Private Schools

An overview of private schools in Dubai

Private Schools

Private schools are common in Dubai, mainly to cater for the large expatriate communities. There are currently 158 private schools in Dubai.

The majority are managed by and run for English-speaking western expatriates, although many local families choose to send their children to these schools, perhaps in the belief that the tuition will be better and also because of the international importance of the English language. There are schools for the children of Americans, British, French, Germans, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Japanese and many other nationalities, as well as international schools catering for a variety of nationalities. The vast majority of private schools teach in English, including the Indian and Pakistani schools. Minority expatriate groups such as the Japanese, French and Germans tend to send their children to international schools, at which the main teaching language is English.

Some private establishments restrict enrolment to pupils of the relevant nationality, e.g. a British government-aided school. Others might have rules concerning religion. International schools tend to have fewer restrictions.

Most private schools are coeducational and provide tuition to children from pre-school nursery groups through to university entrance examinations, preparing them for a variety of examinations – often British A levels or the International Baccalaureate, which can be taken in the Gulf. There are also plenty of private pre-schools, including play groups, nurseries, kindergartens and infant schools. These schools are voluntary, but widely attended, partly because they allow expatriate mothers to socialise. Restrictions on wives securing work visas mean that they can feel isolated at home.

In general, standards at private schools are high, with small class sizes and modern facilities, but some parents find that their children have some catching up to do when they return to their home country. Some schools catering for pupils from India and Pakistan face heavy demand for places, due to the large number of workers from those countries. There can be severe overcrowding, pupils sometimes being taught in shifts.

Private foreign and international schools tend to have more relaxed, flexible regimes and curricula and to be less formal in terms of dress, behaviour and pupil/teacher relationships than their equivalents in Europe and North America. Some see this as a good thing, others as a negative. A drawback of private schools in the region is their high staff turnover. Like other expatriates, teachers tend to change jobs and locations quite frequently. This can lead to a lack of continuity in children’s education and be a disruptive influence.

Because of the great structure and flexibility, Dubai’s private schools were attended by 89% of the total student population in 2014, which translate to over 243,000 students in private education institutions.


The school structure varies between different types of school in Dubai, but those catering for American, British, Indian and Pakistani pupils tend to be either primary (for children aged 4 to 11) or secondary (11 to 18). Those catering for children of other nationalities are usually divided into four categories, as follows:

School Type

Pupil Ages

Pre-kindergarten & Kindergarten









Applications to private schools should be made as early as possible, particularly to international schools, which sometimes have waiting lists. You might need recent school reports or a previous headteacher’s letter of appraisal. For UK and other western expatriates, the British Council is a useful source of information about educational establishments. Enrolment in private schools usually involves an interview with parent and child, and might also involve an examination (only for the child, you will be relieved to know!).

Hours & Holidays

There are many different types of school in Dubai, offering different curricula to children of various cultural backgrounds, and school hours and holidays vary accordingly, although a school day running from around 8am to 2.30pm is common, from Saturday to Wednesday inclusive. Some schools – particularly those catering for children of Asian workers – operate from early morning to evening, in two shifts.


The cost of private education can be high, but in some cases the fees are paid by your employer as part of your contract. It’s vitally important to be aware of the cost of private schooling over the course of a child’s education, particularly if this will include university. What might begin as a manageable expense can quickly become a major financial encumbrance if there are regular increases in fees, as there often are.

In 2014, private school tuition ranged from 5,000 to 45,000AED, with the highest percentage (25%) charging between 5,000 and 10,000AED.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: