Transferring to or between schools in Dubai

Transferring to a school in Dubai from within the emirate, from another emirate or from overseas will require some organisation with Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA, aiming to ensure children are registered in the correct age group, and academic level upon transfer.
Transferring to or between schools in Dubai
By Lyn Soppelsa
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Transferring to a school in Dubai from within the emirate of Dubai, from another UAE emirate or from overseas inevitably requires a little more in the way of paperwork. The Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority seeks continuity of education for all children and therefore aims to ensure that children are registered in the correct age group and academic level upon transfer.

This is all the more complex for children who are switching curriculum, particularly if the grading structure in the current school is different to the new one...

Here we aim to guide you through the intricacies of switching schools via the most frequently asked questions we are asked...

 

What is the process to transfer from one school to another within Dubai?

KHDA applies strict rules for transfer between schools and curricula in the Emirate of Dubai.

Parents are responsible for ensuring that a place is available at their school of choice if they do wish to transfer their children. They should also be aware that their current school is entitled to request a term’s notice and payment of fees for this period.

The KHDA generally has a more flexible approach to transfer between schools of the same curriculum and bases the time scales for this upon the school year group/grade involved.

 

                                            Grade / Year System Age Group Cut-off Date Conditions
Within Dubai 13 FS1 to Year 6 All academic year Approval of the new school
Year 7 to Year 10 1st week of the second term Approval of the new school
Year 11 to Year 13 60 days from the beginning of the academic year Approval of the new school and compliance with Exam Board regulations
12 Pre-KG to Grade 5 All academic year Approval of the new school
Grade 6 to Grade 9 1st week of the second term Approval of the new school
Grade 10 to Grade 12 60 days from the beginning of the academic year Approval of the new school and compliance with Exam Board regulations


Schools may, however, apply their own rules in relation to students who wish to transfer from other curricula due to Exam Board requirements and subject compatibility.
Most will allow curriculum and school transfer at the start of the academic year up to year 10 in the UK curriculum and generally up to the equivalent (grade 9) in other international and Asian curricula.

Since the UK curriculum 'GCSE' and 'iGCSE' are two year programmes, commencing in year 10, students wishing to study for these exams must usually transfer prior to, or at the start of year 10. GCSE/iGCSE exams are often (though not always) a pre-requisite for children wishing to join Year 12 in a UK curriculum school (policies vary between individual schools in this respect). 

Students seeking to attend a US curriculum school may not transfer after the start of Grade 9 to ensure that they complete all 4 required grades in order to receive a High School Diploma.

For children studying in the Indian curriculum transferring between Indian curriculum schools in Dubai, students in Grade XI and XII need to be joining from CBSE curriculum schools and they should be registered with CBSE. A transfer deadline of 31st December is usually applied.

Exceptionally, students from other curricula wishing to join the CBSE curriculum may join Grade XI, but this must be approved by the CBSE Board. A transfer deadline of 31st May is usually applied.

A small number of schools offer a “Bridging programme” between the Indian curriculum and IB Diploma programme. Students are able to transfer at the end of the Asian academic year to the IBDP specific programme.

 

What is the process to transfer from another emirate to Dubai?

Children are permitted to transfer from another emirate to Dubai throughout the academic year provided they are transferring to the same curriculum school. Children transferring from another emirate at the start of the academic year are entitled to change curriculum up to year 10 (UK curriculum) or Grade 9 for other curricula.

                                               Grade / Year System Age Group Cut-off Date Conditions
Coming from another Emirate All All All academic year Approval of the new school and compliance with Exam Board regulations

In general, children transferring to the same curriculum need to have started school in Dubai at least one month prior to any final exams taking place, in order to ensure that their children qualify for promotion to the next year group/grade at the end of the academic year. Schools may choose not to accept children from an alternative curriculum after the second term, if they feel that this would be detrimental to the child’s progress.

For children studying in the UK curriculum and seeking to move during Year 10, they must have already started their GCSE/iGCSE course. They must also ensure that the school they are transferring to in Dubai offers the same subject choices and within that, the same Exam Board. If the exam boards are different, they will need to have detailed discussions with the school to ensure there is enough overlap between the two to make the transfer.

Similarly, children transferring from another emirate to Years 12 and 13 of the UK curriculum (for A Level and IBDP) and Grades 11/12 for the IB Diploma programme will usually only be permitted to join at the start of Year 12/Grade 11 unless the subjects and Exam Boards are directly compatible. Entry at Year 13/Grade 12 is rarely possible.

For children studying in the Indian curriculum, students in Grade XI and XII need to be joining from CBSE curriculum schools and they should be registered with CBSE. Students from other curricula may join Grade XI, but this must be approved by the CBSE Board. For Asian curriculum schools, December 31st is generally the deadline for transfers from outside Dubai in order to ensure that students are able to participate in year-end exams.

 

What is the process to transfer a student from a school overseas to a private school in Dubai?

Most schools will accept on-line applications if you are applying from abroad. You will need to submit supporting documents (usually by email). Many popular schools may well be full in certain year groups/grades and we would always recommend that you contact the Admissions team by email in advance of submitting an application. We would usually suggest that you contact at least 2-3 schools initially. Finding places in established Secondary School is likely to be the most difficult and we would advise you to plan well ahead.

Schools may require assessment of children prior to offering a place. This can sometimes take place at the overseas school or may be required on arrival in Dubai. A provisional place may be offered subject to assessment in these circumstances.

As mentioned in our introduction, KHDA seeks continuity of education for all children and therefore aims to ensure that children are registered in the correct age group and academic level upon transfer.

Particular emphasis is placed on children meeting the mandatory age requirement for school entry – that is 6 years on 31st December for schools following a September to June timetable and 31st July for Asian curricula following the April to March timetable. Year 2 in the 13-year UK curriculum or Grade 1 in the 12 Grade international system would be the appropriate year group/grade that children would join for the start of compulsory schooling.

However, many children start school in their Home country at a younger age and may be younger than the KHDA-mandated appropriate age in the Foundation Stage and Year 1 classes of the UK curriculum and in the equivalent KG1 or KG2 for other curricula. Children who do not meet the KHDA age criteria will almost always be required to join the age-appropriate year group/grade, even if they have already studied at a higher year group/grade in their origin country. For details please see KHDA Explains New School Starting Ages.

An exception can be made for children joining Year1/KG2 or Year 2/Grade 1, if a Transfer Certificate is provided showing that the child has studied at a higher grade abroad. The child will then usually be accepted into the higher year group/grade in Dubai.

In some instances, there will be the requirement for the new school to apply for “Equivalence” where the grading system in the origin school system is different to the systems used in Dubai. This applies to children coming from locations such as Eastern Europe.

 

Are there restrictions on when my child can transfer from overseas to a school in Dubai?

KHDA policy allows for Dubai Private Schools to register students at any time during the academic year if coming from overseas. Whilst it is clearly preferable for students to join at the start of the academic year, most schools will wish students from overseas to join, at the latest, at least one month prior to any year-end exams or tests, in order to ensure that these children can participate and receive a mark entry in the end of year promotion process.

In addition, individual curricula apply specific constraints in relation to admission from overseas where public exams are involved.

For children seeking to move to a UK curriculum school during Year 10, they must have already started their iGCSE /GCSE course. They must also ensure that the school they are transferring to in Dubai offers the same subject choices and within that, the same Exam Board. If the Exam Boards are different, they will need to have detailed discussions with the school to ensure there is enough overlap between the two to make the transfer. Most UK curriculum schools have a general policy whereby they will not permit students to join Year 11, but it is worthwhile making direct contact to discuss your child’s individual circumstances.

Students seeking Year 12 entry in a UK curriculum school will need to ensure that they have completed GCSE/iGCSE in the UK curriculum or equivalent Board exams. UK curriculum schools will rarely allow transfer part way through the two year A Level programme (to year 13).

Students seeking to join the IB Diploma programme in year 12/grade 11 will need to ensure that the subjects offered at the new school are identical to those being studied at the origin school. Entry to the IBDP programme for Year 13/Grade 12 is rarely considered.

Similarly, students seeking entry to grades 9 and above in the US curriculum will need to be studying in grade 9 or to have completed grade 8 in the same curriculum.

For children studying in the Indian curriculum, students in Grade XI and XII need to be joining from CBSE curriculum schools and they should be registered with CBSE. Students from other curricula may join Grade XI, but this must be approved by the CBSE Board. For Asian curriculum schools, December 31st is generally the deadline for transfers from outside Abu Dhabi.

 

What about students transferring from the Southern Hemisphere where the school year is the calendar year?

For families relocating from the Southern Hemisphere, children joining a school in September in Dubai may be required to repeat the same academic year, since they will not have completed their school year in their home country. However, the KHDA is flexible in this context and most schools in Dubai will assess the student and, based on this assessment and previous school reports, they may apply for an exception to be made, enabling the student to join the next year group/grade.

If the family relocates in time for a January (term 2) start and the child has completed the academic year prior to relocation, then s/he will usually be permitted to join the next year group/grade. We strongly recommend that parents re-confirm with the schools to which they are applying in this case.

 

What are the required documents to transfer to or between school(s) in Dubai?

The following documents are mandatory for all transfers:
- Transcript or evidence of attending school (Transfer Certificate), specifying the curriculum from the previous academic year. (Attested if required)
- Emirates ID (or copy of Emirates ID Application if in progress)
- Vaccination Cards for KG-Grade 2 students
- Birth Certificate (Attested if required)
- Passport and Residency visa copies
- Recent passport size photograph of the student (colour with white background)
- Copies of school reports (previous 2-3 years).

Please note that all documents must be submitted in either English or Arabic and legally translated and attested copies will be required where these are not the original languages of issue.

A child moving to Dubai legally has to be in school within 30 days (the validity period of the Transfer Certificate); however, many families take longer than 30 days to obtain their Emirates ID. KHDA has recently mandated that all documents must be provided and registration completed within 2 weeks of entry to the new school. Fines may be imposed if this timeline is not adhered to.

Some schools do permit children to start school without all of the documents being in place, but this is at the school’s discretion. We strongly recommend that families familiarise themselves with the planned visa and EID application process and time-lines in order to ensure that entry to school is not unnecessarily delayed.

 

What are the Transfer Certificate requirements?

Requirements for Transfer Certificates vary depending on where a student is joining from geographically. The Transfer Certificate generally takes the form of a letter prepared by the previous school confirming the student’s attendance and last recorded school year group/grade. In some cases, this is the only evidence required.

In many cases, however, the authenticity of the Transfer Certificate (and sometimes Identity documents) need to be attested by the Ministry of Education or equivalent Authority and the UAE Consulate in the home country, and by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs on arrival in the UAE. (In some cases, the Embassy of the home country in the UAE can fulfil the Attestation requirement for the Education Authority and UAE Consulate). The schools to which you apply will provide you with a sample Transfer Certificate and will confirm the requirements.

The following chart shows the transfer certificate requirements including attestation.

Location they are transferring from Transfer Certificate - Signature, stamp and attestation requirements
Another school in Dubai A transfer certificate is not required as the transfer is done online for all children from FS2/KG1.
Another Emirate of the UAE (from Year 3/Grade 2) School principal’s signature and school stampAttestation by the Ministry of Education in the current emirate
North America (except Quebec), Western Europe and Australia School principal’s signature and school stamp
Middle East (excluding the UAE), South and Central America, Asia, Russia and former Russian States, Eastern Europe, Africa and New Zealand School principal’s signature and school stampAttestation by the Ministry of Education in the origin countryAttestation by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the origin country or the country’s Embassy in the UAE.Attestation by UAE Consulate or Embassy in the origin country or by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE.

 

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