Dubai has 148 private schools offering prograes to more than 207,500 students across 13 different curricula (KHDA School Census 2011/12).  Abu Dhabi has approximately 180 private schools International Baccalaureate (IB), UAE Ministry of Education, British, American, French, Indian, and Filipino, amongst others.

The authorities’ (Knowledge and Human Development Authority or KHDA in Dubai, Abu Dhabi Education Council or ADEC in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Education Zone or SEZ in Sharjah) role is to ensure that the UAE’s private schools operate in accordance with rules and standards set by the UAE law.

The KHDA’s dedicated arm, the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB), carries out detailed inspections of every private school in Dubai, and the Regulations and Compliance Commission (RCC) is responsible for the licensing of schools and their adherence to regulations and guidelines.

[Guide to UAE nurseries]

Where do I start?

First of all, figure out what year you require school admission for your child. The UAE has mandatory schooling as from Grade 1.  Anything before that which is generally Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 is provided by some schools and not by others.

There is the 12-year and the 13-year system. The 13-year system, which is generally the British system, starts at the age of three to join FS1 (in the UAE, the KHDA uses KG1) and the 12-year system, which is generally the American system, starts at the age of four.

To calculate the year of entry into schools for most curriculums, the cut-off birth month for your child’s age is September. For Indian and Pakistani curriculums, however, the cut-off month is April.

There is the “waiting list” of schools that many parents talk about. Many school places are taken up early in the UAE due to the simple fact of demand and supply. It is critical to plan ahead. Do your research, find out the schools that you want to send your child to and look up when their registrations open. The school application process generally works on a first come, first served basis from when they open for applications.

Once your baby is born, have a look on and look up when you need to apply so you do not miss out on any schools.  Some of them open as early as three years in advance, while others have an all-year open registration. Putting in a registration in a school in Dubai or Abu Dhabi does not guarantee a spot but, the earlier you put in the application, the better your chances are.  Schools will normally let you know before the start date whether your child has been accepted.

Few schools have affiliated nurseries that allows for priority seats in primary school – ask your nursery if your child is attending one.

What curriculum to choose from?

There are more than 15 different curriculums to choose from in the UAE and you can view all the schools following these curricula on

  • American
  • American/ IB (International Baccalaureat)
  • British
  • British/ IB (International Baccalaureat)
  • French
  • German
  • IAT (Institute of Applied Technology)
  • IB (International Baccalaureat)
  • Indian
  • Iranian
  • Japanese
  • MOE (Ministry of Education)
  • Pakistani
  • Philippines/ Filipino
  • Russian

How do I apply for a school?

Once you have compared and chosen a few schools in the UAE, you can sometimes apply online or in person.  The schools will generally ask you for the following documents (please check with the particular schools for their application process)

  • Passport copy of your child and residency visa
  • Passport copy of the parents and residency visa
  • Birth certificate of your child
  • Passport photos for your child
  • Immunization record of your child
  • AED 500 non-refundable registration (for some schools).

Closer to the date, they school will contact you and inform you whether your child is accepted or whether there is an entrance assessment that needs to be completed and assessed prior to them making a decision.

If your child is transferring over from another school, you will need to provide previous school reports.

How are the schools rated in UAE?

On’s school listings, the rating box in the list of features of the schools is done by the KHDA for Dubai Schools and ADEC for the Abu Dhabi Schools. You can find more information about how the rating is decided, and what factors it considers, at the KHDA and ADEC websites. The second rating is by the users – parents who share their experiences on our site. does not rate or recommend any schools.

What are the main criteria parents look at in choosing a school?

We have asked many parents to tell us how they went about looking for a school for their child.  Here are the top considerations:

  1. Fees: Fees can vary significantly in the UAE and can go to over AED 90,000 a year – they vary by the grade your child is in.  You can find the details of the fees per grade on the education section of our website. It is important to look at the value you are getting for the price you are paying.  Compare the fees of the different schools and the extracurricular activities they provide.  Don’t forget to add the cost of medical and school bus fees to the tuition fees.
  2. Location: Some parents choose the location in which they rent or buy their homes to be close to the school their kids go to.  Many parents want their kids to be within walking distance of their school so they do not have to worry about traffic or safety and can have someone pick them up on foot, with no need for an expensive and early-start school bus.
  3. Meals: Some schools provide meals and charge for them; ask your school about the extra fees for meals to make sure that you have calculated the full cost of education for your child. We list these too.
  4. Extra-curricular activities: Some schools offer extra-curricular activities after school hours. You will find that some of them are free and others have to be paid for. Look up extra-curricular activities box in our search results and you will see which ones offer them for free, partly paid or fully paid.
  5. Student nationalities: Many parents like to keep a bit of home away from home for their child.  One of the ways is to choose a school where the student nationalities are mainly from their home country.
  6. Siblings: It is much easier to have the same school for all your children logistically. You’ll be glad to know that most schools in the UAE give preferential seats to siblings of current students. Make sure you notify the school early on that you have another child who will require admission.
  7. Waiting list: This is probably the most talked-about subject when it comes to schooling. Make sure you plan ahead and put down a list of schools you want to apply for and their registration opening dates so as not to miss out on any of them. Some schools open their registration as early as three years ahead and others the same year.

The most important factor in finding a school for your child is to plan ahead. Take your time to browse our website’s education section and make sure you put in a registration early for the schools that you want.