There are many private international schools in Dubai catering specifically to the large foreign community that calls the emirate home, and expats generally choose this option over the emirate's public schools.
For the most part, schools in Dubai adhere to high standards, but can have very different approaches. Expats must consider what kind of learning environment will best benefit their child and what priorities they have in choosing an institution. That said, many private schools in Dubai offer a brand of education that allows students to enter any university in the world.
The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau publishes annual reviews of all private schools in Dubai, and reports published on its website are a good place to get objective information about schools.
International schools in Dubai
There are numerous options when it comes to choosing an international school in Dubai. Many schools follow the British education system and teach the National Curriculum of England in primary school, then offer IGCSE and A Level qualifications at the senior level. Others follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, with a handful following other curricula such as the Australian National Curriculum. Several schools also offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), which is internationally recognised.
There is a local syllabus requirement even for international schools in the UAE, so expat children will study Arabic and Islamic studies or UAE social studies. In some cases only basic proficiency in Arabic is required, while at others an A Level or equivalent is offered.
School fees in Dubai
School fees have seen a sharp rise in the last few years; so much so that many expat parents are choosing to homeschool their children or send them back to their home country to gain an education.
Most schools in Dubai have full uniforms, and many have a school bus transport system. Along with textbooks and other equipment, expats should remember to factor in these extra costs.
It's important to check whether a relocation package includes a school allowance; unfortunately the days when this was a given are long gone. Also, most allowances won't be enough to cover a top school's tuition in full – so expats should make sure their salary is enough to cover the extra costs. Don't be afraid to fight for a better school allowance, especially if considering a senior position in Dubai.
Seat shortages at Dubai schools
Good international schools in Dubai are flooded with applications each year, and primary schools, in particular, are over-subscribed. Some of the best primary schools may be full for the next three or four years.
It's absolutely essential to apply as soon as possible, especially if one's child is between three and seven years old. Most schools will post admission requirements and application procedures on their websites; in many cases it's possible to begin the application process from abroad. This should be the first priority for expat parents when planning the move to Dubai.