘Very good’, ‘Good’, ‘Acceptable’ or ‘Weak’. The reports also include a ‘Parent Report’ section, which gives parents detailed information about the quality of education provided by a school, helping them to make informed decisions.

You can download the inspection reports of the last few years for different schools in Dubai here:

5. How to choose the right school

Now that you have a basic understanding of the education framework in the UAE, the best way to check if a school is suitable for your child is to first do your research and then visit the schools on your shortlist and request a school tour to get a better understanding of which school might be right for your child.

Once you have finalised the school you prefer, you would need to provide certain documents during your child’s admission process. For a detailed guide on what you need to do to complete the admission process, read here.

6. Buying stationery

Once the enrolment process is completed, the next big task for parents and children is to get their stationery in place.

School bags, craft supplies, pencil boxes and other stationery items can cost a pretty penny, only if you do not have a clear budget or don’t know where to shop.

Simple tasks, such as making a list, checking your stock at home, and allocating your budget, can help cut costs.

If you want to know where you can get affordable stationery in the UAE, click here.

7. Don’t skip on the right shoes

Since children’s feet lack muscle strength and are prone to hypermobility, wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause many problems for your child, including blisters, sores, and toe deformities.

If you want to know how to pick the right shoe for your child and the important factors you should consider when making the purchase, read our article here.