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Expat guide: Finding the best schools in Dubai

If you’re moving to Dubai with your family, finding new schools for your children will be a top priority. We know that finding the right school with the right curriculum and amenities can really help children adapt and thrive after relocation.

Many expat parents, no matter where they are moving to or from, favour an international school over state schools in their new home country. And thanks to Dubai’s very large expat community, there is an excellent selection of international schools to choose from. Which school you choose for your family will come down to a number of factors which you should spend time considering.

Factors to consider when choosing a school in Dubai:

State or International School

All expat children are welcome to attend state schools in Dubai: but it’s important to consider that classes will follow the local curriculum and most importantly will be taught in Arabic. If your children are not from an Arabic speaking background, this will present a real hurdle to integration and successful studying. All public schools in Dubai are inspected and vetted by the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KDHA), who complete regular inspections.

Most expats choose an International School for their children, where your family will be taught either English (the majority) or your first language, and within an international setting amongst other expat children. International Schools are inspected by The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB), which publishes annual reviews of all private schools in Dubai.

Whichever type of school you choose, there is a local syllabus requirement, so all children in Dubai will learn at least a basic level of Arabic language skills, as well as Islamic or UAE social studies. All reports on schools compiled by the KDHA and the DSIB are available for your inspection on the respective websites. It’s important to note that just because a school receives an outstanding report, does not make it the best fit for your child.


The curriculum offered is likely to be one of the most important driving factors which will help you to pick your chosen school. International schools in Dubai offer up a variety of curriculums, with most choosing either the International Baccalaureate or an American, Australian or British system. There then other curriculums available. When looking for the perfect school for your family, try to look beyond the curriculum you’re used to, and explore what’s on offer elsewhere. This will also help you find options that help you beat the waiting lists.

Grades and facilities

Thanks to the large number of schools on offer, the schools remain very competitive, keeping grades and standards high across the board. Many of the International Schools in particular have incredible facilities available, as well as a robust focus on academic achievement.


Applications to most of the public schools in Dubai need to be in line with intake dates. However, most of the International Schools in Dubai offer rolling admission to cater for the constant number of new expat families.

Wherever you pick, be sure to make your application as soon as possible as all school admissions are competitive and spaces fill up very quickly. Primary Schools are particularly likely to fill up quickly, so we advise selecting a couple that you really like and sending multiple applications.

To avoid waiting lists – consider a new school. Thanks to the high standards within the education sector in Dubai, new schools can be a great chance to avoid waiting lists and get your children into a school with excellent facilities.

School Fees

School fees are unanimously high in Dubai, so the fees that schools charge are an important factor to consider when choosing the school for your family. Both private schools and state schools charge fees for expat children. As well as school fees you need to factor in the costs of uniforms and transport, as well as textbooks and school equipment needed during the course of studying.

The average costs of a year’s tuition in Dubai is 19,000 AED, but it’s important to remember that price is not always an indicator of quality. Costs vary widely, and at the same educational facility prices will rise each year of education. In general, however, schools providing the International Baccalaureate, American and UK syllabuses are most expensive.

Some employers offer an education supplement as part of your relocation package. What your employer offers will probably have a large impact on the schools you can choose from. We recommend making sure to fully explore what your employer will offer in correlation to the costs of your choices before you move – if there’s a substantial discrepancy you may want to try to negotiate for more school support.


Traffic is notoriously bad in Dubai, especially during rush hour. If you are struggling to narrow down from the long list of schools, it’s a good idea to start with those geographically near to your new home. If you haven’t chosen your new home yet, pick an area with a couple of your top choices, and base your home location on the school.


Applications need to be made as soon as possible, and as completely as possible. As part of your research process, begin getting together the important documentation: this will help you create speedy applications to the best schools, increasing your chance of beating the waiting lists.

It’s important to compile your child’s educational records, immunisation and medical records, as well as any letters of recommendations or other special skills or achievements. You should also keep a number of passport sized photos, as well as copies of your passport as well as your child’s. Many of the schools require a face to face interview with your family and/or child, and there may be competency and language skills tests.

Some of the top choices for expats:

Primary Schools:

Cambridge International School
Dubai American Academy
Dubai British School
Jumeirah Primary School
Kings’ School Dubai

Secondary schools:

Dubai College
Emirates International School
The English College
International School of Choueifat Dubai
Jumeirah College
Universal American School Dubai

If you would like help with your International School Search, or for more information about moving to Dubai, our moving specialists are here to help. With over 120 years of international relocation experience, Santa Fe Relocation make moving home easy for you.

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