If your family is immigrating to Dubai then one of your main concerns is finding a suitable school for your children. There are many questions surrounding this topic, and it can be daunting to make a decision on schooling, especially if you have not yet arrived in Dubai.
In this article, we will explore some of the important questions, concerns, and solutions when selecting a school for expats in Dubai.
The Dilemma of Education in the UAE for Expats
Relocating to Dubai is an exciting adventure for the entire family; however, it is also a stressful time with much uncertainty, including finding a school for your children.
If you are immigrating, chances are that you or your partner have a business opportunity in the country. This means you will probably find housing close to your new job to make the commute easier and maximise time spent with your family.
When searching for a school, you’ll want to find a school that is close to your new home. This can be challenging as you will initially have to conduct an online search to determine this. You will probably also want to enrol at an international school if your child is not fluent in Arabic, which will further reduce the number of appropriate schools in your area.
Once you have located the potential schools close to your home, you will have to determine what curriculums they offer, and whether or not they are considered a good educational provider. This will include investigating whether the school has good teachers and what teaching methods they utilise.
It is also important to look into the general atmosphere of a school. This will help you decide whether or not a school will be a good fit for your child. If a school’s methodology and attitude don’t suit your child, it could influence how well your child adjusts and whether or not they do well academically and flourish going forward.
It is also important to determine whether you can enrol your child immediately upon arrival or if they are only allowed to enrol at certain times of the year.
All of these questions are best answered when visiting a school in person, which is not always possible when immigrating, as you will often only arrive in Dubai for the first time when you make the big move.
Can Expats Attend Public School in Dubai?
There is nothing that prevents an expatriate from attending a public school in Dubai, provided they meet the necessary entrance requirements and are accepted by the school.
However, Arabic is the language of instruction for all subjects in Dubai public schools. Therefore, if your child is a non-Arabic speaker it could be challenging to adapt. It is recommended that children who attend these schools be fluent in Arabic. If not, they will fall behind and struggle to understand the curriculum.
This could put unnecessary strain on your child’s educational journey and even make the adjustment to life in the UAE more difficult.
It should also be mentioned that while the public schools do provide a decent education in Dubai, the general opinion is that private and international schools do provide a better education with the curriculums and teaching methods on offer.
Is Education Free for Expats in Dubai?
No, education for expats is not free in Dubai. For the Emiratis, the native Arab citizen population in the UAE, education is free at the primary and secondary levels.
If you are immigrating to Dubai your children will not have access to free education and you will have to pay for their public or private education.
School Fees in Dubai for Expats
School fees are quite pricey in Dubai. If your child attends an international school, the fees can range between 13 000 and 95 000 AED a year. This translates to between 3 539 and 25 863 USD a year.
The fluctuation between school fees will depend on a few factors, including curriculum, the quality of the teachers, teaching methodologies utilised, location, amenities available, and infrastructure. School fees will also increase as your child ages and progresses on their education journey.
It should be mentioned that the fees mentioned above typically do not include extracurricular activities or fees spent on transport, uniforms, and so forth. These fees are purely based on the education your child receives at a school.
Best Schools in Dubai for Expats
Depending on your location, there should be a variety of international schools at your disposal that will be able to cater for your preferred language of instruction and meet your child's educational needs.
However, this option will still be expensive and will require a lot of investigation prior to moving.
A simpler and better option is to enrol in an online school. This will allow you to enrol your child before leaving for your new home, so they may get used to their new schooling method. This will decrease the stress experienced by your child during the move and will make it easier for them to adjust to their new life abroad.
Online schooling is also much cheaper than other schooling options in Dubai, while still providing a high level of education. Depending on the online school you opt for, your child's level or grade, and the subjects they enrol for, fees can range from USD 849 to USD 2 820 a year.
While there has been some debate as to whether online schooling is legal in Dubai, you can be rest assured that it is legal to enrol your child in an online school while in Dubai. Also bear in mind that homeschooling is a viable option for expats living in the UAE, but not for Emirati citizens.
There are a variety of online schools to choose from when looking to enrol your child in an online school in Dubai.
An internationally accredited online school that offers the International British Curriculum. Included in the fees are online learning content (including live lessons and Q&A sessions), certified teachers, a student tracker, a direct chat with teacher function, and more.
Learn more about CambriLearn.
Centris Homeschool Group
Based in Dubai, they offer online schooling. While it is not clear which curriculum they offer, they do have an option where students can choose to graduate with American Accreditation as a separate add-on.
Learn more about Centris.
This online school offers the K12 American curriculum. If your child is planning on attending college or university in the United States of America then this curriculum will be accepted; however, for more options in terms of international university acceptance, the International British Curriculum will be more suited.
Learn more about iCademy.
Sophia High offers the International British Curriculum and seems to be quite similar to CambriLearn. The main difference between the two providers is the pricing as Sophia High is a more expensive option.
Learn more about Sophia High.
How to Choose an Online School
Before deciding to enrol in any of these or other online schools, we suggest that you book a consultation with each of them, check their online reviews, and potentially ask around on a Homeschooling or Online Schooling Facebook Group to receive feedback from other parents on these online schools.
It can also be useful to try out a free trial on these platforms if they offer such a service before committing to one of these schools.