Hussain Ebrahim Al Hammadi
Hussain Ebrahim Al Hammadi (left) discusses the latest educational tools with a student at the BETT MEA conference and expo at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on Monday. Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Student enrolment in UAE private schools offering the Ministry of Education curriculum is on the decline, and the share of students in public schools is also falling, an education report has shown.

The report, developed by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), shows that even as student numbers grow from 1.04 million in 2013 to 1.28 million by 2021, the proportion of students in public schools is expected to decrease from 28 per cent to 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, enrolment in Abu Dhabi private schools offering the ministry curriculum is expected to fall to nearly 40,000 by 2021 from about 55,000 students in 2013. In Dubai, there were about 18,000 students in private schools in 2013, but the number could fall to about 10,000 by 2021.


estimated students in UAE schools by 2021

In the same period, enrolment is expected to rise at private schools offering other curriculums, including British, American and Indian.

“Overall enrolment at public schools is increasing, even if the share of the student population in public schools falls. But the main thing is that public schools are for Emiratis, with expat students accounting for only 20 per cent of those enrolled. So any increase or decrease in numbers reflects the birth rate of the Emirati population,” Hussain Ebrahim Al Hammadi, Minister for Education, told Gulf News on Monday.

The PwC report also attributed the “drop in Ministry of Education curriculum popularity to a preference among parents for more international curricula”.

“[Nevertheless], the UAE’s focus on education is very clear. By 2071, our aim is to be a leader in the education sector. The initiatives we have introduced in the last few years will support this goal, including the introduction of the Emirati School Model, the launch of the national exams system … and the nationwide school inspections. We will launch, in a month from now, the new standards for higher education,” Al Hammadi said.


estimated students in Abu Dhabi private schools offering ministry curriculum by 2021

“We are also working hard on implementing soft skills in the education system, and encouraging students to think about private sector job opportunities and building their own businesses in growing, often high-tech industries.”

Al Hammadi was speaking on the sidelines of the Bett MEA, a two-day annual education technology expo and conference at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. It ends on Tuesday.

According to the PwC report, the UAE spends around Dh80,000 per student in public schools, more than double the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of Dh33,000 per student. The UAE has 616 public schools.

Among private schools, enrolment is growing fastest at Dubai schools offering the British curriculum, while American curriculum schools are facing the highest growth in student enrolment in Abu Dhabi.

The report also highlights that Abu Dhabi “may be at the point of needing to introduce schools at a faster rate to increase capacity if the [growth in student enrolment] continues”.