As little as a decade ago, the schools admission process in the UAE was a fraught time for parents owing to a dearth of schools. Add into the fact that many companies hoarded places by paying hefty retainers and parents were left jumping through hoops for the remaining spots. Fast forward a few years and there’s never been so much choice for mums and dads when it comes to educating their little ones.
A recent report by consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Understanding the GCC Education Sector, Country Profile: UAE Dubai, predicted that that Dubai needs a further 74,500 places in 50 new private schools by 2020, with 62,000 more places in 52 new private schools required in Abu Dhabi. However, the report also pointed out that oversupply could become an issue in the educational sector, since a further 175,000 places are expected to be available by 2020.
The predicted glut of places however, will be music to many parents’ ears, offering them more choice and taking the pressure out of an admissions process that can seem daunting thanks to lengthy online forms to fill out, regulations to adhere to and fees to figure out. And that’s before you factor in things like seeking the best inclusivity and support for children with special needs, working out the ‘transfer window’ if you want your child to switch schools and opting out of mainstream education altogether and choosing to home school your kids. Connector has checked in with the KHDA to keep you up to date with everything you need to know about admissions and more…
The admission process - an overview
Owing to the wide variety of schools all offering different syllabuses, each school has its own set of rules and requirements when it comes to their admissions process. However, in general, the first step is to register online, providing information about parents and child, along with passport, visa and Emirates ID copies, photos and copies of the child’s birth certificate. You’ll also need to provide an up to date vaccination record. If your child needs additional support in their education, you’ll also need to provide documentation pertaining to those requirements.
What age do kids start school?
The KHDA recently issued new regulations regarding the school starting age for children in the UAE, which came into effect for the academic year 2017-18. The regulations state that for schools whose curriculums start in September, kids must be three years old by December 31 to enrol in FS1. For schools whose curriculums run from April to March (Indian, Pakistani and Japanese), children need to be three by July 31. Application limitations? When it comes to choosing the right school for your child in the UAE, there is no limit to the number of schools you can apply for, as long as you follow the application procedure for each individual school. However, applying to many can prove costly, as you’ll need to pay non-refundable registration fees for each, which can range from Dhs 500 - Dhs1,000 each time.
School fees are set by individual schools and regulated by the KHDA which has developed a framework which can be applied to most private schools that have been operating for more than three years. The school’s ability to increase fees is based on their school performance results as assessed by Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) and the Educational Cost Index (ECI) as calculated by the Dubai Statistics Center (DSC). The percentage by which the school can increase fees are as follows: Outstanding, ECI x 2; Very Good, ECI x 1.75; Good, ECI x 1.5; Acceptable, ECI; Weak, ECI; Very Weak, ECI. Flexibility is considered for not-for-profit and embassy schools.
How to transfer from another school
Before you think about transferring your child, remember that you are obliged to give the current school a term’s notice, and to fulfil your fee obligations for that term. For transfer between schools using the same curriculum, there is a degree of flexibility for parents. From FS1 to Year 6 there’s no cut-off date; for Year 7 to 10 the cut-off date is the first week of the second term, and for Year 11 to 13 the cut-off date is 60 days from the beginning of the academic year. When it comes to transferring between schools which carry different curriculums, schools may apply their own stipulations, with most allowing curriculum and school transfer at the start of the academic year up to year 10 in the UK curriculum and up to the equivalent (grade 9) in other international and Asian curricula.
Home schooling in the UAE
Home schooling has gained popularity over the past few years, with parents citing a variety of reasons from the cost of school fees, the stress of the school run and issues with bullying. Emirati families who choose a home schooling option must use the UAE curriculum and education authorities will provide materials and support. However, the Ministry of Education does not have regulations for expatriates. Parents who chose to home school often join organisations with other families, forming their own ‘schools’, which allows parents to teach other kids as well as their own.
Children with special needs
Mainstream educational inclusion is encouraged by the KHDA, meaning that where appropriate, children with special needs are educated alongside their peers. Many schools now offer places to pupils with SEND (Special Educational Needs), providing additional support and specialist staff. Pupils are assessed on a case by case basis. The KHDA’s United Arab Emirates’ School Inspection Network states, “The UAE is determined to become an inclusive, barrier-free, rights-based society that promotes, protects, and ensures the success of all groups of students. The impact of inclusion should be seen through the learning experiences of all children within UAE schools.” Adding, “Developing inclusion will involve students, professionals, parents, carers and the wider community. Provision made by schools for students with special educational needs is now integrated into this framework.”