With around 260,000 school places in the UAE, there’s no shortage of education for your children. All schools are privately funded and run, which means as an expat you’ll need to pay for the education, and as you’d expect from a capitalist market, the best schools are invariably the most expensive and have the lowest availability. Prices vary from AED 1,750 to well over AED 100,000 a year, with costs like school uniform, transport, school trips and more on top.
UAE schools are ranked and regulated by the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority). Schools are rated as Outstanding, Good, Acceptable and Unacceptable, and the KHDA control the prices and the rate at which they can increase – the better performing schools can increase their rates faster than those at the bottom.
You’ll need to consider the school’s age and reputation – word of mouth and its KHDA rank are important – and also the curriculum. The most common curriculums followed are the British, Indian, American and International (IB). Some schools will also have feeder primary schools that give current pupils priority access. Waiting lists are common, and you’ll need to pay AED 500 registration fee per school application and up to AED 5,000 to secure your child’s space.
Location is important, as you’ll need to arrange transport to and from home, with rush hour traffic a consideration. Make sure to visit the school and spend several hours checking out the classrooms, teacher-child rations, the playgrounds, gymnasium and the security measures in place. Most schools will have open days, so take advantage and talk to as many teachers as possible to evaluate the school.