UAE Leads Private School Market

Reports show that the number of students in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) international schools increased by a fifth over the past six years, and the UAE led the way with the most significant number of students.

Additionally, the report reveals that the UAE has 725 international schools with 696,600 pupils, and 333 of these schools are in Dubai – a record for any city globally.

The Mena region now has 2,264 international schools, a 20 percent increase from 2015 when there were 1,885 international schools.

This review was done by ISC Research ahead of the Gess Dubai education trade show from November 14 to 16, organized by the Dubai World Trade Centre with the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) oversees the education system through the secondary level. The school system consists of primary, middle, and high schools. Through its reform activities, the MOE aims to establish standards-based, student-centered education.

One of the efforts is a partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals in the United States. Among the activities are:

  • Performing audits of all public schools in the United Arab Emirates
  • Evaluating the system up to the Ministry level
  • Providing ongoing professional development to educators and principals

Education agreements like this one are vital to the continued success of the UAE’s education system, and it also emphasizes its commitment to international standards of excellence.

To ensure the quality of programs implemented in schools, the Ministry of Education continually develops its educational strategy, introducing the latest IT resources. The goal is to provide computers to ten kindergarten pupils, five elementary school students, and two students in preparatory schools. 

While the pandemic has presented challenges, the private school market in the region has shown resilience.

China ranks second behind the UAE in terms of enrolment at international schools, with 419,000 students, followed by India, with 316,000 students.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar are among the other countries with a fair number of international schools in the Mena region; Saudi Arabia has 292 (319,600) students, Egypt has 279 (119,800), and Qatar has 207 (181,900).

However, the report indicates that international school growth may be slowing in the Mena region since, between 2015 and 2018, the number of international schools expanded by 14.7% to 2,162. A modest 4.7 percent increase followed over the next three years, to the current number of 2,264.

In the Mena region, the number of students enrolled in international schools increased by 1.83 million by 2021, increasing 19.5%. It is reported that teaching staff increased by 21% from 126,000 to 153,000, up from 126,000 in 2015.

In the same period, average tuition fees rose from $7,000 (Dh25,711) to $7,700 (Dh28,282), an increase of 11 percent. Also, the number of students has jumped drastically, resulting in a dramatic rise in total fee income, from $9.85 billion (Dh36.18 billion) to $13.48 billion (Dh49.51 billion).

The Journey to Becoming a World Leader in the Private School Market

UAE’s government has prioritized developing a knowledge-based economy outside of hydrocarbons over the past few years. The state has benefited from its petrol dollars by increasing educational attainment and establishing a relatively high-quality education system, pretty much from scratch.

The inaugural president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, viewed education as crucial economic modernization. The best use of wealth is to invest it in building generations of well-educated and skilled people. Additionally, he emphasized that their education level measures people’s prosperity and success.

While the UAE has not been around for long, it has made considerable strides in the education sector. Midway through the 20th century, there were few formal schools outside of urban areas. Midway through the 1970s, adult literacy rates were 54% and 31%, respectively, for men and women. A staggering 95% of students from both genders attend school today, and there are many schools.

Public schools, private schools, and higher education are all available in the UAE. Even though quality varies considerably throughout the Emirates, there is some solid schooling available at every level. A global ranking of schoolchildren in 2015 ranked UAE students as 45th in the world, top among Gulf countries.

In the UAE, public schools are free for Emiratis and cost a fee for expats. Although English is also taught, Arabic is the primary language of instruction. Enrolling a child requires parents to contact the regional Education Council. After that, submitting accompanying documents such as a residence permit, passport, rent contract, and transcript will be required.

In the UAE, education is supervised by several different authorities. Admissions standards, graduation rules, and curriculum are determined at the federal level by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Each Emirate has its own regulatory body, especially in the larger emirates, such as the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) in Abu Dhabi or the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai.

Thus, it can result in significant differences in educational standards between emirates. ADEK and KHDA oversee private schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but not the Ministry of Education.

Though private schools adhere to the guidelines set by the Ministry of Education, they are not governed directly by them.

The Outlook for the Private School Market in the UAE

The UAE’s private education market has the highest concentration and is the most mature among the GCC nations, but it has room to grow.

As a consequence of factors such as an increase in expatriate populations, rising enrollments, improved quality, and a shift from public to private schools, the private education market in UAE is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5%.

In the United Arab Emirates, most international and native students are enrolled in private schools. It is expected that this trend will continue in the near future as there are more than 16 curricula provided by private schools, compared to public schools, providing better education results.  

Last Words

The UAE, since its inception, has been determined to be the best in everything they do. From business to hospitality, health, infrastructure, and especially education.

The UAE has invested heavily in education. This continued focus on the youth is meant to make the nation a leader in MENA and one of the world’s most important economic and cultural centers.


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