How To Choose The Right School In The UAE: A Guide

Apr 29,2024

If you’re a parent, you’ll be glad to know you have many private school options in the United Arab Emirates. There are 580 private schools in the UAE; 216 are in Dubai and 185 are in Abu Dhabi.

GEMS Education is one of the oldest and largest K-12 private education providers in the world. We operate 44 schools in the UAE and they are spread across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. Of course, the abundance of choices means it’s helpful to have a system for deciding which particular GEMS school you should pick for your children.

We have prepared this handy guide on how to choose the right school in the UAE. You can use this as your criteria for assessing your candidate schools and choosing the best GEMS school.

Note: You can rearrange the factors below according to your priorities.

1. Decide on Your Preferred Curriculum

You have four curriculum options at GEMS: British, American, Indian, and International Baccalaureate (IB). These are the most popular curriculums offered in the UAE. Some of our schools also offer two curriculum options.

Deciding on your preferred curriculum can be the first step to creating a list of schools to consider.

British Curriculum

The National Curriculum for England (NCfE) or British curriculum is the most popular international curriculum in Dubai. According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s November 2022 data, 36% of Dubai private school students follow the British curriculum and 80 schools in the emirate offer it.

The British curriculum is the likely choice of expat families from the United Kingdom and other European countries. It is also a good choice if you’re planning to send your children to a UK or European university after they finish their schooling.

Following the curriculum leads to a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), Advanced Subsidiary or AS-level, Advanced or A-level, and Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications.

GEMS Education has many British curriculum schools in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.

So, if you think a British curriculum education would be the best fit for your child, you definitely have a wide range of choices at your fingertips. For more information that can help you decide if a British school has what you’re looking for, check out this guide to the British curriculum.

IB Curriculum

The IB curriculum is a rigorous academic programme designed and administered by the International Baccalaureate Organisation. Following this academic curriculum typically leads to the IB Diploma Programme, which IB students use as a stepping stone to university.

The IB Diploma Programme has worldwide acceptance, and your children can submit the IB diploma for university admission purposes.

GEMS has IB curriculum schools across the UAE. Three of them — GEMS World Academy Dubai, GEMS International School Al Khail and GEMS World Academy - Abu Dhabi— are exclusively IB schools, while the rest are dual pathway schools offering students a choice between the IB curriculum and one other curriculum (British, Indian or American).

American Curriculum

The American curriculum is based on US standards, specifically the US English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.

As of November 2022, 15% of private school students in Dubai follow the American curriculum.

The American curriculum is the natural choice of expatriates from the United States as well as parents planning to send their children to a US university for higher education. The American curriculum does not have external assessments and qualifications like the GCSE, AS-Level and A-Levels.

If your child enrols in an American curriculum school, they can take Advanced Placement (AP) courses and their corresponding AP exams. They also typically take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) for university admission assessment purposes.

You and your child can choose from among three GEMS American curriculum schools in the UAE, including GEMS American Academy - Abu Dhabi. Read this if you need some help deciding between the IB curriculum and the American curriculum.

Indian Curriculum

The Indian curriculum is the third most popular in Dubai, based on the number of schools that offer it, and the second most popular among private school students with 26% on this curriculum.

The Indian curriculum is a natural choice for expat parents who intend to send their children to India for undergraduate studies.

It has two variants: the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The CISCE Indian curriculum leads to:

  • The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) qualification in Grade 10
  • The Indian School Certificate (ISC) qualification in Grade 12

The CBSE Indian curriculum leads to a different set of qualifications. Under CBSE:

  • Grade 10 students take the All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE) to earn their Secondary School Certificate.
  • Grade 12 students sit for the All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE), also known as the Boards, to obtain the All India Senior School Certificate.

GEMS has many high-quality Indian curriculum schools in the UAE. GEMS Modern Academy Dubai is one of them. For parents who want a choice between the CISCE Indian curriculum and the IB programme, this school ticks the right boxes. Meanwhile, GEMS New Millennium School - Al Khail Dubai and Our Own English High School Sharjah offer the CBSE variant.

2. Sort Your Options According to School Rating

UAE private schools in each of the emirates undergo stringent evaluation and inspection and get rated accordingly. When you know the ratings of different schools in the UAE, you can rank your options better, and have a very good basis for considering specific schools for your child’s education.

We have a handy list of our own KHDA Outstanding Schools on our website; you can use it to find outstanding GEMS schools in Dubai. You may also refer to our list of GEMS Schools in the UAE to see the full list of schools, and compare the benefits they offer.

3. Decide on Your Budget

According to the UAE government portal, the individual emirates are responsible for regulating school fees in their jurisdiction. Additionally, private schools set their fees based on various factors, including their curriculum, facilities, infrastructure, and human resources.

Your preferred tuition fee range is a good deciding factor when choosing a private school in the UAE. After setting a maximum tuition fee value, filter your shortlist for those that fall within your budget.

Here at GEMS, our list of schools in the UAE provide an overview of every GEMS school; it indicates each school’s tuition fee range. You should find this information quite helpful in narrowing down your choice of schools.

4. Choose a School Nearby

You may further refine your search by filtering your shortlist according to each prospective school’s distance from your residence.

A school in your neighbourhood or a neighbouring community will offer more in terms of convenience than a school located further away — especially if you work nearby, and plan to drop off and fetch your child to and from school.

Find the Right School for Your Child in the UAE

Choosing a school in the UAE is not a simple matter, but you can make it easier by using this four-point criteria list on how to choose the right school in the UAE. It involves:

  • Deciding on your preferred curriculum
  • Sorting your options according to their school ratings
  • Shortlisting schools according to your preferred tuition fee range
  • Refining your search by focusing on nearby schools

Using this checklist will help you arrive at a handful of highly rated GEMS schools that offer your preferred curriculum, fall within your budget, and are located in your vicinity or a nearby neighbourhood.

Ready to proceed with your child’s enrollment at GEMS?

Visit the website of your chosen GEMS school to register your child online.

You may also contact us if you need more information and guidance.

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