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Education in Dubai


One of the UAE's highest priorities has always been education. As His Highness (HH) Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, noted, “ The greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people .” and " The real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones, and the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education."

A rapid rise in population has necessitated a considerable investment in education. Today, the UAE offers a comprehensive education to all male and female students from kindergarten to university, with education for the country's citizens being provided free at all levels. There is also an extensive private education sector, while several thousand students, of both sexes, pursue courses of higher education abroad at government expense.

Much has been achieved since the early 1970s but efforts are now being made to improve the educational environment for all pupils, in line with a re-evaluation of the role of government.

The UAE has focused on educating both men and women. In 1975, the rate of adult literacy was 54% among men and 31% among women. Today, literacy rates for both genders are nearly 90%.

New initiatives are being launched at all educational levels. A key area of focus has been to transform K-12 programs, to ensure that UAE students are fully prepared to attend universities around the world and compete in the global marketplace. In addition, some of the world's best universities are creating programs in the UAE, attracting talented students in the Arab world and globally.

Education in the UAE can be analyzed from four angles:

1. K-12 Education

The education system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is relatively new. In 1952, there were few formal schools in the country. In the 1960s and 1970s, a school building program expanded the education system. Now, education at the primary and secondary level is universal. In 2006-2007, approximately 650,000 students were enrolled at 1,256 public and private schools.About 60% of all students attend public schools.

The public schools are government-funded and the curriculum is created to match the UAE development's goals and values. The medium of instruction in the public school is Arabic and English as a Second Language is emphasized. There are also many private schools which are internationally accredited. Public schools in the country are free for citizens of the UAE, while the fees for private schools vary.

Education reform focuses on better preparation, greater accountability, higher standards and improved professionalism. In addition, rote instruction is being replaced with more interactive forms of learning, and English-language education is being integrated into other subjects, such as math and science. The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the Dubai Education Council (DEC) and the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) are each tasked with education reform, while preserving local traditions, principles and the cultural identity of the UAE.

Education at primary and secondary levels is universal and compulsory up to the ninth grade. This takes place in a four-tier process over 14 years:

  1. 4 to 5 year-olds attend kindergarten
  2. 6 to 11 year-olds attend primary schools
  3. the preparatory stage caters for children aged between 12 and 14 and
  4. 15 to 17 year-olds attend secondary schools.

About 40% of pupils attend private schools. Some of these offer foreign language education geared towards expatriate communities, usually preserving the culture and following the curricula of the students' countries of origin.

2. Higher Education

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to a wide range of universities, both public and private.The UAE has established an excellent and diversified system of higher education in a very short period of time. The Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR) established the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) to conduct a program of licensure of institutions of higher education and accreditation of each of their academic programs.

The mission of CAA is to promote educational excellence across diverse institutions of higher learning in the UAE. Through licensure of colleges and universities, and accreditation of individual programs, the Commission strives to assure high quality education, consistent with international standards. The ten standards of excellence and the criteria that all institutions must meet for licensure and program accreditation provide measures of quality and also reflect a consensus within the international higher education community about the essential characteristics of institutions that achieve a level of excellence and continuously improve. As a result, students, graduates, their families, and the UAE public can be confident that licensed institutions and accredited programs will provide the high quality of higher education that they expect and deserve.

To find out more about licensed institutions of higher education in the UAE, please refer to the Commission for Academic Accreditation.

UAE higher education institutions can be divided into three categories: Public, private, and Global Partnerships.

3. Technical Education

Founded in 1997, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) is the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and provides education, training and applied technology. The company is the largest private education provider in the Middle East and is developing projects throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Other vocational and technical educational centers include:

The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) was established in 1983 to disseminate knowledge in the banking field and contribute towards the development of human resources in the banking and finance sector by providing standardized professional training and educational programs. Two of the three diploma programs offered by the institute are in collaboration with prestigious educational institutions overseas.

ADNOC Technical Institute (ATI), formerly Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) Career Development Center (CDC), was established in 1978. ATI offers training programs that meet the needs of ADNOC and its Group Companies for skilled national manpower and to identify young UAE Nationals with a potential for upward mobility. To date more than 2,700 students have completed the graduation requirements from ATI in Process Operations, Mechanics, Electricity and Instrumentation Technology and are all employed at various levels in ADNOC Group Companies.

Petroleum Institute (PI), which was created in 2001, with the goal of establishing itself as a world-class institution in engineering education and research in areas of significance to the oil and gas and the broader energy industries. PI provides academic programs leading to BS degrees in various engineering fields and provides continuing education opportunities to professionals in the oil and gas industry.

Dubai School of Government (DSG), which was established in 2005, is a research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world. DSG aims to promote good governance through enhancing the region's capacity for effective public policy.

Emirates Aviation College - Aerospace and Academic Studies — was established in 1991 by the Department of Civil Aviation, initially to provide aviation-related training to private students and corporate organizations.

4.Special Education

The government of the UAE recognizes the need to support students with special needs. In November 2006, the UAE signed the optional Protocol to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Federal Law 29/2006 guarantees rights for people with special needs. Vocational and rehabilitation centers have been developed throughout the country. In addition, efforts are made to include special needs students in mainstream educational settings.The UAE also participates in the Special Olympics.

The UAE Federal Government passed the UAE Disability Act to protect the rights of people with disabilities and special needs. This law requires that UAE nationals with special needs have the same rights to work and occupy public positions, have special facilities at airport and hotels, have access to public vehicles and parking, have equitable access and facilities into all new property development projects, etc.

In the education side, the UAE Disability Act requires:

  • Public and private schools must provide equal access to all children.
  • No school in the UAE can refuse the admission of a child with special needs (SN).
  • Teachers and therapists working with SN students must have a university degree recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research(MOHESR), and a teaching permit issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
  • Schools must not hold back or fail students with special needs. Schools must receive the approval of the MOE to charge extra fees to parents for any special education services after.
  • The Ministry of Education (MOE) strategy is to adapt public schools to facilitate special needs education. The MOE has already converted 10 schools, and plans to improve more than 100 schools by 2013.
  • The Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR) requires that all instruments, machines and equipment expenses needed by its sponsored-students with special needs pertaining to their educational shall be borne by the Ministry according to their health status as per certified original documents from the health authorities and authenticated by the Cultural Counselor in Washington, DC.

Today, there are many schools proving education for students with special needs. They are non-governmental and at the same time there are special needs schools for the local population receiving government assistance. The list below includes some special needs schools sorted by Emirate:

Abu Dhabi

  • Al Noor Speech, Hearing and Development Centre
  • Future Centre
  • Riding for the Physically / Mentally Impaired

In addition, a partnership between the government of Abu Dhabi and the New England Center for Children, a Massachusetts school serving children with autism, established a comprehensive education program as well as trains UAE nationals to provide services in Arabic.


  • Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs
  • Dubai Autism Center
  • Dubai Centre for Special Needs
  • Dubai Community Health Centre
  • Dubai Early Child Development Centre
  • St. Andrews International School (British Institute for learning Development)
  • Riding for the Physically Challenged
  • Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre
  • The Art of Family Consultations Center


  • ABA Center for Special Needs

Ra's Al-Khaimah

  • ABA Center for Special Needs

Written by Strategic Technology Solutions