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The UAE, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi, offers a multitude of educational opportunities for children, with a diverse range of international and private schools catering to various curricula, cultures, and preferences. As an expat family in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, selecting the right school for your child/children is a critical decision that can impact their future growth and development. With over 20 years of experience as a financial planner in Dubai, insights from highly experienced headteachers across the UAE, and personal experience of putting my 16-year-old and 18-year-old through the Dubai education system, I am now embarking on this journey again with my soon-to-be 1 year old baby. This comprehensive article will explore the essential factors to consider when choosing a school in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, ensuring you make the best possible decision for your child’s future.

Understanding Different Curricula in Schools

Schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer a wide range of curricula to cater to their diverse expat population, including British, American, Indian, Australian, and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Familiarize yourself with the various curricula and consider factors such as your child’s learning style, your family’s long-term plans, and potential future educational transitions. Expert headteachers suggest involving your child in the decision-making process and understanding their strengths and interests when selecting a curriculum. Research the differences in assessment methods, subject offerings, and teaching approaches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi schools to determine the most suitable option for your child.

School Location and Transportation

The location of the school in, whether you are in Duba, Abu Dhabi or even one of the other Emirates, is a vital factor to consider, as it can impact your child’s daily routine and commute. Research schools in your preferred residential area or close to your workplace to minimize travel time. Consider the availability of school transportation and evaluate the safety and reliability of these services. Highly experienced headteachers recommend visiting schools in Dubai or Abu Dhabi during drop-off and pick-up times to assess traffic and transportation efficiency. Check if the school offers a flexible drop-off and pick-up schedule to accommodate your work routine and ensure your child’s safety and convenience.

School Fees and Affordability

Education costs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can be substantial, and it is crucial to assess the affordability of your chosen school. Factor in tuition fees, registration fees, uniform costs, and additional expenses such as textbooks, extracurricular activities, and transportation. Create a budget that includes these expenses and plan for potential fee increases over time. Experienced headteachers advise parents to inquire about any scholarships or financial aid programs available in schools, as these can help offset education costs. Investigate potential employer-sponsored school fee allowances or direct deals with schools, which may significantly impact your decision-making process.

School Facilities and Extracurricular Activities

Evaluate the school’s facilities, including classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, and more. A well-equipped school will provide your child with a conducive learning environment and opportunities for growth and development. Additionally, consider the availability of extracurricular activities that cater to your child’s interests, such as sports, arts, music, or clubs, as these can contribute significantly to their overall development. Headteachers emphasize the importance of a balanced education, including both academics and extracurricular activities, for a well-rounded student experience. Visit the school during an open house or request a campus tour to observe the facilities firsthand and gain insight into the school’s commitment to providing a comprehensive educational experience in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

School Reputation and Accreditation

Research the reputation of the schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi you are considering by seeking feedback from other parents, reviewing online forums, and assessing the school’s accreditations and affiliations with educational organizations. A school with a strong reputation and proper accreditation is more likely to deliver a high-quality education and provide a positive learning environment for your child. Expert headteachers recommend visiting the schools and speaking with faculty members to get a better understanding of their teaching philosophy and commitment to student success.

Teacher Qualifications and Student-Teacher Ratio

The quality of education your child receives is directly related to the qualifications and experience of the teaching staff. Research the credentials of the teachers at your preferred schools and look for schools that prioritize hiring highly qualified and experienced educators. Additionally, consider the student-teacher ratio, as smaller class sizes can lead to more individualized attention and a better learning experience for your child. Expert headteachers advise parents to inquire about ongoing professional development opportunities for the school’s teaching staff, ensuring they stay updated with the latest educational practices and techniques.

School Culture and Environment

The school’s culture and environment play a significant role in shaping your child’s experience and overall well-being. Visit the schools and observe the interactions between students, teachers, and staff to get a sense of the school’s values, priorities, and atmosphere. Speak with other parents and students to gain insights into the school’s support systems, disciplinary policies, and community engagement. A positive and nurturing school environment will foster your child’s growth, both academically and personally.


Choosing the right school for your child involves considering various factors, from curriculum and location to fees and school culture. By seeking guidance from experienced headteachers, conducting thorough research, and drawing from personal experience, you can make an informed decision that will have a lasting impact on your child’s future. Remember, the best school for your child is one that meets their unique needs and aligns with your family’s values and goals, providing a supportive environment for growth and success.

About Mike Coady

Mike Coady is an expat expert based in Dubai and is on hand to help with all of the above and more.

Mike is an award-winning money coach and industry leader in the financial sector.

Qualified to UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards, a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Sales Professionals (FF.ISP), and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD) and featured as a highly qualified Financial Adviser in Which Financial Adviser.

To learn how to choose a great financial adviser, download our free guide.

Blog published by Mike Coady.