Education and Schools in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Schools guide cover

Download the free Expat Arrivals Abu Dhabi Schools Guide for an overview of what expat parents can expect from the school system in Abu Dhabi. Read about a typical school day, the difference between public and private schools, and everything you need to know about the admissions process.


Schools in Abu Dhabi - pencils
There are many private international schools in Abu Dhabi that adhere to at least one of thirteen different curricula. Such an intimidating range of options caters to a mushrooming expat community that is not allowed to utilise public schools in the emirate.
The standard, quality of facilities, teaching style, curriculum and teaching language all vary immensely from one school to another. Most expat parents choose an institution that mirrors the characteristics found in their home country's education system.
The British, American and International Baccalaureate schools tend to be the most expensive; the most exorbitant fees peaking at over 150,000 AED per year. Inclusions of school allowances are less common than they used to be in expat packages, so expats should ensure their salary is large enough to cover the costs.
All schools are required to adhere to a uniform school calendar, made up of three terms, with the school year running from September to July. The school week runs from Sunday to Thursday, and school hours vary depending on the institution, but do not start earlier than 7.30am and do not run later than 2.45pm.
Arabic is a required course at all schools, though no subject testing will be completed in this language – merely achievement in basic proficiency is required.


Shortages in schools in Abu Dhabi

One commonality shared across the board is the fact that all schools are rife with seat shortages; Indian schools in particular have trouble accommodating the growing number of interested students in Abu Dhabi. Primary schools are also notorious for denying students due to unavailability. Even waiting lists can be winding, and though efforts have been made to open new international schools in Abu Dhabi in recent years, space is still limited.
Finding a school can easily be the highest hurdle new arrivals must overcome, and in turn, should be an issue addressed from the very beginning.

kindergarteners in a school in Abu DhabiExpats should not be afraid to ask their employer to help them secure a seat for their child, especially if they’ve been lured abroad into a senior position. Always start the enrolment process as early as possible – applications and admission requirements are usually posted on school websites.
Expats who have already made the move to Abu Dhabi should note that school sign-up days are generally in the first week of February. Queues can start as early as the day before, so parents should be prepared to wait if they want access the most prestigious schools in the city.
Those who cannot place their child into the school of their choice immediately should be patient, as the turnover of students is high and places become available throughout the year.
Sending two children to the same international school is also a good tactic for ascending the waiting list, and in some cases, qualifying for tuition deductions.


Admission to schools in Abu Dhabi

Most schools post application and admissions requirements on their website. Expats should keep in mind that deposits upon registration tend to be refundable, so best to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to a child’s education.

Documentation required for admission can often be cumbersome, so it's best to make sure to have the following on hand:
  • Completed school application form
  • Completed health form
  • Copies of student's passport photos
  • Copies of student's passport or resident visa
  • Copies of mother/father's passport or resident visa
  • Copy of original birth certificate
  • Recent reports from previous school
  • Certified transfer certificate from the UAE Education Zone

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