Schools in Dubai: A Guide for Relocating American Families

Schools in Dubai, As an American parent moving to Dubai, finding the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make during your relocation process. With a wide variety of curriculums, teaching philosophies, and school types to evaluate, choosing the best fit can feel overwhelming at first.

This comprehensive guide breaks down all the key factors you need to consider when researching schooling options for your family.

Overview of Popular Curriculums

One of the first things you’ll notice when exploring Dubai schools is that they typically follow one of several international curriculums, rather than American education systems. Here’s a quick primer on your main options:

British Curriculum

Very popular among expats from Commonwealth regions, this system has key stages and milestones similar to schooling methods in the UK. External assessments like IGCSEs and A Levels are culminating exams within this framework.

The British curriculum develops critical thinking and focuses on a broad base of humanities and sciences till Grade 10. Subject specializations happen later in Grades 11-12 based on career inclinations and university plans.

For American kids, the transition to subject specialization can be a shift. The good news is that many British curriculum schools are very experienced in orienting students from other backgrounds.

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American Curriculum

Seeking continuity? There are several schools offering an American curriculum-based education in Dubai. Taught completely in English, the programs here are modeled closely after private schools across the US, focusing on a well-rounded liberal arts foundation.

The American system emphasizes student participation, a hands-on approach, sports, and extracurricular integration. Exams from popular testing agencies like MAP, PSAT, ACT, and SAT are also offered to keep university options open internationally.

If you prefer American-style schooling for familiarity and consistency, there are some great options across Dubai.

Indian Curriculum

Schools following the popular Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (ICSE) or Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) systems cater predominantly to Indian expats based in Dubai.

Alongside the usual subjects, Indian languages, arts, and culture also find focus here. Students are prepared for competitive exams back home like IIT-JEE and NEET as part of secondary schooling, to apply to reputed colleges for further studies.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

As Dubai’s expatriate population continues to rapidly diversify, the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum has gained huge popularity over the past decade. Combining best practices from high-performing education philosophies worldwide, the IB framework aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people ready to actively participate in an increasingly globalized landscape.

With inquiry-based, concept-focused learning modules, IB students hone their critical thinking abilities, intercultural understanding, and an international perspective – highly valuable skills for long-term success. Exams are benchmarked globally, facilitating university admissions worldwide.

The well-rounded IB curriculum is an excellent option for families relocating frequently across geographies, including American expats.

Additional Curriculums

Apart from the above major curriculums, you can also find options like the French Baccalaureate, MYP/ IGCSE International Assessments, and country/faith-specific schools as part of Dubai’s diverse education landscape.

Types of Schools in Dubai

Alongside the various curriculums, Dubai schools can also be categorized by ownership model:

Public Schools

Public schools in Dubai and across the UAE are run by the government with standardized syllabi created by the Ministry of Education (MOE). Based on current policy, subjects are taught in Arabic unless explicitly authorized otherwise. Some additional English instruction is also usually provided.

As an American parent, evaluating your child’s readiness for moving into an Arabic instruction environment is important while considering public schools here. However, most Emirati state schools do facilitate International Baccalaureate or American/British curriculum sections, where classes happen entirely in English.

Private Schools

The vast majority of expatriate students in Dubai are enrolled in private schools. Offering internationally recognized curriculums with English/bilingual instruction, these span budget options to ultra-premium institutions.

Facilities, academic rigor, specialized focus areas, integration of technology, and overall quality can vary significantly. So due research based on each child’s specific requirements is important before deciding on a shortlist.


Some newly relocated families also opt for homeschooling, at least for a few initial years. This can ease the transition process for children by providing education continuity as per American teaching techniques. Homeschooling needs can be met through a mix of online resources, specialized centers providing shared access to science labs, etc., extracurricular programming by private providers, external exams, and more.

Networking with existing homeschoolers can be very useful to learn practical strategies as a first step.

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Key Factors to Consider

As you evaluate schools in Dubai, here are some key aspects American parents should look into:


Accreditation by globally recognized external assessment bodies indicates that a school adheres to stringent quality standards in terms of curriculum delivery, faculty qualifications, administrative policies, facilities, and overall learning environment.

Core accreditation benchmarks to look for in Dubai include Cognia (previously AdvancED), Council of International Schools (CIS), IB, etc. The availability of American curriculum assessments like MAP testing can also act as a guidance metric.

University Acceptance Rates

Check a school’s track record of acceptances to top regional and international universities across desired countries, for relevant programs. This data indicates how well their college preparatory curriculums align with higher education requirements globally.


What tuition fee structure, upfront and installment payment options, financial aid packages, etc. are available? Budget preparation to accounting for all base fees, as well as additional costs (transport, lunches if not provided, uniforms, external exams fees, etc). is essential.

That’s the key information I would highlight in an expanded guide on evaluating Dubai’s schooling options for American families relocating with kids. Please let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any specific sections further or add additional details.

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