Dubai is a magnificent city for education, with an array of international schools that cater to the needs of a diverse, multicultural, and multilingual community.
That said, not all schools offer the same education, and some may not cater to your, or your child’s, specific needs. You may also have certain post-education goals for your child, such as admissions to universities in a particular country, that would be better served by some institutions.
With this in mind, here is a list of important things to know when choosing a school in Dubai, which can help you select the best education for your child.
It’s important to understand how school fees work in the UAE before you begin your search.
The KHDA creates a School Fees Framework based on annual inspections and surveys of schools in the region. The “Educational Cost Index” (ECI) represents how much schools will be allowed to increase their fees. Schools that show improvements in their inspections will be allowed to increase their fees by a certain multiplier of the ECI.
Besides this, different schools have different inclusions in their tuition fees, so you should understand how this breakdown works when looking at their figures as some tuition fees include students’ books, costs of exams, internal ASAs and inclusivity measures.
A good school won’t just prepare students for the now, but the immediate future as well. In this respect, they should be teaching students the 21st century skills they need to become global citizens, and effective members of society and the workforce. These include soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Perhaps the best curriculum to teach these skills is the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which not only teaches these skills, but upholds a complete Learner Profile that aims to create lifelong, independent learners who will continue to grow long after they’ve graduated.
Another important component of 21st century education would be technology education and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) knowledge, which will be very helpful in an increasingly global and technology-driven society. You can see this in SISD’s STEAM programme, which applies to our Pre-KG to Grade 5 students in order to build a personalised, continuous approach to STEAM education that carries into the Middle Years Programme.
A very practical consideration for your child would be an internationally recognized diploma. While some schools offer curricula that are specific to countries – French or American Curricula, for example – a well-rounded curriculum that is recognized in universities all over the world will open up fantastic opportunities for your child.
In this case, an IB World School may be a good choice if you’re looking to provide your child with the best chance at admission in as wide a range of universities as possible. And it’s not just recognition – university admissions officers actually favor IBDP graduates, and in fact, these graduates are accepted, on average, 22 percentage points higher than the average student.
One of the most important mandates of the KHDA’s Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework is the support for students experiencing SEND, or special educational needs and disabilities. This allows every student to be given any necessary tailored education in order to help them gain an equitable footing with other students.
How every school achieves inclusivity is different, but what’s important are the presence of an inclusivity framework as part of the school’s values, as well as a “gifted” or SEND programme that can nurture every student per their needs. It would also be helpful to have an inclusivity coordinator who can provide a strong direction for the school’s inclusivity measures.
A good model for this is Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai and our Inclusion Policy, which has specific measures for handling students experiencing SEND through the use of a graduated response. It isn’t just about getting the right academic education, mind, but also: “Successful inclusion should result in every student feeling safe, confident and happy at school. Successful inclusion should see every student making the best progress towards achieving their potential and enjoying their time at school – be that in lessons, during their play or lunchtimes or when involved in any of our school excursions and extra-curricular activities.”
Bilingualism in education has a wide variety of benefits, including cognitive advantages, better grades, and improvements to collaborative skills. By choosing a school that offers strong bilingual programmes with mother tongue-speakers, you maximize these advantages in your children.
With two bilingual streams in English-French and English-German, with Arabic classes as well, SISD has a diverse bilingual education platform that will suit any student. Our classes are taught by native speakers, and we apply the principles of translanguaging to provide support for our learners.
Awards and accreditations are not just lip service – if provided by government bodies, for example, they’re proof that a certain standard has been reached by the school. Having these accreditations ensures that your child’s choice of school strives for excellence, whether in academics or facilities.
Climate change and ecological damage are major concerns that will affect the future of our children. In order to truly create a generation of environmentally-sensitive youth, they must be immersed in a school that walks the talk, so to speak – not only should a school discuss sustainability in the classroom, it must also uphold its values in the campus as well.
SISD has been awarded the DEWA Conservation Award and conforms to the standards of the Swiss Minergie ecolabel, which illustrates our commitment to the values of sustainability. Sustainability is one of our core values, and we teach it as part of every class to our students.
Learning doesn’t end in the classroom, and a good framework of extracurricular or after-school activities can help expand your child’s world of learning. Sports hone the values of teamwork, communication, and perseverance while boosting health. Robotics and programming ASAs can allow children to explore fields of interest that might not be covered in the breadth of the classroom.
It pays to have a large and diverse set of ASAs to choose from so your child will always find a place. SISD, for example, features a wide range of ASAs from sports and language classes, to public speaking and digital design. Every child is sure to find something to look forward to, or discover new interests.
Exceptional facilities allow your children to grow in an enjoyable environment that caters to their needs. It isn’t just about “looking nice” – it’s about providing them with space to grow and learn. For example, open-use Innovation Labs like SISD’s own allow children to explore in their own time and pace after classes, providing them with the latest technology free for them to use.
Many expat parents will want to consider boarding schools for their child’s education. You need to select a school that provides the right care for your child, not just in terms of education and nutrition, but also nurturing their growth.
A pastoral care environment like SISD’s boarding school is a good choice for your child – they are given a second home in our campus, and provided with tailored behavioral agreements that uphold the IB learner profile. We also provide our children with daily healthy meals courtesy of our caterer, Swiss Canonica.
You also should be aware of the boarding options for your child, especially if full-time boarding is not an option. We offer weekly boarding and even flexi-boarding for students that can be paid on an as-needed basis.
Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai provides our students with a world-class International Baccalaureate education, preparing each and every one of our students for the future, not just as workers or students, but as productive members of society. Everything from our top-tier facilities and after-school activities, to our inclusive policy, are all carefully constructed to give our children the best school life, and the best chance of a bright future.
We also weave important values into the fabric of our education, instilling values like digital citizenship and sustainability that will no doubt be critical components of our students’ lives. We have integrated all of these into a school with a pastoral care environment and respect for each others’ differences, ensuring that everyone gets a chance.