British Curriculum in the UAE: 3 Important Things You Need to Know

Nov 20,2023

There are several decisions you must make when moving your family to another country, and one of the most important is ensuring that your child gets the highest quality education. When choosing a new school, you must carefully consider the curriculum that it follows.

In the UAE, one of the best options available is the British national curriculum. This blog covers what the British curriculum is, how students progress through the framework, and how the programme can benefit young learners.

1. What is the British Curriculum?

Before researching the best British curriculum schools in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you will need to know a bit more about the key principles of the framework.

Also referred to as the National Curriculum for England, the British education system is a well-rounded framework introduced in the United Kingdom (UK) in the late 1980s. Over time, it evolved into a more balanced and student-focused curriculum, with some elements introduced in 2015.

This learning programme has been widely implemented not only in private schools in the UK, but also in other countries like the UAE. It covers fundamental subjects like English, science, and mathematics, as well as several multi-disciplinary subjects, such as:

  • Design and Technology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Art and Design
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Computing
  • Ancient and Modern Foreign Languages

2. How do students' progress under the British Curriculum?

Students in the British curriculum progress through “years” of learning (the counterpart for grade levels in the American curriculum). They also undergo milestones organised into blocks called “key stages” (KS).

At the end of each key stage, teachers determine the students’ progress based on their performance in the core subjects through assessments and statutory and national exams. 

Take a look at the different key stages in the national curriculum below:


Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Although compulsory learning starts at age five in the UK, most schools offering the British curriculum also implement pre-school programmes that follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. This usually begins with a reception class that caters to children aged three to four.

The EYFS serves as an opportunity for the school to assess each student’s knowledge and skills and create a more effective teaching framework for individual learners.

During the foundation years, schools teach children the fundamental skills that will prepare them for further learning, including communication and social skills, maths, sciences, and arts and design. They also encourage students to participate in fun educational activities inside and outside the classroom for their physical, psychological, and emotional development.


Key Stages 1 and 2

British curriculum students begin primary school at the age of five. At Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2), children learn core subjects such as English, Technology, History, Art, Music, and Geography.

In the UAE, private schools implementing the British curriculum programme may also offer the following subjects:

  • Islamic Studies
  • Arabic Language (for native and non-native speakers)
  • UAE Social Studies
  • Moral Education

When they are seven years old, students continue to KS 2, which makes up the rest of the primary education in the British national curriculum.

The second key stage emphasises developing skills that children need as they progress into secondary school. For example, they learn how to write essays with proper structure and study more complex texts, developing deeper understanding. This prepares them for the more advanced work they’ll do in KS 3.

In KS 2, students also learn subjects like history, geography and science as part of a broader curriculum. These serve as supplemental learning in core subjects, providing children with more comprehensive information about the topics related to each subject.

Once they reach certain milestones in primary school, students take national tests and teacher-led assessments to determine whether they are ready for the next key stages in the British curriculum.


Key Stage 3 and 4

Secondary education in the British national curriculum begins at Year 7 (age 11).

In the lower secondary levels (ages 11 to 14), the learning programme focuses on subject-based learning that equips students with the skills necessary to work and think independently.

In the upper secondary stages (KS 4), students undergo the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) framework, which covers English, Maths, Science, Arabic, and four or five other subjects.

Once students reach the A-level stage, British curriculum schools give them the opportunity to choose subjects to specialise in – a decision that can affect their future careers. With this, they have access to in-depth information and instruction from specialists in their chosen subjects.

3. What advantages does the British Curriculum give students?

The British curriculum introduces students to a wide range of subjects, giving them a broad and balanced education that can pave the way for further study or work.

These are some of the key benefits GEMS British schools can offer your child:

  • Well-rounded programmes

British schools in Dubai and other key areas of the UAE offer a well-rounded learning framework that lets students develop both academic and practical skills. These include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and research skills.

On top of that, they can gain a more profound understanding of specific topics of study, allowing them to excel in their future studies or careers.

  • Global recognition

GEMS British schools prepare students to acquire globally recognised qualifications, like the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A) Levels, as well as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).

  • Specialised learning

The British curriculum also offers focused learning by allowing students to choose subjects to focus on during the secondary stages. With more in-depth instruction from experts in their chosen fields, students learn skills that they can use in various career paths, giving them a head start in their future endeavours.


At GEMS Education, we offer some of the best British curriculum programmes in the UAE, through schools like GEMS Royal Dubai School, GEMS Wellington Academy - Silicon Oasis and GEMS FirstPoint School - Dubai.

With dedicated facilities and highly qualified teachers, GEMS schools provide top-notch education for students from early years to secondary levels. Talk to us to learn more about our British curriculum schools in the UAE.