Best Schools in Dubai - And Why

What are the best schools in Dubai? In this guide we tell you not only which schools are the highest performing overall, but how to break that down so that a ranking can be made meaningful for your child.
Best Schools in Dubai - And Why
By David Westley
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The best schools in Dubai? Good news, the list is growing - albeit more modestly than in previous years. In the latest (2017/18) reports from Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) the number of ‘Outstanding’ schools in Dubai has actually fallen by two to 14, but 27 schools are now rated Very Good, up a significant thirteen schools from 2016/17.

Note: Click here for the parent view on the Best Schools in Dubai...

According to the emirate's education regulator 30 percent of Dubai's 281,432 students now attend Very Good or Outstanding schools, while a further 36 percent attend schools deemed to be Good. That means two-thirds of students are now in schools rated Good or better, up from 64% last year.

The volume of good schools in the emirate should be of great comfort to existing residents, as well as those moving in. There is choice, and an increasing amount of it.

Read:  Good Affordable British Schools in Dubai

This year, 166 schools were inspected. Of these, 14 were rated Outstanding, 27 were rated Very Good, 68 have been rated Good, 51 schools are deemed Acceptable, and 6 schools are said to be Weak. Currently no schools are considered Very Weak.

The highest first time rating for any school this year (and last) is Good. The three Good rated schools inspected for the first time were Dubai British School Jumeirah ParkHartland International School, and Ranches Primary School.

That leaves Amled SchoolDovecote Green Primary , St. Mary’s Catholic High School – Muhaisnah and Swiss International Scientific School rated as Acceptable for their first report. 

Performance levels for Dubai schools are defined as follows:

Outstanding schools Quality of performance substantially exceeds the expectation of the UAE
Very Good schools Quality of performance exceeds the expectation of the UAE
Good schools Quality of performance meets the expectation of the UAE (This is the expected level for every school in the UAE)
Acceptable schools Quality of performance meets the minimum level of quality required in the UAE (This is the minimum level for every school in the UAE)
Weak schools Quality of performance is below the expectation of the UAE
Very Weak schools Quality of performance is significantly below the expectation of the UAE

The Best Schools in Dubai 

Schools that score an overall Outstanding rating are undoubtedly some of the most sought-after school places in Dubai. Here are the 14 outstanding performing private schools in Dubai, as of May 2018

School Name Curriculum Overall 2017/2018 Rating Overall     2016/2017 Rating Current School Fees Minmum (AED) Current School Fees Maximum (AED)
Dubai British School UK Outstanding Very Good 46,096 69145
Dubai College UK Outstanding Outstanding 80,810 91,505
Dubai English Speaking private college - branch UK Outstanding Outstanding 77,782 83,601
Gems Dubai American Academy US/IB Outstanding Outstanding 22,826 84,511
Gems Jumeirah Primary School UK Outstanding Outstanding 40,036 50,466
Gems Modern Academy Indian Outstanding Outstanding 34,643 51,364
Gems Royal Dubai School UK Outstanding Outstanding 37,554 47,351
Gems Wellington International School UK/IB Outstanding Outstanding 43,050 93,658
Jumeirah College UK Outstanding Outstanding 71,508 89,385
Jumeirah English Speaking School UK Outstanding Outstanding 39,030 48,234
Kings School Dubai UK Outstanding Outstanding 42,734 65,037
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou Primary Oud Metha French Outstanding Outstanding 29,066 29,066
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou School (Dubai Branch) French Outstanding Outstanding 35,021 48,093
Repton School FZ-LLC UK/IB Outstanding Outstanding 60,072 120,145

The three schools to have fallen from Outstanding are JESS Arabian Ranches, Dubai International Academy and the Indian High School. Note, these remain three of Dubai's very best schools, and their fall has to be understood within the context of changes to the KHDA criteria - which may, or may not, be relevant to you as a parent. More on this below.

There are 27 schools in Dubai rated Very Good - a massive increase of 13 schools from 2016/17.

These schools all show strong inclination to reach an Outstanding rating. More importantly, they may already be an outstanding school for your child. All will have many outstanding features, and will have fallen short of Outstanding status because of one one or two key criteria. This could be Arabic/Social Studies, SEN support, Value Added Performance testing and so on. Your choice of school will be significantly enhanced should you understand these criteria and be able to weigh them in importance to the needs of your child.

School Name Curriculum Overall 2018 Rating Overall 2016/2017 Rating Current School Fees Minmum (AED) Current School Fees Maximum (AED)
Ambassador Kindergarten Indian/UK Very Good Good 18,600 20,700
Deira International School UK/IB Very Good Very Good 39,938 80,465
Delhi Private School Indian Very Good Very Good 10,089 14,124
Dubai English Speaking School UK Very Good Very Good 34,000 42,078
Dubai International Academy IB Very Good Outstanding 40157 71152
Foremarke School UK Very Good Good 58500 83000
Gems Our Own English High School Indian Very Good Very Good 7,090 15,002
Gems Wellington Academy (Branch) UK Very Good Very Good 36,540 82,511
Gems Wellington Primary School UK Very Good Very Good 42,508 53,582
Horizon English School UK Very Good Very Good 28,249 39,564
Jebel Ali School - Previously Jebel Ali Primary School UK Very Good Very Good 44,960 83,000
Jumeirah Baccalaureate School IB Very Good Good 56,131 84197
JESS Arabian Ranches UK/IB Very Good Outstanding 39030 91950
Kings' School Al Barsha UK Very Good Good 50200 94400
Lycee Francaise International French Very Good Good 26376 55781
Lycee Libanais Francophone Prive-Dubai French Very Good Very Good 24,123 51,694
Nord Anglia Dubai UK/IB Very Good Good 62120 94000
Raffles World Academy UK/IB Very Good Good 30384 85075
Safa Community School UK Very Good Good 48692 72000
The Indian High School Indian Very Good Outstanding 5413 10,253
The Millennium School Indian Very Good Very Good 16,555 24,345
The School of Research Science UK Very Good Very Good 34,359 73,769
The Winchester School UK Very Good Very Good 13,542 30,210
Universal American School US Very Good Good 37330 76760
Uptown School IB Very Good Very Good 57,001 87,374
Victory Heights UK Very Good Good 35834 48865

Lycee Francais International Private SchoolGEMS World AcademyUniversal American SchoolRaffles World AcademyJumeirah Baccalaureate SchoolAmbassador KindergartenVictory Heights Primary SchoolForemarke SchoolKings' School Al BarshaNord Anglia International School, and Safa Community School all rose to Very Good from Good in 2018.

In the case of  Nord Anglia International, Safa, and Kings' Al Barsha the rise to Very Good has been very swiftAll three were rated for the very first time in 2016/17.

Schools rated Good by the KHDA

If you are currently researching a school for your child, note that Dubai's Outstanding and Very Good schools have traditionally been run at or near capacity (although with increasing competition this is less the case than at any time in the past).

Very Good and Good Dubai schools will also be targeted by parents and you should broaden your search to schools on this list. This is NOT about second or third best. Again, quite often the KHDA will mark down schools for criteria that may not be relevant to you. It is important to read beyond the overall KHDA ranking.

There are 68 schools considered Good by the KHDA, however they are not all the same.

Some schools have been rated Good for years, and a lower fee structure can impede the improvement of their facilities or campus. However, if you're looking for a school strong academically but without the sparkling facilities, these schools can often be a good option. (See here for more information.)

Some schools have been steadily improving their inspection indicators over time and have recently turned their long standing Acceptable rating into a Good one.

Springdales SchoolMirdif Private SchoolStar International School, Al Basateen Private Nursery, Al Khaleej National SchoolThe City School InternationalThe Indian Academy and Credence High School all moved to Good from Acceptable in 2018.

It is Not All About The KHDA: Other Inspections & Affiliations

Although KHDA inspection is mandatory for private schools in Dubai, schools can also choose 'voluntary' accreditation and inspections linked to their curricula home country. These inspections often emphasise different indicators and analyse different aspects of the school, including cultural orientation, which parents can use in addition to the KHDA inspection reports. 

British schools can choose accreditation and inspection from the British Schools Overseas, which sends OFSTED like inspectors from the UK to check the school every three years. To find out more about the BSO process see here and for UAE schools most recent BSO inspection summaries see here.

All French schools must apply to become affiliated with the French Ministry of Education. The process involves a thorough audit on application, and once licensed they are inspected annually by the French government. This process is NOT optional, however given all the French schools' KHDA ratings, this would certainly appear to be no bad thing.  

Recently US curriculum schools were requested by the KHDA to be affiliated with an approved US affiliation body. The preferred choice is the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, (NEASC), however some schools already have long standing accreditations with other bodies.

Comparing Dubai schools internationally

The best Dubai schools are very good, with the likes of Dubai College, DESC, Jumeirah College, JESS Arabian Ranches and so on 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. This is changing however with particularly Dubai schools beginning to make some serious head way. There is however a gulf between the best performing and worst performing schools, and this level of detail - i.e. which are the schools delivering - is not released to the public.

We do know however that IB and UK curriculum schools scoring significantly higher than their peers and are 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.

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.

Exam Results

The other way to benchmark the UAE's schools - domestically and internationally - is of course to look at results in external examinations. This works well for UK schools, and the IB - although the IB organisation frowns on using the Diploma for international comparison. For Indian schools CBSE results have never reached the level of importance that peer qualifications elsewhere have. This we believe is because Indian universities do not use the CBSE to assess the competence of a student for entrance. The same applies for US universities which offer places before exams are taken.

For GCSE, A Level, and IB parents also need to draw a distinction between selective and inclusive schools. In Dubai, Dubai College is the only true selective school academically, and its results reflect this. If you recruit academically oriented students, you will get strong academic results.

Many inclusive schools say that Value added is the most important metric. This is the difference between the projected score of a student upon entrance, and what he or she gets because (at least partially) of the work put in by the school.

Unfortunately, this kind of data is complex and difficult to compare across schools.

That leaves exam results as, arguably, the worst way to compare schools, except for all the others...

So, if you agree,:
Jump here for the UAE's A' Level results
Jump here for the UAE's GCSE results
Jump here for the UAE's IB Diploma results

Parent Opinion

To find out what parents think, click on the Parent Opinion tab, or the Overall Parent Rating - both highlighted above.

What do parents of children actually going to schools in Dubai think..? We have the answer for that too. 

If you click on any school review you will find a tab for Parent Opinion. Click on it to see how a school does for a range of metrics - discipline, academics, how much children look forward to going to school, the quality of feedback - and so on.

To give context, each metric is compared against a UAE average....

And there is more...

We have compiled a proper ranking of the scores for you, so you can see easily how Dubai parents rate their own schools. Some of the rankings are:

Getting into one of the best schools in Dubai

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

In this article we have leaned heavily on the DSIB reports, so it is important to understand how they are done.

Internationally qualified school inspectors pay on site visits to every private school in Dubai (after a settling in period for new schools) to rate it 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 2014/15 guide  for example it noted its next round of reports will focus on Special Educational Needs provision, and core subjects Maths and English. With tough PISA and TIMMS targets, the KHDA's reports in 2016/17 placed more emphasis than ever before on academic results in external examinations. For the 2017/18 reports Value Added benchmark testing has come to the fore. More information here on the current KHDA focus.

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...

Further reading: 

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