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Private Schools for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: December 2013

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), foreign students are required to pay fees in order to attend state schools and admittance into those schools requires children to pass an assessment test which is in Arabic.  In these circumstances, parents may opt to send their children to private schools. There are over 400 private schools across the UAE, with over 300 of them being in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

As with state schools, the education structure ranges from kindergarten through to secondary schools, with one major benefit being that students can attend the same school for both their primary and secondary education. It should be noted that unlike state primary and secondary schools which are gender-segregated, most private schools are co-educational.

The fundamental difference between state schools and private schools, as they are both fee paying for expatriates, is the curriculum.  There is a wide variety of curricula available based on countries such as the United Kingdom, India, United States, and France among others. The International Baccalaureate, for example, is also widely offered. The main attraction of these schools for parents would be the ability for their children to learn in a familiar language. Additionally, there are also private schools which teach the Ministry of Education curriculum of the UAE.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is responsible for the regulation of private education in Dubai. As such, the standard of private education is quite high.

You can use the school directory on KHDA in order to find the right private institution for your child. Parents can tailor their search with categories such as school rating, curriculum and fee range. Please refer to the link below for this resource:


Additionally you can use the resources below in order to find private schools across the UAE:


(Search using categories such as curriculum, gender and location)


(Use the advanced search tab in order to find private schools in Abu Dhabi)



While there is a set price of 6,000 AED annually to send your child to a state school, the cost of sending your child to a private school can range from 4,000AED to 80,000 AED annually.

The decision to send your child to a private school is a significant investment and you should therefore make it very carefully. Ideally, you should attempt to visit prospective schools well in advance to your final arrival in the UAE. In considering schools, you should enquire about class sizes, student/teacher ratios, teacher qualifications and performance in examinations to name a few. You should contact schools directly in order have all your concerns and questions addressed.  In this regard, if you are concerned about the quality of your child’s prospective school, you can have regard to the private schools inspection reports. Please refer to the link below to access these publications:


For a list of the 12 most outstanding private schools in Dubai, please refer to the link below:


Admission to private schools is mainly a transaction between the parent and the school. Application forms are submitted directly to the schools. Documents required include copies of student and parents’ passports, residence permits, child’s birth certificate, immunisation records, transcripts and transfer certificates from your child’s previous school. Please note that the transfer certificates would need to be attested by the relevant authorities in your home country: The Ministry of Education, the UAE Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most schools often require the payment of a non-refundable application fee as well.  Some schools also require assessment tests in English and Mathematics for prospective students. For an overview of the admission process of private schools across the UAE, please refer to the following links below:



The admission process for private schools can be highly competitive. As such, enquiries into the most suitable private school for your child should begin well before your move to the UAE in order to secure a place.



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