16 Most Asked Abu Dhabi School Questions

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team is frequently asked about education in Abu Dhabi. To get you to your answers more quickly, we have identified those most commonly asked, and detailed the answers right here, in one easy guide! If you would like any added, just let us know...
16 Most Asked Abu Dhabi School Questions
By David Westley
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LET'S GO

The following are the questions the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team is frequently asked about schools in Abu Dhabi.

Jump:

  1. Are schools good in Abu Dhabi?
  2. When does the academic year start in Abu Dhabi?
  3. What is the best school in Abu Dhabi?
  4. Which curriculum is the best in Abu Dhabi?
  5. What is the most expensive school in Abu Dhabi?
  6. What are the cheapest schools in Abu Dhabi?
  7. How many schools are in Abu Dhabi?
  8. What is ADEK?
  9. When can my children start school in Abu Dhabi?
  10. Are there any free schools in Abu Dhabi?
  11. If there are no free schools in Abu Dhabi, what happens if I lose my job and cannot pay fees? Can a school expel or suspend a student for non-payment during the school year?
  12. How easy is it to switch schools in Abu Dhabi if I am not happy?
  13. How much are schools in Abu Dhabi?
  14. How much do fees increase each year?
  15. Does Abu Dhabi have public schools?
  16. I am not happy. Where / how can I complain about a school in Abu Dhabi?

Question: Are schools good in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: Abu Dhabi has some very good schools, although there is a disparity in quality and not every institution can boast to be of the highest standard. ADEK inspects schools in the emirate between every 18 and 24 months (although 2020 has proved an inspection write-off given Covid-19), and rates schools as Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Weak and Very Weak. There are currently 9 schools in Abu Dhabi Emirate that are considered Outstanding by the regulator (compared to neighbour Dubai's 17), and a further 21 schools are rated Very Good.

Conversely, there are still four schools in the emirate rated Weak, and 86 considered just "Acceptable".

The full list of school ratings can be found below.

School Name Current ADEK rating Previous Rating School Fees Minimum (AED) School Fees Maximum (AED)
Al Muna Primary School* Outstanding Outstanding 41580 41580
Al Yasmina Academy* Outstanding Very Good 42,900 61,150
Bloom Academy (Brighton College) Al Ain Outstanding Outstanding 49900 79000
Brighton College, Abu Dhabi* Outstanding Very Good 48,900 77,720
Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi * Outstanding Very Good 65000 96333
Merryland International School Outstanding Very Good 23500 41400
Pearl Academy * Outstanding Very Good 41,700 43,150
Raha International Private School Outstanding Outstanding 36100 56900
The British School of Khubairat * Outstanding Very Good 43,160 70,630
Abu Dhabi International Private School Very Good Good 13,660 29,280
Abu Dhabi International Private School, Branch Very Good Good 30,800 46,400
Al Bateen Academy* Very Good Outstanding 56100 65900
American Community School of Abu Dhabi Very Good Very Good 47,220 85,490
Emirates National Private School, Al Ain Very Good Good 21,345 55,637
Emirates National Private School MBZ Very Good Good 23330 59920
GEMS World Academy Very Good Very Good 39950 58400
German International School Very Good Very Good 31,800 47,900
Horizon Private School Branch Very Good Good 23,490 44,080
Japanese School Of Abu Dhabi Very Good Very Good 15200 33000
Lycee Louis Massignon School  Very Good Very Good 27,000 46,820
Repton Foundation School Very Good Very Good 55000 61000
Sheikh Zayed Academy for Girls Very Good Very Good 29000 66900
Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys Very Good Good 47900 58200
The American International School Abu Dhabi Very Good Very Good 30500 55500
The British International School of Abu Dhabi Very Good Very Good 50300 66400
Al Ain American Private School Very Good  Good 16800 29400
Al Ain Academy Very Good  Very Good 39600 57330
Al Basma British School  Very Good  Good 22,040 40560
GEMS American Academy Very Good  Very Good 50300 70100
Private International English School (Bhavans)  Very Good  Good 10,200 19,300
Repton School Abu Dhabi Very Good  n/a 65,000 74,000
Abu Dhabi Grammar School Canada Good Acceptable 21000 45100
Abu Dhabi Indian School Branch 1 Good Acceptable 9,360 20,000
Adnoc School, Sas Al Nakl Good Good 27,210 51,590
Ajyal International School  Good Acceptable 27,270 48,870
Ajyal International School - Al Falah Good Good 20,580 41,160
Al Adhwa Private School Good Acceptable 7200 26708
Al Andalus Private Academy Good Good 5600 13700
Al Adhwa Private School Good Acceptable 7,720 21,400
Al Bashair Private School Good Good 12900 27200
Al Bateen Scientific School Good Good 15,430 25,310
Al Bahiya Private School Good Acceptable 16100 17300
Al Dhabiania Private School Good Good 9,050 16,460
Al Dhafra Private School AD Good Good 25,520 43,930
Al Dhafra Private School Al Ain Good Good 12,240 22,940
Al Ittihad National Private School AD Good Good 19200 39300
Al Ittihad National Private School Al Ain Good Acceptable 16,600 30,800
Al Khalil International School  Good Acceptable 5,600 14,200
Al Mamoura Academy Good Good 44,800 72,430
Al Manara Private School Good Acceptable 13000 17300
Al Mashail (National Torches) Private School Good Acceptable 8,500 20,000
Al Nahda National School for boys Good Good 17500 26000
Al Najah Private School Good Acceptable 13500 35000
Al Nash'e Assaleh Private School Good Good 7000 23000
Al Sanawbar Private School Good Good 12500 26600
Al Yasat Private School Good Good 32,410 49,700
Amity International School Good Good 42000 52000
Asian International Private School Br. 1 Good Weak 3,370 11,860
Aspen Heights British School Good n/a 35,000 60,000
Belvedere British School Good Acceptable 23,600 31,590
Bright Riders School  Good Good 9,470 19,650
Canadian International School Good Good 35075 46494
Creative British School Good Acceptable 7000 18000
Diyafah International School  Good Good 25,900 42,600
Dunes International (formerly Ryan Private) School Good Good 12,000 23500
Future International Academy Good Good 12,350 30,350
Garden City British School Al Ain Good n/a 23,100 27,500
GEMS Cambridge International School Good Good 20500 34900
GEMS United Indian School Good Good 9570 11,420
GEMS Winchester School, Abu Dhabi Good Good 15,200 29,010
Global Indian International School Good Acceptable 10,600 12,550
Horizon Private School  Good Acceptable 6,070 19,340
International Community School Branch 1 Good Good 12,200 26,600
International Indian School Baniyas Good Good 11,600 21,100
International Jubilee Private School Good Acceptable 12200 26600
Liwa International Private School Good Good 16200 29300
Liwa International School for Girls Good Good 32,500 41,850
Mayoor Private School  Good Good 17,500 25,000
Mohammed Bin Khalid Al Nahyan Generations School Good Acceptable 12,100 17,200
Our Own English High School Al Ain Good Good 5,800 11,480
Rawafed Private School Good Good 18000 41800
Rosary Private School  Good Good 7,610 16,670
SABIS Yas Island Good n/a 39,500 62,200
Saint Joseph's School Good Good 5800 10000
Summit International School  Good Acceptable 19,240 26,030
Sunrise English Private School Good Good 6800 10700
The Cambridge High School Good Good 14500 30700
The Gulf International Private Academy Al Ain Good Good 11,800 25,500
The International School of Choueifat Khalifa A Good Good 20000 35300
United School of Al Yahar Good Acceptable 14,920 29,220
United School of Bani Yas  Good Acceptable 21,000 35,000
West Yas Academy Good Good 52,470 63,280
Emirates Private School AD Good  Good 9100 21600
Abu Dhabi Indian Private School Good* Acceptable 7150 14414
Al Ain English Speaking School Good* Acceptable 21,200 43,280
Beit Al Maqdes International Private School Good* Acceptable 5100 9100
Emirates National School Manaseer Good* Acceptable 23330 32260
Indian Private School Al Ain Good* Good 4200 9200
International Community School Good* Acceptable 21750 50831
Ruwais International School Good* Acceptable 17,900 25,000
The International School of Choueifat Abu Dhabi Good* Good 19600 34600
Emirates Falcon International Private School Good*  Acceptable 20000 27500
ABC Private School Acceptable Acceptable 17,900 26,190
Abdulla Bin Zubair Private School Acceptable Weak 28,000 42,250
Abu Dhabi Island International School Acceptable Acceptable 15500 21480
ADNOC Private School - Ruwais Acceptable Good 23,300 44,100
Adnoc School, Ghayathi Acceptable Acceptable 20,410 38,670
Adnoc School, Madinat Zayed Acceptable Weak 23,500 44,500
Ain AlKhaleej Private School Acceptable Weak 5,520 13,710
Al Ain Juniors Private School Acceptable Acceptable 7600 16100
Al Awa'il Private School Acceptable Weak 5500 11000
Al Dar Private School Acceptable Acceptable  7370 14805
Al Eman Private School Acceptable Weak 6,000 12,000
Al Hamdanya Grand Private School Acceptable Acceptable 6891 11,275
Al Israa Private School Acceptable Weak 3,170 9,110
Al Ikhlass Private School Acceptable Acceptable 5920 17705
Al Maharat Private School Acceptable Acceptable 14000 25000
Al Manahil Private School Acceptable Weak 5,760 12,470
Al Manhal International School Acceptable Acceptable 9900 18600
Al Marfa'a International School  Acceptable n/a 4,090 6,850
Al Muneera Private School Acceptable Acceptable 11500 14100
Al Murooj Scientific School Acceptable Acceptable 18855 33255
Al Nahda National School for girls Acceptable Acceptable 14,120 27,930
Al Rabeeh Private School Acceptable Acceptable 27,680 34,160
Al Saad Indian Private School  Acceptable Acceptable 8,700 14,320
Al Seddeq Private School Acceptable Acceptable 3,170 9,620
Al Shohub Private School Acceptable Good 25,500 49,980
Al Sorouh American School Acceptable Weak 20300 24640
Al Tharwat National Private School Acceptable Very Weak 10,100 12,200
Aliaa Internatonal School  Acceptable Weak 10,000 23,000
Ashbal Al Quds Private School Acceptable Acceptable 8100 16100
Asian International Private School Acceptable Weak 4,000 5,650
Bani Yas International Private School Acceptable Acceptable 13,890 29,120
Baraem Al Ain Private School Baniyas Acceptable n/a 3,890 12,790
Bright Riders School Branch 1 Acceptable Weak 4,700 6,000
(Choueifat) International Private School Rowais Acceptable Good 17900 25000
Crescent International Private School Acceptable Weak 11,970 16,470
Dar Al Uloom Private School Acceptable Weak 4,090 8,080
Elite Private School (formerly Al Nukhba) Acceptable Acceptable 24,040 31,720
Emirates Education Academy Acceptable Acceptable 5,000 7,400
Emirates Private School Al Ain Acceptable Acceptable 8000 13000
Emirates Private School Bani Yas Acceptable Weak 3,580 6,450
First Lebanon Private School Acceptable Acceptable 2700 10800
Future (Al Mustaqbal) International School Acceptable Acceptable 11,730 25,070
Global English Private School Acceptable Weak 16,380 26,570
Good Will Children Private School Acceptable Good 23,900 30,800
Ibn Khaldoun Islamic School Acceptable Weak 3200 9400
International Academic School Acceptable Acceptable 29000 39000
International Private School Acceptable Acceptable 4,300 11,770
Islamia English High School Acceptable Acceptable 6900 14100
Lebanon First School and KG Acceptable Acceptable 3,790 14,730
Lycee Theodore Monod Acceptable Acceptable 19100 22700
Madar International School Acceptable Acceptable 17700 28700
Manor Hall International Private School Acceptable Acceptable 25000 35000
Maplewood International School  Acceptable Acceptable 38,000 46,000
Modern Private School Acceptable Acceptable 14,000 25,000
New Indian Model School Acceptable Acceptable 4300 7000
Oasis International School  Acceptable Acceptable 3,180 5,000
Pakistan Community Welfare School  Acceptable Weak 2,700 2700
Polaris Private Academy Acceptable Acceptable 9,150 14,500
Reach British School  Acceptable Acceptable 23,330 47,880
Rowad Al Dhafra (Al Tumooh) Private School Acceptable n/a 4,600 13,225
Ryan International School Acceptable Acceptable 13,710 23,330
Scientific Distinction Private School Acceptable Weak 7500 10700
Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia Private School Acceptable Acceptable 3,700 5,100
Sharjah (formerly Scholars) American International AD Acceptable Acceptable 29,500 43,200
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School Acceptable Acceptable 3,680 6,240
Shining Star Private School Acceptable Acceptable 12686 20731
Tawaam Model Private School Acceptable Weak 6000 14200
The Australian School of Abu Dhabi Acceptable Acceptable 14,975 35,534
The International School of Choueifat Al Ain Acceptable Acceptable 19400 34300
The Model Private School Acceptable Acceptable 4500 6200
The Philippine Private School Acceptable Acceptable 6400 6600
The Philippines Global School Acceptable Acceptable 5,220 8,290
Universal Private School Acceptable Weak 4,910 15,450
Virginia International School Acceptable Acceptable 24000 35000
Vision Private School  Acceptable Acceptable 7,160 14,320
Wales International School (formerly Al Ansar) Acceptable Weak 23500 30500
Yas Academy Private School Acceptable Acceptable 4000 8600
Zakher Private School Acceptable Acceptable 4900 11200
Al Manara Private School branch 1 Acceptable  n/a 12,700 16,900
Baraem Al Ain Private School Al Muwaiji Acceptable  Weak 3,790 10,030
Emirates Future International Academy Acceptable  Weak 7800 14600
Emirates National Private School, AlNayhan Acceptable  Weak 34150 55920
Al Ettehad Private School Acceptable* Very Weak 2,100 3,000
Al Rabeeh (Royal American) Academy MBZ Acceptable* Weak 10,230 17,800
Dar Al Huda International Private School Acceptable* Weak 5,120 10,540
Pakistani Islamic Private School Acceptable* Very Weak 2,970 5,630
Palestine Private Academy Acceptable* Very Weak 2,460 7,060
Al Maali International Private School Weak Very Weak 8,400 15,000
Philippine - Emirates Private School  Weak Acceptable 6,000 13,200
The Iranian School AD Weak Weak 3600 4560
The Iranian School Al Ain Weak Weak 3,000 3,800
Manar Al Ilm Private School  n/a Weak 6,900 28,000

Government ratings are just one strand of what can be considered good, of course. Abu Dhabi schools are not, as a whole, very forthcoming regarding third-party data such as results in external examinations, but the best schools are increasingly stepping up. Results data is not the be all and end all but does provides strong clues as to the quality of education at any school - although please do note that a selective school will of course perform better than one that is not.

For UK schools, impressive results are regularly recorded at Brighton College Al Ain and Brighton College Abu Dhabi, at the British School Al Kubairat (possibly the city's most successful A Level school academically), at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and at Cambridge International Abu Dhabi. Al Yasmina Academy has just started to release limited data to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. Click here for UAE wide A Level exam results tables.

For the IB Diploma, the British International School of Abu Dhabi this year published its results, along with Al Bateen Academy, GEMS American Academy, and Raha International. That's four of the nine schools offering the IB Diploma in the emirate... Click to check out the full UAE IB DP results in 2020.

The final check to do is to see how parents themselves rate their schools in Abu Dhabi. Forums are great for this, but if you want the wisdom of the crowds expressed as a single number, check out the WSA Best Schools List for Abu Dhabi, ranked by Parents' ratings...

Question: When does the academic year start in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: Schools begin in September (or last week in August) and end in June or July for all curricula except Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curricula schools. For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curricula schools, the academic year is from April to March.

Question: What is the best school in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: That very much depends upon your child. The "Which is the best school?" question is the one we are most commonly asked, and actually why we're called WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. However the answer is either there isn't one, or more accurately, there are many, because there will be a best school for a specific set of characteristics and requirements. 

For example:

  • Does you child like sport?
  • Is your child academic?
  • Is your child an extrovert or an introvert?
  • Does he/she make friends easily?
  • Is he/she more likely to find friends in a smaller, or larger school?
  • Will your child need additional attention in the classroom?
  • Is your child gifted in the classroom, or at a sport?
  • Which curriculum are you interested in?
  • Where do you plan to go after Abu Dhabi?
  • What's your budget?

The answers to these questions, and others like them, will help you identify the characteristics of the school that is best - for your child.

Please note, that does not mean that some schools are not performing better than others. In Abu Dhabi the Abu Dhabi Department for Education and Knowledge (ADEK) provides a rating for all schools that will help you understand which schools the regulator thinks are currently Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Weak or Very Weak. Reports need to be read in the context of what the regulator is looking for. It may not be what you are looking for.

Parents also have a view of the best schools in Abu Dhabi which can diverge from what regulators, and indeed educators think of as "best". You can read the forums to get a view of this, or, in a much simpler format, take a look at our parent rated Best Schools in Abu Dhabi list. We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have tried to capture the wisdom of the crowds in our quantitative ranking - the Best Schools by parents. The data comes from our parent surveys. If you're a parent, teacher or student in a UAE school, take the survey!

In terms of desk based research, the other resources to look at include our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com, and if you are looking at UK schools, the British Schools Overseas (BSO) reports. The latter are very much optional so only a handful of schools have been inspected this way, but the inspections follow those of OFSTED in England and a school that does undertake this process is clearly committed to providing education at least on a par with, or better than, English public schools.

Nothing however beats visiting schools, so our final recommendation - once you have made your shortlist using the likes of WSA - is to visit the schools themselves. Here is what to look for on a school tour...

Question: Which curriculum is the best in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: There are 13 different types of National curricula in Abu Dhabi, and 14 in total if you consider SABIS one (we don't, it's actually more of an approach - the curricula it uses are largely UK based). Most families choose a curriculum that either a) aligns with their national curriculum or b) is a truly international curriculum that 'travels'. 

Option (a) is especially important for international families that plan to 'return home'; while option (b) is important for those parents that do not see themselves returning home, but perhaps moving between countries. Option (b) is also important for parents targeting a tertiary education for their child(ren) outside their country of origin.

The most international curricula are the UK (I/GCSE and A' Level) and the IB. We define international simply as the curricula most frequently used by international private schools around the world, and the qualifications accepted most readily/easily by universities globally. 

Despite the fact there are a large number of 'US curriculum' schools in Abu Dhabi, there is no real USA-wide curriculum, since education is organised on a State-by-State basis.  All US curriculum schools in Abu Dhabi are required to be accredited by a US-based School or College Association, but some of these are more highly regarded by universities than others.  There is no requirement for students in US curriculum schools to take pre-university public examinations comparable with A Level and IB.

Question: What is the most expensive school in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: Cranleigh Abu Dhabi tops the list with average annual fees across all age groups of 80,500 AED. It is a full 10,000 AED more expensive than GEMS American Academy (70,500 AED), closely followed by the American Community School of Abu Dhabi (67,000 AED), Brighton College in Al Ain (65,000 AED), the same price point as Repton (also 65,000 AED).

In general fees in Abu Dhabi are lower than in neighbouring Dubai, and that is because traditionally the emirate's regulator has been stricter when it comes to the fees schools are allowed to charge when opening, but also because Dubai just has a greater variety of all types of schools at all price points. A table of the most expensive fees in Abu Dhabi may be found below.

You should note that these are the official fees, approved by the education regulator. In reality, there are often discounts - some of which are published, and some of which you have to ask for. The size of a discount (and whether there is one at all) depends on how much pressure the school has on school places. Abu Dhabi in general has seen less of an influx of new schools, and so has not seen the kind of discounting that has happened in Dubai.

Table of the most expensive schools in Abu Dhabi

School  Average Fee (Annual)  Location  Curriculum
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi   80,500 Saadiyat Island  UK
GEMS American Academy 70,500 Khalidiya  US/IB
American Community School Abu Dhabi  60,700 Khalidiya US
Brighton College Al Ain 65,500 Gafat Al Nayyar UK
Repton  65,000 Al Reem Island  UK/IB
Al Bateen Academy  62,500 Al Manaseer  UK/IB
Brighton College Abu Dhabi  62,000 Bloom Gardens  UK
Repton Foundation 61,500 Al Reem Island  UK
Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys 61,000 Al Khalidia US
British School Al Khubairat 59,500 Al Khubairat  UK
British International School Abu Dhabi 59,000 Shakhbout City  UK
Al Mamoura Academy 58,000 Al Nahyan UK
Al Ain Academy 57,500 Al Sarooj UK
West Yas Academy 57,000 Yas West  US
GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi 56,000 Al Danah  IB
Raha International School 55,500 Khalifa City A IB

Click here for the full directory of Abu Dhabi schools, listed by price.

Question: What are the cheapest schools in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: The most affordable, cheapest or lowest cost schools can be found in the table below. Note these are mainly Indian curriculum (CBSE) schools.

Table of the least expensive schools in Abu Dhabi

School Fee  Fee Curriculum  ADEK Rating  Location
Asian International School Madinat Zayed 4000 CBSE Acceptable Madinat Zayed
Grace Valley Indian School 4,500 CBSE Acceptable Manasir 
The Model (New Indian) Private School Abu Dhabi 5,000 CBSE Acceptable  Mussafah
New Indian Model School Al Ain 6000 CBSE  Acceptable Falaj Hazzaa 
Indian School Al Ain 6500 CBSE Good Falaj Hazzaa 
The Philippine Private School Abu Dhabi 6500 Philippines  Acceptable  
Asian International School Ruwais 7,000 CBSE Good Ruwais 
St. Joseph's School Abu Dhabi 7,000 CBSE  Good Al Mushrif 
Sunrise English Private School 8000 CBSE  Good Mussafah 
GEMS Our Own English High School 8500 UK  Good Al Manaseer
Islamia English School 9,000 UK Acceptable Al Dhafrah 
Darul Huda Islamic Schoo 9,000 CBSE  Weak Falaj Hazzaa 
Abu Dhabi Indian School 9,000 CBSE  Good Shabia Muroor 

Click here for our Abu Dhabi schools directory, ordered by fee, lowest at the top.

The lowest cost UK school (GCSE based) in Al Ain is GEMS Our Own English High School. In Abu Dhabi it is Islamia English School, currently rated Acceptable. The lowest priced UK school, with a Good rating, in Abu Dhabi is Creative British School with fees of 14,000 AED per annum.

The lowest priced IB continuum school (IB PYP, MYP and DP) in Abu Dhabi is the Australian School of Abu Dhabi with average annual fees of 26,000 AED. These are very low fees for an IB school which in general has smaller class sizes than those found in other curricula schools.

Last, but not least, the most inexpensive US based school (offering the High School Diploma) would be the Summit International School in Madinat Zayed, with fees of AED 19,000 per annum.

How many schools are in Abu Dhabi?

ADEK lists 234 private schools across the emirate (to Dubai's 207). This includes schools in Al Ain, and Al Dhafra. In the Abu Dhabi 'region' itself there are 149 private schools. This includes 9 IB schools, 41 American curriculum schools, 40 British curriculum schools and 15 Indian schools.

What is ADEK?

ADEK stands for the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK‎), previously Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC‎). It is the educational authority for the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The equivalent in Dubai is the KHDA and in Sharjah, SPEA. These agencies have a dotted line to the UAE's Ministry of Education which retains some authority for private education in each of the emirate's, especially when it comes to federal matters and the curriculum for the teaching of Arabic and Islamic Studies. The MoE retains direct control over public institutions, and nurseries. The remaining emirates are more reliant on the Ministry of Education for the regulation of both public and private schools.

Question: When can my children start school in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: Children need to be 3 years by 31st December to start school in the September. However, many UK curriculum schools with strong links to the UK still follow the UK cut-off date which is 31st August for children starting school in FS1.

As a rule, it is better for children to be among the oldest in the class rather than the youngest, as the level of maturity (and therefore the ability to settle in school) varies enormously at this age.

You should be guided by the Admissions team at the school in choosing what is the best for your child when that time comes.

For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese schools, children need to be four years of age by 31st July to commence school in KG1 at the start of the academic year in April.

Are there any free schools in Abu Dhabi?

Short answer, no if you are an expatriate (with limited exceptions for other Arabs), but yes if you are an Emirati. Schools are also free - for you - if your company pays of course. ADNOC schools, for example, are free or heavily subsidised for example, for most ADNOC employees.

That said, even for international families paying their own way there are very low cost schools in the emirate. At the time of writing the threshold for a school place was 4,000 AED for the year, for a place at Asian International School in Madinat Zayed

Question: If there are no free schools in Abu Dhabi, what happens if I lose my job and cannot pay fees? Can a school expel or suspend a student for non-payment during the school year?

Answer: In Abu Dhabi, according to the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, "the student shall not be dismissed from school because of delay in payment of school and tuition fees and instalments, but the school may temporarily suspend the student from attending the school after warning his\her guardians three times. The school may also withhold the student’s result and refrain from delivering transfer certificates until a settlement of instalments is reached. No student may be deprived from attending the final exam of the year because of non-payment of tuition fees." (Organising Regulations of Private Schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, The Chairman of the Executive Council, Resolution No. (26) of 2013).

It is always a good idea to be honest with your school and keep them informed of your situation. Far better to be working with your school towards some form of resolution than be in conflict with the institution that educates your child.

Question: How easy is it to switch schools in Abu Dhabi if I am not happy?

Answer: There is paperwork to do but it's doable, but with some strict limitations on the timing of such moves.  Unless they have relocated from another area of Abu Dhabi Emirate, children may only transfer schools within the first month of the academic year, and within the same curriculum. In order to switch curriculum, they will need to wait until the end of the academic year.

Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Department (ADEK) aims for continuity of education for all children and therefore tries to ensure children are registered in the correct age group and academic level upon transfer. This is more complex for children switching curricula, particularly if the grading structure in the current school is different to the new one. Students are not permitted to change curriculum after Grade 8/Year 9 in order to ensure that they complete their final four High school years in the same curriculum.

There are also different requirements if you are switching from another emirate, or from overseas. There are additional considerations if you are switching mid year. Those families moving from the Southern Hemisphere should note that if their children are joining in September, they will be required to repeat the same academic year. Click here for the complete rules for switching schools in Abu Dhabi.

Question: How much are schools in Abu Dhabi?

Answer: School fees vary significantly in Abu Dhabi to cater to its very different affluence levels. While everyone always wants fees to be cheaper, the truth is that all price points are pretty much covered with fees currently ranging from 4,000 AED to 80,000 AED. Put another way, the fees of most expensive school are currently 20 times more than its most inexpensive. There are lots of schools in-between.

Note the cheapest school is not necessarily the best value, and the most expensive school is not necessarily the most overpriced. Any parent doing their due diligence needs to ask: Will I be getting what I'm paying for?

Question: How much do fees increase each year?

Answer: It depends on the specific year. Each year schools apply to ADEK to be able to increase their fees. Permission to do so, and how much they can do so, depends on the performance of a school, as outlined in its Irtiqa'a report, and a school's spending on teaching, technical and administrative staff including salaries, professional development, infrastructure improvements, the number of students, the focus on inclusion, the number of national teaching and administrative staff and their retention rate. Fee increases also need to be linked to an improvement plan.

Question: Does Abu Dhabi have public schools?

Answer: Abu Dhabi has government owned and run schools (operated by the Ministry of Education) and it has private independent schools. It also has schools which are government owned, but run by private school groups.

Question: I am not happy. Where/how can I complain about a school in Abu Dhabi?

If you have already raised your specific issue with your school with no satisfactory resolution, you can register a case through the ADEK monitored complaint management system. This system allows you to raise the complaint directly with the school again, while giving full visibility to ADEK. All cases raised through the ADEK monitored complaint management system will be reviewed and monitored by ADEK for compliance to regulations.

If your case is related to child abuse, please contact the Abu Dhabi Social Police: 024490008, 037151103 (Al Ain), or 028081852 (Al Dhafra region)

You may also contact the Ministry of Education, which has a toll free hotline: 800 51115.

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