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International Schools for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: December 2013

The education system in UAE offers many attractive options for expats. If your child is older, you may have concerns about their ability to successfully transition into the state school system, in particular due to the language barrier as Arabic is the main language of instruction. As such, you can choose from one of the many international schools in the UAE.

As there are people from all over the world living and working in the UAE, international students are fortunate in that they will be able to find schools offering a wide range of curricula. Therefore, it goes without saying that one of the greatest advantages of attending an international school is the diverse curriculum offered at many of these institutions.

At many international schools, such as the British (for example https://www.gemsjc.com/) or American schools (like https://www.gemsaa-dubai.com/index.php), or Indian schools (like https://ihsdxb.net/ihs/new/index.html), the curriculum taught is that of the respective country of origin. Upon the completion of study at these schools, graduates receive the same qualification as that of the country of origin (for example, US High School Diploma or GSCEs, A-levels etc). This is a great option for parents who seek a smooth transition for their children back into the education system of their home country on their return.

International schools may also prepare students towards obtaining the International Baccalaureate (IB diploma) which is regarded as a recognised qualification for entry into many international universities. There are 31 schools which offer this option in the UAE(please refer to the following link to search for these schools:


Parents who are concerned about the quality of the international school that they have selected may find it helpful to ascertain whether the school is accredited by organisations such as the Council of International Schools (CIS) or COBIS. These organisations aim to ensure that its member schools maintain a high educational experience. There are 20 CIS accredited international schools in the UAE. Please refer to the following link in order to search for international schools accredited by CIS in the UAE: https://www.cois.org/page.cfm?p=1318.

Additionally, please refer to the link below for the ratings of schools in Abu Dhabi:


While your child’s education is no doubt invaluable, one factor in deciding whether to send your child to an international school is your budget as this option can be quite expensive. Fees range from 10,000 AED to 100,000 AED at these schools depending on the school grade.  These costs do not include aspects such as school uniforms and books.

Whichever school you choose, you may want to speak carefully with your proposed school about any of your concerns particularly with regards to your child’s safety. You should have regard to the commute that your child will face from your place of residence to the school, especially if it is long and tedious. Some schools even operate a bus system, as such the necessary enquires should be made if this option is needed.

Most international schools offer a wide range of these activities and this benefit should not be overlooked by parents who would like their children to be well-rounded. These activities as well as options such as school trips abroad often attract additional fees and would have to be factored into your budget.

The admission process to these international schools often requires the completion of application forms together with your child’s previous school reports. While the application process is often straight-forward, it is recommended that you start the process as early as possible, even before your arrival in the UAE. Please refer to the link below for guidance on the admission process for a highly rated international school:


A helpful overview of international schools in the UAE in terms of costing and curriculum can found in the following article:


Please refer to the following resources below to find international schools across the UAE:


https://www.adec.ac.ae/School%20Finder%20Assets/eng/SchoolFinderV5_new.html#app=1a81&1c3f-selectedIndex=1: Used the advanced search option to find International schools in Abu Dhabi

https://www.gsgi.co.uk/site : The Good Schools Guide also provides a helpful resource for locating international schools in the UAE.




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