International Schools in the UAE

One of the very best things about the UAE’s education sector is the amount of choice that parents have in finding the right school for their child. When it comes to curriculum choice, UAE residents are not just limited to Indian, British, US or IB schools…there’s a whole host of curricula on offer from right around the globe. We take a look at the options.
International Schools in the UAE
By Jenny Mollon
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Many parents will know that private school choices in the UAE are dominated by Indian, British, IB and US curriculum schools. But there’s more going on that just that? In this special WSA feature, we look at a range of curricula from almost every corner of the world, right here in the UAE.

The Spanish School of Abu Dhabi (SSAD)

A Spanish School of Abu Dhabi student

Curriculum: Spanish National Curriculum
Language of instruction: Spanish
Enrolment: Currently open from Nursery to Grade 4
Average Annual tuition fees: AED 37,000
Inspection rating: not yet inspected

Having opened in September 2020, The Spanish School Abu Dhabi is now home to ten classes, spanning Nursery to Grade 4. The school does not offer an immersion programme as such, Spanish is the language of instruction and non-Spanish speakers quickly become adept at moving between languages.

In addition to the main curriculum, students also have access to English (English as an Additional Language) and Arabic classes. Core subjects include Spanish, English, Arabic, Mathematics, Sciences, Islamic studies, Arts (including Music), and Physical education.

SSAD occupies a new building which houses 43 classrooms, each with an interactive board and WiFi throughout, an auditorium and sports facilities. Technology is a particular focus and the schools has applied for 'Apple school' status.

SSAD Founding Principal, Dr Laurent Bonardi highlighted the importance of international schools in a diverse society such as the UAE. Mr Bonardi told us,

“International schools have the potential to transform students into cultural mediators who have the power to improve global relations. The early enthusiasm for cross-cultural contact breeds intercultural competence. We are delighted to bring the Spanish curriculum to the UAE. The Spanish educational system is renowned for its rigorous approach and academic excellence. Furthermore, there are 489 million Spanish native speakers and Spanish is the third most studied language in the world”.

The Chinese School Dubai

Chinese School Dubai first review
A student at the high-tech Chinese School Dubai

Curriculum: Chinese Curriculum (Hangzhou Number 2 High School Curriculum)
Language of instruction: Mandarin
Enrolment: All through school, currently open to Grade 5
Annual tuition fees: AED 26,000 (fees are subsidised by the Chinese Government)
Inspection rating: Not yet inspected

The Chinese School Dubai opened in September 2020 with around 200 students. It is said to be the first all through, Chinese Curriculum international school that has been approved and backed by the Chinese government. The school will operate as a ‘not for profit’ school, with parents paying fees that have been heavily subsidised by the Chinese government.

The school offers the curriculum of the Hangzhou Number 2 High School, but has clearly been adapted: The Hangzhou school is for students who are aged between 16- to 18-years-old. The home school was founded in 1899 by American Christian missionary W. S. Sweet and, according to its Wikipedia entry, is one of the "three top high schools" in the city. Its curriculum focuses on high-level learning, innovation and helping pupils develop an international vision. The UAE’s MOE curriculum runs in parallel, adding emphasis on Arabic as second language, Islamic studies, moral education and UAE studies.

The school’s campus is said to be state of the art, with an impressive use of technology (reflecting the original ‘home’ school). The school plans to offer 35 extra-curricular activities and 13 sports.

Chinese School Dubai Principal, Mr Liping Yin highlighted the strength of the relationship between the UAE and China.

With the growing relationship between China and the UAE, more and more Chinese families are moving to this region to work. It is necessary and essential to offer the best authentic Chinese education to the Chinese children from these families.

International schools foster students cultural understanding and cooperation by encouraging students to value their own culture as well as understanding and appreciating the diversity of cultures in the UAE. The vision of Chinese School Dubai is to “Own a Chinese heart with an international view”, since we hope our students can define where they come from and value the importance of knowing other cultures, which can lead them to becoming a global citizen when they grow up”.

The Australian International School, Sharjah

Australian International School students

Curriculum: Australian, IB
Language of instruction: English
Enrolment: All through (3-18)
Average Annual tuition fees: AED 49,000
Inspection rating: no rating

Sharjah is an emirate that is fond of the Australian curriculum with three established Australian schools to pick from.  The Australian International School was the first of the three to open, welcoming students from 2005. Based on the Queensland curriculum of Australia, it remains the only learning institution in the Middle East recognised as an ‘Australian school outside Australia.’

Alongside the Queensland curriculum, the school also offers the world renown IB DP programme. The schools 1400 (mostly Emirati) students have the option to study for both the Queensland Certificate of Education and the IB Diploma.

Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou

Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou

Curriculum: French curriculum
Language of instruction: French
Enrolment: All through (3-18)
Average Annual tuition fees: AED 41,500
Inspection Rating: Very Good

One of several French curriculum schools in the UAE, Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou has proven to be one of the most successful, both in terms of how parents rate it (in our survey, parents rate the school 4.1/5 and in the most recent KHDA ‘pre-inspection’ survey, 96% of parents were satisfied with the quality of education being provided to their children) and in the KHDA inspection rating. That said, it came as a surprise to many to see that the school’s long held ‘outstanding’ rating had slipped to Very Good in 2018/19. Nonetheless, this is a well regarded, high achieving French curriculum school.

LFIGP follows the curriculum set by the French Ministry of National Education, and prepares students for the Diplome National du Brevet (DNB), as well as the French Baccalaureate in the three main streams (Literary, Social Sciences and Economics, and Science) along with international options. The success rates of students in these two exams vary between 97 and 100% yearly, with a majority of students achieving Honours.

Japanese School Dubai

Japanese School Dubai

Curriculum: Japanese Ministry of Education
Language of instruction: Japanese
Enrolment: All through (4-15)
Average Annual tuition fees: AED 20,500
Inspection Rating: Good

The Japanese School Dubai is run by the Japanese embassy and was founded to meet the needs of Japanese expatriate families during their time in the UAE. The school is very much focused on delivering a traditional curriculum and cultural environment for its students. Almost all students return to Japan to complete High School, hence the school catering mostly for students up to the age of 15.

The Japanese School in Dubai is located on a large site close to Sheikh Zayed Road in the heart of Jumeirah. It is noticeable for its pink, single storey exterior. Facilities at the school include the usual run of classrooms and specialist teaching areas including a gymnasium, swimming pool, science laboratories and ICT laboratories. The school opened its Kindergarten section for the first time in 2018, an updated facility which was viewed positively by the KHDA inspection team who visited the school in December 2017.

Fees at the Japanese School range from AED 25,200 in the KG section (reflective of the additional staffing, but also the optional nature of these grades), falling to AED 19,200 from Grade 1 onwards. They are among the most reasonable fees for an international school in the city! There is also a Japanese School in Abu Dhabi.

German International School Dubai (Deutsche Internationale Schule Dubai - DISD)

German Dubai School

Curriculum: German
Language of instruction: German
Enrolment: All through (3-18)
Average Annual tuition fees: AED 53,000
Inspection Rating: Good

The German School Dubai (Deutsche Internationale Schule Dubai - DISD) was established in September 2008 as a school for international students and German expatriates. The school follows a German curriculum (based on the curriculum of the German Federal State of Thüringen) with certain subjects taught in Arabic and English, as per Ministry of Education guidelines.

DISD is currently host to just over 750 students (an increase of over 10% compared with a year ago), split almost equally across the three school sections. Children who attend DISD come from different cultural groups and speak different languages. Currently, there are 31 different nationalities represented in the school, although children with German nationality are given clear preference, particularly for Kindergarten places. Around every second child in the Kindergarten grows up in a multi-lingual environment and German is not always the first language in the parental home. Children who are not fluent in the German language are given special support through a German as a foreign language programme.

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