Secondary Schools in UAE

Secondary Schools in UAE

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), getting acquainted with secondary schools can be a lot to take in, especially when you’re adjusting to a new culture, language, and workweek. The good news is that many aspects of life in the UAE are designed to accommodate international families, and education is no exception.

Thankfully, this guide is here to make the journey easier, providing insights into secondary schools in UAE. It covers a range of topics, including:

Secondary Schools in UAE

Secondary Education in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) manages its primary, secondary, and higher education through the Ministry of Education (MoE) at the federal level. Additionally, each emirate has its local education authority, such as:

With both federal and local bodies overseeing schools, educational standards in the UAE are consistent, although there may be minor differences from one emirate to another. Public schools in the UAE adopt the K-12 curriculum, which commences at the age of four and extends until age 17. This educational journey is divided into several stages and cycles:

  • Kindergarten: KG1 to KG2 (ages four to five)
  • Basic level/Cycle 1: Grades 1 to 4 (ages six to 9/10)
  • Intermediate level/Cycle 2: Grades 5 to 8 (ages 10 to 13/14)
  • Secondary level/Cycle 3: Grades 9 to 12 (ages 14 to 17/18)

While local private schools may align with the national curriculum, international schools have the flexibility to establish their unique educational frameworks, including varying grade structures and subject offerings.

Education in the UAE is compulsory for children from the age of six to 18, encompassing both Emirati and international students. Upon successful completion of the 12th grade, students are awarded a high school certificate, confirming their fulfillment of all mandatory educational requirements.

Public Secondary Schools in UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) may be a small country, but it has around 1.1 million students in total, with nearly 130,000 of them attending public secondary schools. These public schools, managed by the Emirates School Establishment, operate as a semi-independent authority. In the UAE, there are 565 public schools, which cover both primary and secondary education.

However, it’s important to note that public schools in the UAE primarily use Arabic as the language of instruction. This makes them less common for international students looking for a secondary school option. Emirati students can attend public secondary schools for free, but expat families must pay fees.

Uniforms are a requirement in both public and many private schools in the UAE. Public schools typically have single-gender classes, while private schools are usually co-educational. In 2018, the Ministry of Education allowed mixed-gender classes, but this change was limited to public primary schools, specifically for students in grades 1 to 4.

Curriculum in Public Secondary Schools in UAE

In public secondary schools in UAE, the school week typically spans from Sunday to Thursday. The academic year is split into trimesters, with a winter break in December, a spring break in March and April, and a lengthy summer break during the hot months. Public schools also observe public holidays in the UAE.

Students attending public secondary schools in UAE can anticipate studying a range of subjects, which typically include:

  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • History
  • Arabic
  • Islamic Studies
  • English

To track student progress, schools conduct standardized tests throughout the year, along with final exams. It’s important to note that class sizes and extracurricular offerings can differ between schools and emirates. Physical education requirements also vary across the emirates, with some, such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, recently making it a mandatory part of the curriculum.

The Benefits of Public Secondary Schools in UAE

Choosing a public secondary school in UAE can be advantageous, especially if you intend to have a long-term stay in the country. It offers your child a chance to immerse themselves in Emirati culture, make local friends, and learn the Arabic language, which might not be as readily accessible in an international school. Ultimately, the decision depends on what you envision for your child’s educational experience and the duration of your stay in the UAE.

The Drawbacks of Public Secondary Schools in UAE

Conversely, enrolling your child in public secondary schools in UAE means they will primarily be learning in Arabic. Moreover, they will need to adapt to the public school culture, which some believe can be somewhat disorganized and challenging to navigate.

Applying to Secondary Schools in UAE

While applying to public secondary schools in UAE as an international student is not very common, it is still possible. Parents or students can complete this process online. You can register your child by visiting the Ministry of Education (MoE) website, where you will find an application form. The website will guide you on the necessary documents and the timeline for the application process.

Secondary Schools in UAE

Private Secondary Schools in UAE

Private secondary schools in UAE welcome over 720,000 students from diverse backgrounds. These students hail from various parts of the world, creating a rich cultural tapestry. Within the UAE, there are two main categories of private secondary schools: local private schools that use Arabic as the medium of instruction and international schools that do not.

Local private schools typically adhere to the curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education (MoE). However, they may introduce unique elements related to creativity and independence into their educational approach. These schools often have separate classes for boys and girls, and they can differ in terms of costs, class sizes, and the availability of extracurricular activities, with variations observed across different emirates.

Like Secondary Schools in UAE, you may also like to read about Primary Schools in the UAE.

Private International schools in the UAE

The UAE boasts a plethora of international secondary schools, but here’s the catch – many of them have long waiting lists. Given that numerous international families eventually leave the UAE, many parents opt to enroll their children in schools that adhere to a global or country-specific curriculum. This decision ensures a smooth transition for their children into schools back in their home country or another international destination. Notably, you’ll come across international schools that adopt the British, Irish, Indian, Canadian, French, German, and various other educational models.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that international schools can come with a hefty price tag. Depending on your child’s grade level, annual tuition fees can range from AED 2,700 for kindergarten to AED 70,000 for secondary school.

The Advantages of International Schools in the UAE

International secondary schools in the UAE are favored for their strong academic programs and diverse, multicultural surroundings. The staff at these schools understand the requirements of international families and work to provide an educational environment that mirrors what a child might encounter in their home country.

The Drawbacks of International Schools in the UAE

Conversely, international schools can sometimes create a sort of “bubble,” isolating children from the local community. Furthermore, the high tuition fees associated with international schools can make selecting the right one a costly decision.

Graduating in the UAE

For students attending public or private schools following the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) curriculum, graduation involves passing the Emirates Standardized Test (EmSAT). This test is a prerequisite for admission to most public colleges and universities in the UAE. However, for many international families in the country, this requirement does not apply because most international schools have their own curriculum. Graduation criteria for international schools will vary depending on the specific school and the curriculum it follows. Consequently, students must successfully complete all their assessments and final exams to earn their diplomas.

Secondary Schools in UAE

The International Baccalaureate (IB) in the UAE

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is a globally respected academic curriculum. It encompasses a wide range of subjects, including mathematics, science, arts, language, and literature, among others. The IB program emphasizes essay writing, theory of knowledge, and a personal project that combines service and creativity. Schools offering the IB program are highly sought after, providing students with an advantage if they plan to pursue higher education abroad. In the UAE, there are currently 54 schools offering the IB Diploma Program.

Trade Schools in the UAE

Regrettably, children from international families are generally not eligible to enroll in public trade school programs in the UAE. Typically, Emirati secondary school students with an interest in technical and vocational training can apply to a public applied stream program, which prepares them for the workforce.

Starting in grade 9, these students take some academic courses similar to their peers but also acquire specialized skills in areas such as:

  • Event Management
  • Technology
  • Logistics
  • Health and Social Care

In grades 11 and 12, students participate in work placements to gain hands-on experience. Those who successfully complete this program receive a Technical Secondary Diploma.