Various International Cirriculum offered by Dubai Schools

  • August 31, 2018

If you have arrived in the Emirates and have a job in hand, having your family with you is the next logical expectation. However, some expats from nearby countries choose to stay alone and commute regularly to their home country to visit their family. The main reason for this is to avoid uprooting children from the locality where they are growing up.  The area where children have settled down with their schooling and friends, makes them feel secured and comfortable in their own skin.

The school curriculum is the next big challenge for continuity of education when moving countries. What if you are on a short-term assignment and your child moves with you? Transferring from school to school itself is not easy. Imagine moving schools from country to country? The beauty of the Emirates though, is in its offerings for education. Since the population of Emirates is majorly composed of expats, giving importance to the lives of expats is primary for the city.

As a whole the UAE has some way to go on international benchmarks like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. This is changing however with particularly Dubai schools beginning to make some serious head way. The volume of good schools in the emirate should be of great comfort to existing residents, as well as those moving in. There is choice, and an increasing amount of it.

IB and UK curriculum schools are faring significantly better than their peers and already closing in on the benchmarks set in the UAE for 2021. Higher performance in these tests is reflected in the ratings of schools in the UAE by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau. Two thirds of outstanding schools in the emirate are either UK or IB schools. Note however, that this is not necessarily to do with the curriculum. UK and IB schools tend to be the most expensive, charge the highest fees, and therefore are the well-funded schools in Dubai.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is responsible for the growth and quality of private education. KHDA provides ratings for schools, regular guidance to educators for best practices and share their success stories with international communities. In the latest (2016/17) reports from Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) the number of ‘Outstanding’ schools in Dubai remained static at 16 schools but 14 schools are now rated Very Good, up one from 2015/16.

According to the emirate's education regulator 22 percent of Dubai's students (66,500) now attend Very Good or Outstanding schools, while a further 42 percent (102,521) attend schools deemed to be Good.

Though, as a parent not everything the KHDA uses in its overview rating, you will consider important - for non-Muslims the weighting given to Islamic Studies for example, may not be considered so vital. If you do only look at the top line rating, you could be excluding schools delivering outstanding education in those areas you consider important. Internationally qualified school inspectors (British, French, USA) pay on site visits to every private school in Dubai to rate the school on key questions.

As a new arrival in Dubai or even as a seasoned expat having lived in Dubai for many years when it comes to choosing the right curriculum for your child it can be overwhelming as school and their curriculums have probably changed a lot since you were at school. So here is a brief explanation of the various international curriculums you will see on offer at schools in the UAE.

Basketball by Dubai school children


The curriculum followed by schools in England and Wales to students aged 5 to 16.

If you are in Dubailand or Umm Suquiem these schools work just great for your kids -King’s School Al Barsha, King’s School of Dubai.


GCSEs cover a wide range of subjects and each student chooses several subjects (usually up to 9) to study. Most are expected to take Mathematics, English, Modern Foreign Language and Science. Coursework may count for part of the final mark depending on the subject and syllabus. The curriculum is set by the government but exams and specifications (syllabuses) are sent by individual exam boards.

The IGCSE curriculum allows teaching to be placed in a localized context, making it relevant in different regions. It is also suitable for students whose first language may not be English and this is acknowledged throughout the examination progress. IGCSE is equivalent in standard to the English GCSE and is recognized as evidence of ability by academic institutions and employers around the world.

A’ level

On completing Key Stage 4 dependent on grades achieved students can move on to studying for 2 more years (years 12 & 13) to attain qualifications for University entrance such as A’ Levels where a student normally studies between 3 & 4 subjects gaining a grade in each subject. (Some schools have now decided to follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma qualification instead of A’ levels).


IB (International Baccalaureate) classroom was created in Switzerland in 1968 as a standard offering for students (age 3-18+) in international schools. It is now offered in over 3000 schools across the world. IB provides an inquiry-based curriculum where students are responsible for their own learning, choosing topics and planning out their own projects. Teachers act as facilitators, instead of the sole provider of facts.

It is worth noting that many of the IB Schools in Dubai are now offering BTEC programs in subjects such as sports, media, business and tourism for children age 16 plus.


Schools offering this program run a standards-based system which parallels the American System, thus allowing students to readily transfer in and out of other US schools. Schooling is broken down into Elementary (K-grade 6), Middle School (grades 7-8) and High School (grades 9-12).


Schools offering a French curriculum follow the programme of study established by the French Ministry of National Education and are officially recognized by the French government (homologation). The school system is divided into École Primaire (ages 3-5 years), École Élémentaire (ages 6-10 years), Collège (ages 11-15 years) & finally Lycée (ages 15-18 years). The last year of Lycee is called Terminale and this is when a child sits Baccalaureat which determines their university eligibility.


The curriculum offered in the UAE comes from the state of Queensland – The Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) program allows children to pursue the Queensland Senior School curriculum moderated by the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA).


CBSE – Central Board of Secondary Education (Indian).  This is the governing body for a syllabus with exams at the end of year 10 and Year 12 in Indian curriculum schools.

ICSE – Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Indian)

Administered by the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations) for Year 10 students.

ISC is the Indian School Certificate.

The Indian High school, Delta English School, Delhi Private School are some great options – especially if you are considering renting in this area.

Other curriculum’s offered in Dubai include SABIS, German, Russian Filipiino , Iranian, Japanese and a Korean School is being built in Meydan.

(Sources: Expat Echo Dubai, KHDA)