Education in Dubai: from pre-school to higher education

Education in Dubai: from pre-school to higher education

10.10.2022 (updated 11.30.2022)

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  • Education in Dubai: from pre-school to higher education

The UAE offers a rich and varied education system, from preschool to university. Expats who have moved to the UAE with their families are looking to find the right school for their children that fits their program requirements, learning style and budget. The Emirates also actively attract foreign students who come to study at local universities. In this post, we are covering the most common questions about education in the UAE, including types of schools and curricula, enrollment requirements for foreign students, tuition fees, obtaining student visas and much more.


Dubai education system: training and legalization of diploma

The education system in the UAE is friendly to foreigners, and everyone can find a suitable option for themselves or their children. However, if you have already graduated, you will need to legalize your diploma in the Emirates. Whether you have an engineering degree or an online education certificate, legalization will make that document more valid and valuable in the long run.

Early childhood education in Dubai

Although education in the UAE is compulsory for children from the age of six, many parents take their young children to nurseries. As a rule, they are co-educational.

Preschool institutions in the UAE can be divided into two levels: nurseries for babies from one and a half months to four years old, and kindergartens for children four to five years old.

Popular nurseries include Kangaroo Kids Nursery, Great Minds Early Childhood Center, and Children’s Oasis Nursery. Average prices range from AED 20,000 ($5,500) to AED 45,000 ($12,000) per year.

Kindergartens are considered a preparatory stage for school, so they are often located in school complexes. Here children already study and do their homework. The average tuition fee can vary from AED 18,000 ($4,900) to AED 60,000 ($16,500) per year.

Secondary education in Dubai

The secondary education system in the UAE includes public and private schools. The public ones provide the Arabic curriculum, while the private ones offer about 15 different programs, including:

  • British;
  • American;
  • French;
  • German;
  • Japanese;
  • Canadian;
  • Indian;
  • International Baccalaureate (IB).

The main language of instruction in private schools in the UAE is English. In addition, students must study at least three languages: English, Arabic and another foreign language. The choice is quite wide: from French and German to Spanish and Chinese.

The academic year in Dubai and other emirates starts in September and ends in June. In addition to summer holidays, there are holidays in December and at the end of March. Public schools operate on a trimester system, while private schools tend to use a two-semester model. One of the unusual things for expats is the school week, which in the UAE begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday.

Structure of school education

The school education in the UAE includes several levels:

  1. Kindergarten. This stage is not mandatory, but a number of schools in the UAE operate under the K-12 system, which covers the entire learning process, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
  2. Primary school / Elementary level. It covers grades 1 to 5 and is designed for students aged 6-11.
  3. Preparatory education /Intermediate level. It covers grades 6 to 9 and is designed for students aged 12-14.
  4. Secondary school / level. Covers grades 10-12 and is designed for students aged 15-17.Instead of the last two stages, you can choose a technical secondary school.

Upon graduation, students take a standardized EmSAT test. Among the required subjects are English, mathematics, physics, computer science as well as chemistry or biology. Arabic-speaking students also take an Arabic exam. Based on the results of EmSAT, you can enroll to the university.

What kind of schools are there in Dubai?

Schools in Dubai offer a variety of programs and academic plans, but the vast majority work according to British, American and Indian standards.

There are more than 200 private schools in the emirate, of which 17 are rated as excellent by the Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). The assessment takes into account students' performance in key subjects, their personal and social development, curriculum, teaching methods, quality of school management and a number of other criteria.

The top schools with the International Baccalaureate program include:

  1. GEMS Dubai American Academy.
  2. Kings School Al Barsha.
  3. Repton School.
  4. GEMS Wellington International School.
  5. Jess Arabian Ranches

Among the best educational institutions with a British curriculum are:

  1. Dubai College.
  2. Jumeirah College.
  3. Kings School Dubai (Primary).
  4. GEMS Jumeirah Primary School.

In addition, the ranking of excellent schools includes GEMS Modern Academy working on the Indian program and the French one – Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou Primary Oud Metha.

Tuition fees at the best schools in Dubai range from AED 40,000 ($11,000) to AED 160,000 ($43,500) per year.

Foreign children in Arab schools

Most of the foreign children in the UAE attend private schools, as the public schools teach in Arabic.

Whether it is worth sending the child to an Arab school, parents decide on their own. Of the advantages, we can note a lower price compared to private schools – about 6,000 AED ($ 1,600) per year – and a deep immersion in the local language and cultural environment. In addition to the Arabic language, the Koran, Islamic culture and history are studied in detail here.

The education system in Arab schools includes studying English, but as a second language. In addition, in public schools, boys and girls study separately at all levels except kindergarten and in some schools – grades 1-4. Private schools offer many coeducational programs.

Higher education in Dubai

There are three public universities in the UAE, as well as many private educational institutions and branches of international universities – a total of more than 130, and about half of them are concentrated in Dubai. There are two large educational zones in the emirate where the campuses of international universities are located – Knowledge Village and Academic City.

Dubai offers a wide range of higher education programs from undergraduate to graduate and doctoral studies. The cost of studying at universities in Dubai for an undergraduate program ranges from 37,000 AED ($10,000) to 70,000 AED ($19,000) per year, and for a postgraduate program – from 55,000 AED ($15,000) to 75,000 AED ($20,500) per year.

Enrollment requirements

To enroll to a course at a university in the UAE, you will need to collect a number of documents, including:

  • a statement;
  • a copy of the certificate;
  • a copy of the passport;
  • a two passport size photographs;
  • TOEFL/IELTS test scores.

Some universities also require a letter of motivation, and for those enrolling the magistracy, a copy of the diploma of higher education. All documents must be in English; if they were obtained in another country, notarization will be required.

Study Visa

To get a student visa, you need to enroll in a university or college in the UAE. Applicants who are at least 18 years of age must pass a medical and security check and be approved by the Emirate's General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). A visa for students can be requested by an accredited university or parents – residents of the UAE, who will act as sponsors for their child.


Although some universities do not have their own accommodation, they can often arrange or help with accommodation for international students. However, it is important to keep in mind that some universities have a limited number of places in dormitories, so you will have to rent housing on your own. Rent can cost 3,000–4,000 AED ($800–1,100) per month.

Studying in UAE for free

Only Emirates residents can study for free at universities in the UAE. However, local universities offer scholarship programs for international students with high academic achievements. For instance, applicants for a scholarship in the United Arab Emirates University undergraduate program will need a certificate with an academic performance of at least 97%, IELTS 7 and comply with a number of other strict criteria.

Popular universities

Popular universities in Dubai in 2023 include:

  • Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), which is the largest public institution of higher education in the UAE, with 20,000 students.
  • Zayed University, which is another public university with campuses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  • Canadian University Dubai, a private university based on the Canadian curriculum.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai with world-class undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Dubai Medical College for Girls – Dubai Women's Medical University.

Diploma legalization in Dubai

To legalize a higher education diploma in the UAE, you need to follow a few simple steps:

  1. Certify the diploma with a notary.
  2. Confirm it with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where it was received.
  3. Send the diploma to the UAE Embassy in your country for authentication.
  4. Send the application and copies of documents to the Ministries on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE (MoFAIC).
  5. Pay the fee – 150 AED ($ 40). This will complete the process, and you will have a certificate of higher education verified and legalized in the UAE.

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