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Best Schools Dubai – And Why

Students in outstanding, good schools in DubaiIn the latest (2015) report from Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) the number of ‘Outstanding’ schools in Dubai has increased by two to 14 schools, while the number of students getting what the KHDA considers a top tier education is up by 6%.

What do you think? Have your say on Dubai schools – complete the 2015 School survey here.

Read: Dubai School Fees – the complete list, by Year Group

And: Complete Dubai School Rankings – KHDA

And: The most popular schools in the UAE

And: The highest user rated Schools in the UAE – Top 10

In 2014/15 143 schools were inspected. Of these, 14 were rated Outstanding, 59 were rated as Good, 61 were Acceptable and 9 were considered Unsatisfactory. DSIB findings indicate that 51% of schools are now providing an outstanding or good education, compared to 35% in 2008.

Improvements to Dubai schools since 2008

The report outlines the correlation between good leadership and quality education. This year, DSIB found that good or better leadership is now exercised at 60% of all schools, an increase of 14 percentage points compared to 2008. Only 2% of schools were found to have unsatisfactory leadership, compared to 16% in 2008.


The performance levels, according to the KHDA website, are defined as follows:

Outstanding: Exceptionally high quality of performance or practice.

Good: The expected level for every school in Dubai.

Acceptable: The minimum level of quality required for Dubai. All key aspects of performance and practice in every school should meet or exceed this level.

Unsatisfactory: Quality not yet at the level acceptable for schools in Dubai. Schools will be expected to take urgent measures to improve the quality of any aspect of their performance or practice that is judged at this level.


Outstanding Schools Revealed

Good Schools By Curriculum

Caption: Dubai school ratings, by curriculum type.


Schools that score an overall outstanding rating will undoubtedly become the most sought-after school places in Dubai. Here are the 14 outstanding performing private schools in Dubai, as of May 2015.


  1. Kings Dubai, UK
  2. GEMS Wellington International School, UK/IB
  3. Jumeirah College, UK
  4. Jumeirah English Speaking School, UK
  5. Dubai College, UK
  6. GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, UK
  7. Jumeirah English Speaking School – Arabian Ranches, UK/IB
  8. GEMS Dubai American Academy, US/IB,
  9. Dubai Modern High School, Indian (ISCE)
  10. The Indian High School, Indian (CBSE)
  11. Dubai English Speaking College, UK – New in 2012/13
  12. Horizon School, UK – New in 2012/13
  13. Repton School Dubai New in 2014/15
  14. Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou, Primary, French – New, 2014/15


Note, Jebel Ali Primary School (UK), which made the Outstanding grade in 2011/12, has retained a Good grade for the third year in a row. It is still rated as Outstanding in most elements of the KHDA’s report. Arabic provision is its Achilles Heel.


Schools rated Good by the KHDA

If you are currently research a school for your child, note – Outstanding schools tend to be at or near capacity. Good schools will also be targeted by parents but you should broaden your search to schools on this list. Note, targeting new (opened in the last 3-4 years) and new schools will yield the biggest opportunities for a space within a high performing school.

Al Ameen Private School UK
Al Diyafah High School  ,  UK
Al Ittihad Private School, US
Al Mizhar American Academy School,  US
Al Rashid Al Saleh Private School, MOE
Al Safa Private School, UK
Al Salam Private School, UK
American School of Dubai, US
Cambridge International School, UK
Dar Al Marefa School, IB
Deira International School, UK/IB
Delhi Private School, Indian(CBSE)
Dubai British School, UK
Dubai English Speaking School, Good     UK
Dubai Gem Private School, UK
Dubai International Academy, IB
Dubai International private School, US
Dubai National School, US
Dubai Scholars Private School, UK
Emirates International private School L.L.C, UK/IB
Emirates International School (Meadows), IB
GEMS Our Own English High School, Indian (CBSE)
GEMS Our Own Indian School, Indian (CBSE)
GEMS Royal Dubai School, UK
GEMS Wellington Academy (Branch), UK
GEMS Wellington Primary School, UK
GEMS World Academy, IB
German International School Dubai, GERMAN
GreenField Community School, IB
Greenwood International School, US
Japanese School, Japanese
Jebel Ali Primary school, UK
JSS International School, Indian (CISCE)
Jumeira Baccalaureate School, UK/IB
Lycee Francais International, FRENCH
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou, FRENCH
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou Primary Oud Metha, FRENCH
Lycee Libanais Francophone Prive-Dubai, FRENCH
Our Own High School, Indian(CBSE)
Pristine Private School, UK
Raffles International School – South, UK
Raffles World Academy, UK/IB
Rajagiri International School Dubai, Indian(CBSE)
Regent International Private School, UK
Repton School Dubai FZ-LLC, UK/IB
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Islamic Institute, MOE
St. Mary Catholic High School – Dubai, UK
Star International School, UK
Star International School – Um Al Shief, UK
The English College Dubai, UK
The Indian High School-Branch, Indian(CBSE)
The Millenium School, Indian(CBSE)
The School of Research Science, UK
The Winchester School, UK
Universal American School, US/IB
Uptown School, IB


Comparing Dubai schools internationally

UAE Schools Versus TIMS Pisa

The best Dubai schools are very good, with the likes of Dubai College comparing favourably with some of the best private schools in the UK – at least in terms of academic results. As a whole however, the UAE has some way to go on international benchmarks like the PISA test.

See: Problem: UAE schools at the bottom of the class

Results vary widely across curricula in the UAE, with IB and UK curriculum schools scoring significantly higher than their peers and already closing in on the benchmarks set in the UAE for 2021. Higher performance in these tests is reflected in the ratings of schools in the UAE by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau. Two thirds of Outstanding schools in the emirate are either UK or IB schools.

STEM scores by curriculum

Note however, that this is not necessarily to do with the curriculum. UK and IB schools tend to be the most expensive, charge the highest fees, and therefore are the most well funded schools in Dubai.


Getting into one of these schools

If you are currently researching schools, you want to read our guide to getting into a good school in the UAE.


How school inspections are done

Internationally qualified school inspectors pay on site visits to every private school in Dubai to rate the school on key questions such as:

  1. How good are the students’ attainment and progress in key subjects? (Key subjects focus on Maths, Science, Arabic, Islamic Studies and English)
  2. How good is the students’ personal and social development? 
  3. How good is the teaching, learning and assessment methods?

  4. How well does the curriculum meet the educational needs of all students? 
  5. How well does the school protect and support its students?
  6. How good are the leadership and management of the school?

  7. How well does the school perform overall?

Following each inspection, the school gets a full written report with details of the school’s performance and shortfalls. Parents considering specific schools should be able to access the latest school inspection report through the KHDA website.

The school is expected to prepare an action plan addressing any recommendations for further development, which is then used as a benchmark for the next year’s inspections.


Why you should filter reports

The KHDA rates schools based on its own weighting system. In its latest guide it notes its next round of reports will focus on Special Educational Needs provision, and core subjects Maths and English.

The inspection team will of course continue to look at MoE requirements for Islamic and social studies, Arabic as a first and second language – and so on.

As a parent not everything the KHDA uses in its overview rating, you will consider important – for non-Muslims the weighting given to Islamic Studies for example, may not be considered so vital.

If you do only look at the top line rating, you could be excluding schools delivering outstanding education in those areas you consider important…

What do you think? Have your say on Dubai schools – complete the 2015 School survey here.

Further reading: www.khda.gov.ae/en

And: School Availability – Latest Admissions Information. This list is updated regularly.




Leave A Reply
  1. Javier says
    January 31, 2016, 11:03 am

    If you have the choice to choose between two schools which one you will go with: Kings or Nord Anglia.

    Any recommendation? Thanks for your help

    • February 2, 2016, 11:31 am

      HI Javier,

      We would not recommend any particular school to you as this is such a personal decision. It is not just about the academic performance of the school, but so much more also about the atmosphere, ethos, facilities, teaching style, policies related to homework, Extra curricular activities, focus of the school on academic and non-academic activities etc. Our only recommendation would be that you visit both schools and see for yourself, ask as many questions as possible and then take a view on which school is right for you and your child. Often you will know within minutes of visiting a school whether it is right for you. Both the schools you have mentioned appear to have excellent reputations, so it is likely to be your personal impression that will be the deciding factor.

  2. Ine says
    January 29, 2016, 12:44 am

    Since arriving in Dubai with my search on schools for my kids, I have had horrific experiences. Don’t get me wrong, school standards are high and it was an eye opener to see what is being offered.

    I was looking for a good international school, and the only standard I knew was British. However, at a certain school offering that curriculum, my perfectly fine child was told he was special needs because English was his second language.

    DIA however had the open mind to test my child for who he is and his abilities. He is currently a happy normal Year 5, speaking English as first language and excelling every term in his marks (which was good from the start given the circumstances).

    My 4 yr old daughter was accepted in KG2 there without formal schooling before and is currently above the average in her class (Yr 1).

    Again, DIA pulled through and helped my child as an individual. It might get only a GOOD from the KHDA, but so did the school which did not know a normal boy from a special needs one…

    I would rather have my kids at DIA any day. Every school has its hiccups, but I find that some outstanding schools do not teach the empathy in life that opens doors. I am grateful that my kids are being taught the same values at school that I teach at home.

    • February 2, 2016, 11:33 am

      Hi Ine,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It is great to know that your children are now settled and happy at your chosen school.

  3. miriam says
    January 14, 2016, 7:22 pm

    I have 2 daughters that attend American schools, one in in Grade 10 but I am not fully convinced regarding the quality of education she receives. I am looking for a school that has good teaching, and has diverse nationalities within the school. Any recommendations?

  4. AN says
    December 30, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone knew which is a good IB school in Dubai for my child who is going to go to year 11.

    • January 6, 2016, 9:46 pm

      Hi AN,

      The number of IB curriculum schools is still quite limited, but the following offer year 11 (grade 10) – Uptown Mirdif, Dar Al Marefa, Dubai International Academy, Jumeira Baccalaureate School, Greenfield Community School, GEMS World Academy and Emirates International Schools are the best known.

  5. Teena sikka says
    December 25, 2015, 9:01 pm

    Hello. Can anyone tell .How’s the english college dubai school.my more concern is with it’s academics (secondary level).

    • December 30, 2015, 12:36 pm

      Hi Teena,

      The English College is one of the oldest Secondary schools in Dubai and has consistently been rated by “Good” by the KHDA. Secondary standards for Maths and English are rated as Outstanding whilst Science is rated Good; post 16 standards are rated as Good across all 3 subjects. The main area of improvement focuses around Arabic and Islamic Studies. You can read the full report here – http://www.khda.gov.ae/DISB/AttachmentDownload.aspx?DOC_ID=OCfD99zWXvw%3d.

  6. Annonymous says
    December 7, 2015, 7:39 pm

    Ok.. so i am 9 grader student .. i go to a US curriculum…its not that good and i am hearing that my school is not accredited… i want to shift to CIS (cambridge international school) so is it right to shift school in grade 10 to another curriculum and to take in consideration that grade 10 marks are needed for university .. so will shifting curriculum actually affect my studies ? Bcz this is what i heard

    • December 9, 2015, 11:26 am

      Dear Annonymous,

      I am sorry to learn about your concerns. Moving to a different curriculum school in grade 10 is not going to be easy. CIS is a UK curriculum school and grade 10 (year 11) is part way through the two year IGCSE programme. I think it is very unlikely that they would accept you and the same is true all UK and Indian curriculum schools. In all likelihood you would need to repeat a year in order to complete the two year programme.

      Your best option is probably to stay within the US curriculum but to seek a school that is either already accredited or at least part way through the accreditation process (which usually takes 2-3 years). This would mean that they would be accredited by the time you complete grade 12. Good Luck in your search.

  7. Maryam says
    November 28, 2015, 10:41 am

    Hello everyone ..
    My two kids 5,8 studying in grade 1 and 4 are currently studying in viss Sharjah .. But as il be shifting to dubai .. Could anyone suggest schools in dubai .equivalent to viss curriculum (Australian curriculum ) . Thanks

    • December 9, 2015, 11:28 am

      Hi Maryam,

      There is currently no Australian curriculum school in Dubai. Many Australian families choose either the UK curriculum (as it is similar to the Australian) or the IB (which is becoming increasingly popular in Australia). Your children are relatively young, and for this reason, a change of curriculum is not likely to affect their studies.

  8. Lee says
    May 9, 2015, 4:45 pm

    Could you comment on the US curriculum and UK curriculum in primary stage? kindly note we are Asian and no prefer to any one.

    Second question: both of Jebel Ali Primary School(FS2, 2016) and GEMS Wellington(FS1, 2015) offer a place to my daughter? What is the key difference between them and which one we should accept? For my daughter’s education, we try to let her to be a happy girl and has hobbies and interests, not successful person! Which school use less award and punishment methods between GWI and JAPS in primary stage?
    The award and punishment methods are very good to control people, but will destroy focus and interest.

    • May 11, 2015, 5:33 pm

      Hi Lee, the main difference is that the UK curriculum starts when children reach the age of 3 turning 4 (although there are a few UK schools that do not offer this grade). All other international curricula (including the US curriculum) take children into a formal school environment when they are 4 turning 5. Although the FS1 classes tend to be very much nursery classes, children will be in larger groups than they would usually find at nursery, wear a school uniform and be subject to a certain amount of school discipline, which may not suit all 3 year olds.

      In terms of the schools that have offered you places, I would strongly advise you to visit the schools. You don’t mention which GEMS Wellington, but all the GEMS schools are newer, generally larger and “through-schools” (to age 18), unless you are referring to Wellington Primary (behind the Shangri-la Hotel). The GEMS schools are very different in nature to JAPS which is an older, smaller and more traditional school. However, JAPS is due to relocate to a new site on the Emirates Road next September, so you may want to bear this in mind in terms of the logistics. If you feel that your child is ready for school and you are happy with GEMS Wellington when you have visited it, then it would probably make sense to take that place. If you feel that you prefer the JAPS environment and would prefer to wait a further year, then this is the option open to you.

      • Lee says
        May 12, 2015, 12:11 am

        Thanks for your comments. GEMS Wellington International School and Jebel Ali Primary School offer a place separately, WIS is FS1 2015 and JAPS is FS2 2016. Many friends recommend JAPS because it is smaller, closer and has a very good reputation. However JAPS will relocate to Emirates road and will open middle school and or high school. That means JAPS will be bigger to as large as 1600 students. So I do not how they can manage these changes. GEMS WIS is big and popular, which is outstanding for many years. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages. I had visited both of them. In 2012(when my daughter was four months old) I visited JAPS and 2014, 2015 also. I do like it. However GEMS WIS is good also when I visited in 2014 and few days ago. So I need professional comments and suggestions. Which one should I choose? Thanks

        HI Lee, only you can make this decision as you know your daughter and your own personal situation best. Which school atmosphere did you prefer? What were the class sizes and mix of children? What impression did you have of the teachers (age, experience)? Which school do you think would suit your daughter in 2 years time or 5 years based on your impressions? Wellington is rated “Outstanding” by the KHDA, JAPS is rated “Good” – check the KHDA inspection reports on their website – http://www.khda.gov.ae – and see what they perceive the differences to be. Consider the location – is JAPS’ new location going to be an inconvenience for you? Would you prefer to place your daughter in an established school environment or are you happy to be involved in the building up of a new school, which JAPS will be? All schools in Dubai need to succeed academically in order to attract new families to the school, so there will inevitably be an academic focus, but certainly for the Foundation years, the UK curriculum is all about learning through play, so neither school should be placing any academic pressure or strict code of conduct on your daughter. Good luck with your decision.

  9. Karim says
    March 7, 2015, 10:42 am

    The fact that the American School of Dubai isn’t one of the top 10 schools in Dubai shows how ridiculous this list is. The only thing holding them back is that they are not strong in Arabic and Islamic studies. Too bad. They’re one of the top schools not just in Dubai but in the UAE.

    • Professor says
      March 7, 2015, 11:46 am

      A key to both the ADEC and KHDA reports is to read them properly and understand why a school is rated as it is. A school may be high performing in those areas that you personally feel are valuable. The devil is always in the details – but both ADEC and the KHDA allow you very easily to see what they have rated and how they have rated it on purpose to allow you to do this…

      • Jane says
        March 8, 2015, 4:19 pm

        Yes, but…

        “What stops the American School of Dubai attaining an Outstanding ranking is perhaps because it does not require students to take Arabic beyond grade 5, nor does it currently provide Islamic Studies as part of its curriculum thereby not complying fully with MoE curriculum.”

        Considering the target audience of the school, I don’t think these are major issues which concern the parents. Which makes one wonder, should that issue really carry such weight when ranking a non-Arabic language private school that caters to a mostly non-Arab student body? One has to wonder if there would be slight shifts in the rankings if the issues Arabic and Islamic studies did not carry so much weight.

      • Professor says
        March 8, 2015, 4:59 pm

        Well it really depends upon the parent Jane – some parents at ASD will consider it important despite it being an American curriculum.

        We also do need to factor in the school is in the UAE, an Arabic speaking, Islamic country, and therefore it is understandable if the national regulator makes these key considerations in its overall rating. As a parent however, it is up to you what you factor into your personal conclusions on inspection findings

  10. AZ says
    February 4, 2015, 5:43 pm

    I have twin boys (7years) with different academic abilities and interests. They were accepted in both Kings and DAA. Both are outstanding schools, but seeing your comments above, shall i deduct that UK curriculum is better than the American one? Any advice or recommendation is welcomed. Thank you

    • Professor says
      March 8, 2015, 9:04 pm

      The UK curriculum is not better than the US – just different. There are however a lot more UK schools than US schools, and the list above reflects that fact. As the comments above show, there are some very good US curriculum schools passionately supported by parents. I would look at those rated Good, and then read the reports to make your own conclusions.

      For the choice between curricula I would also consider where your child will continue schooling when you leave the UAE. If you are a US citizen, and plan to return to the US one day, then clearly that would suggest a US school…

      Most people considering a US curriculum would normally evaluate it against IB. For that we did have a question in our Q and A site here – http://whichschooladvisor.com/qanda/curriculum-best-ib-us/

  11. onutza kindrish says
    June 26, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Middle East countries have been duped into employing only native speaking UK , USA, CANADA, Australian etc specialists disregarding the tremendously poor quality of the respective countries’ education and universities.In many European countries these ” native speakers”-poor specialists are sent home.

    • Amal says
      July 14, 2014, 3:57 pm

      As a matter of fact, there was not much of transparency in terms of data, school displays, teachers’ performance or parents’ council in some schools . Preparations were made in advance, for the accreditation purpose, and such schools got highly effective although it has never been one of their systems or school procedures to keep records or have parents’ council or even have displays in the school! MOE accreditation should consider all these.
      Thank you for your good realistic point Onutza.

  12. Ibo says
    May 28, 2014, 7:38 am

    If Star international School in Mirdiff offers a superb educational environment with specialist facilities that include an art room, music room, science laboratory, cookery room and specialized teaching rooms for French, Arabic, Islamic Studies and support programmes for Literacy, Numeracy and EAL….as they claim….then it makes you wonder why they keep getting Acceptable Rating for the past few years…Rating for the School for 2014 was again Acceptable.

  13. Nadira Jaffar says
    April 18, 2014, 7:04 pm

    My son is facing mild dyslexia, but he is good in studies and would like to do commerce in Plus one. Kindly assist please.

  14. samih says
    February 7, 2014, 4:00 pm

    How come all of the 10 best schools are UK or similar based curriculum! Does this has anything to do with visiting teams background! Or it is marketing concept back ground? Visiting teams ignore or devaluate certain aspects or give it less weight than other standards so that results will reflect better level of performance in Uk based curriculum schools. Some schools are accreditted by CIS and NEASC yet they hardly recognized good!?

    • Professor says
      February 9, 2014, 3:50 pm

      It is an interesting point Samih as to why UK curriculum schools do well, however note it is the most widely adopted curriculum so therefore just in terms of brute numbers, you would expect to see proportionally more at the top of the list.

      It is also worth noting that while the KHDA is at pains to point out higher fees do not equal better quality (and that’s true – if you do the research you will see there is no direct correlation) there is no doubt schools with more funding, should they spend their money well, can have better/more support structures in place. The majority of schools here are mid to premium range schools in terms of pricing.

      The KHDA is very transparent in terms of what it looks for in its reports. If you’re interested, its handbook may be found here: http://bit.ly/1bBan0X

    • Point of view says
      March 29, 2014, 2:05 pm

      Beware of schools run like a supermarket! Oversized schools are good for economy but not for children. Beware of labels. CIS etc. accreditation has its place but has become a meaningless, money spinner, sounds good, adds prestige, but look into how the status is achieved and what it really means.

      At Primary level, small classes are conductive to good learning, the teacher can know your child as an individual, not as a number or statistic. Problems in the later school years spring from what has been overlooked and not dealt with at the early stages.

      Big is not best, as far as schools are concerned although it is a trend in business.

    • Professor says
      June 3, 2014, 3:10 pm

      Hi Samih, look also at the PISA report – this is an international benchmark that tests maths, science… and critical reasoning skills… This has nothing to do with the KHDA. We can see IB and UK curriculum schools performing relatively better than other curricula in the UAE…

  15. Khan Bibi says
    November 25, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Please add the below criterion too:
    1. What is the staff turn over and the reasons for it
    2. How much is being invested into staff development and benefits to reduce the staff turn over
    3. The quality of IT labs/staff
    4. Library
    5. Sports and extra curricular activities


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