The UAE has many resident expats from a variety of countries. When considering school education consider the following:
- Try to find out not just the curriculum but also the culture and background of the school operators, owners, teachers, and students. There are significant cultural and religious differences between schools in the UAE which are not always obvious from the school name or basic curriculum information.
- If you get it wrong, your child or children might be stuck in an environment which is uncomfortable for them.
- The school name and curriculum can be misleading in many cases – especially the use of the word “English” or “International” for Indian schools; “American”, “British”, “English”, “International” for Arab and Islamic schools with instruction in English; an Arabic name for non-Arab or non-Islamic schools (usually British, Indian, or western expat schools); “High” or “Secondary” for Indian K-12 or primary schools.
- Arabic-speaking, French, German, Indian CBSE, Iranian, Japanese, Pakistan, Philippines, and Russian schools are usually clear about curriculum and nationalities of teachers and students, and there is rarely any confusion.
- Most confusion seems to be with respect to Australian, Canadian, IB, UK, or US curriculums which are followed by schools with Arab, Islamic, western, or international culture. IB and UK curriculums are sometimes followed by Indian schools. For example:
- the American School of Dubai is a US curriculum school for North American expats and has a similar culture and ethos as a western North American school. However the American International School of Dubai is a US curriculum school for Arab expats and UAE citizens who want a US curriculum education but in an Islamic school environment, similarly for the North American International School (yes, NAIS and AISD are different and unrelated schools). Which results in confusion for North American families wanting a western education, and Arab families wanting an Islamic education. Ironically, NAIS renamed itself from the New Arab Unity School – which both American and Arab families found was much clearer than the new name.
- A school which emphasises Islamic values and education is a very different environment to one which emphasises western values and education (which are usually non-secular, with a few Roman Catholic exceptions). Most Arabs are Muslims so schools with predominantly Arab students are also going to have Islamic values rather than western non-Islamic values. Which means a much more comfortable and familiar environment for Muslim students than for Christian and other non-Muslim students – they might not even be permitted to attend anyway.
- UAE government public schools are not generally open to non-Emirati students but there are a few private schools which offer a UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) curriculum. These are usually only suitable for Arab Muslim students since the language of instruction is Arabic most of the time, and the UAE MOE curriculum emphasises Islamic values. Some exceptions with schools in partnership with Finnish and Chinese schools.