With such an international population, the UAE offers a number of different curriculums. But how do parents choose the right one for their child?
Almost every nationality of the world is represented in the UAE and as a result each family has a very different idea of how their child should be educated. This is why there are such a wide variety of curriculums on offer here from British, American and Canadian to Arabic, Indian and Australian as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB). In fact, according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai’s private schools offer 15 different curriculums.
This choice can leave parents in a quandary as to which school is best for their child – an issue that can sometimes be heightened for children of mixed nationality parents. So how can parents decide? The first step should be to compare all the schools available in the UAE.
Then you need to consider your child’s nationality. The UAE is a transient society with many expats moving on – either to a new work posting or back to their home countries – after a matter of years.
With this in mind, the style of teaching in your home country as well as the language spoken and, of course, the standard curriculum should contribute to your decision. If you plan to return home during your child’s education, it might be wise to place them in a school that teaches the same curriculum they will eventually learn there.
If, on the other hand, you do not intend to go home but plan to relocate elsewhere, then perhaps you should consider the curriculum of your next planned destination. That way, once again, you will be able to ensure continuity in your child’s education. Ideally you do not want to switch curriculums further down the line as it might be hard for a child to adjust.
The other consideration should be higher education. If you hope your child might one day go to a particular university in a particular country then it might be wise to find out which curriculums generally match that institution. Different universities have different application requirements – though of course, it will be your child who ultimately decides where they want to study.
It is also wise to compare schools by looking at what each curriculum actually offers your child as different approaches also deliver different styles of learning.
While the British system is the most popular in Dubai, according to a report released last year by the KHDA, IB is hot on its tail. First founded in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in Geneva, IB offers high-quality education to schools around the world and is not associated with any particular country, political or educational agenda. This is why it is often considered the best solution for permanent expats as it is easily transferable from country to country.
The focus in IB is on all round development; students are more responsible for their own learning, such as setting their own projects with teachers seen more as mentors; the idea is to create critical thinkers. The learning is practical and application based and allows students to study a broader range of subjects.
For example, in the final two years of school, IB students’ study six subjects rather than four in the British system. The British system argues its method allows students to study in depth, whereas IB claims to offer more breadth giving pupils more options for higher education.
How a student’s progress is measured is also important. In the British system, for example, pupils are assessed through national standardised exams at different stages of their education journey whereas in the American SAT system, pupils are assessed continually throughout their education across the range of subjects.
Finding out about each curriculum style is important – because one may suit your child more than another. Try to assess what type of child you have: are they sporty, academic, quiet, free-spirited etc? Matching your child to the school’s facilities and extracurricular activities is also important and might take precedence. Remember the school you choose will, along with your input, be responsible for shaping your child’s social development and personality.
Finally, if you are unsure which curriculum is right for you, then consider other factors such as the KHDA’s rating of that school; it rates schools as unsatisfactory, acceptable, good or outstanding via a comprehensive review process.
Alternatively, consider your child’s age. Your child might be the youngest in the year for a British curriculum school but they might fall in the middle of the year group in another curriculum as different styles of education split children into academic years using different age categories.
And don’t forget the fees the school charge need to fall within your budget and its location needs to be easily accessible for the daily drop off and pick ups.
Of course the decision might get taken out of your hands. Schools in the UAE are well stocked with pupils with the most popular schools boasting long waiting lists. Ultimately, where your child ends up might be decided by which school he or she can actually secure a place – pushing curriculum to the bottom of the criteria.