School fees in Dubai can really cut into the family budget, with many institutions charging tens of thousands of dirhams per year.
But Dubai is home to 217 private schools, meaning parents have several options to choose from.
Fees at Dubai's top schools can vary widely: for example, Gems World Academy, an IB school, charges Dh114,128 for year 13, but Our Own English High School, which is in the same group, charges only Dh10,465. Both institutions have been rated “very good” by the emirate's private school regulator the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
Parents don't need to make a choice between quality and price, however, as a number of reasonably priced schools have been rated highly by the regulator.
The KHDA has rated 36 institutions as “very good” and eight of these charge less than Dh35,000 per year.
The Indian High School, Delhi Private School Dubai and Gems Our Own English High School, for example — all Indian curriculum schools — charge less than Dh16,000 per year, even for senior classes.
These and other schools were last inspected in person by the KHDA's Dubai School Inspection Bureau in 2019. The inspections were put on hold because of the pandemic but have now resumed. Only a handful of new schools, still to be rated, were inspected in 2022.
The National takes a look at these eight "very good" schools that offer a good quality of education at a reasonable price.
The Indian High School: up to Dh10,465 per year
The school in Oud Metha was founded in 1961 and is one of three campuses that make up the Indian High Group of Schools. More than 15,000 pupil attend the schools.
The Oud Metha branch has about 9,000 pupils but it has expanded to boost its capacity.
It is one of the oldest and largest schools in Dubai and aims to cut waiting lists and enrol more pupils after opening a new three-storey building in May that features dozens of classrooms, laboratories and activity rooms.
The expansion will also enable the school to accept pupils who have been on the waiting list.
The school has also established a well-being centre, where pupils can seek help from counsellors if they have mental health concerns.
Fees start at Dh5,525 per year and go up to Dh10,465.
Delhi Private School Dubai: up to Dh14,416 per year
Delhi Private School Dubai has been rated “very good” for five years in a row and has a pupil population of about 3,800.
Located in Jebel Ali, the school follows India's Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum and focuses on academic excellence, leadership, pastoral care and ensuring children are provided with emotional support.
It has 288 teachers and a turnover of 16 per cent.
The school was one of the first to enact the Rahhal programme, which is the KHDA's personalised learning programme, called the Programme for Outliers Learning and Empowerment.
“Change is always good and one should not ignore new trends,” said Rashmi Nandkeolyar, principal of the school, in 2019 when the institution signed up for the Rahhal initiative.
“Finland has shown that alternative methods of education do work. You can see the shift in education,” she said.
Pupils who are part of the programme can at times be allowed to miss classes due to a tournament or for skills development.
Fees at the school range from Dh10,298 in kindergarten to Dh14,416 in grade 12.
Gems Our Own English High School: up to Dh15,955 per year
The Indian curriculum school in Al Warqa 3 has a pupil population of more than 10,400 and is one of the emirate’s largest schools.
It is also one of the oldest schools in the Emirates, celebrating its golden jubilee in 2018.
The school has pupils from 17 different nationalities. It is coeducational from kindergarten to grade four and is for girls only from grades five to 12.
Staffed by 471 teachers, the school has a 1:22 teacher-pupil ratio and a staff turnover of 15 per cent.
Fees at the school range from Dh7,237 in kindergarten to Dh15,955 in higher grades.
The school has been rated “very good” by the KHDA since the 2015-16 academic year.
MSB Private School: up to Dh22,500 per year
MSB Private School was established in 1985 and now has two campuses for primary and secondary education.
The school in Al Nahda 2 follows the National Curriculum of England from year one to nine and IGCSE in years 10 and 11.
This is one of the least expensive UK curriculum schools in the city, providing a “very good” quality of education.
Fees at the school range from Dh9,606 in the foundation stage to Dh22,500 in year 13.
The school says it focuses on preparing pupils to be analytical, imaginative, action-orientated and caring.
JSS Private School: up to Dh24,384 per year
JSS Private School in Al Safa is an Indian curriculum school that was established in 2011.
The school has more than 2,000 pupils enrolled in grades pre-primary to 12.
Fees at the CBSE curriculum school start at Dh11,228 in pre-primary and go up to Dh24,384 in grade 12.
The school says its aim is to help ensure pupils become confident global citizens with a keen sense of commitment, social awareness and responsibility.
It is a small school but counts itself among one of the most futuristic trendsetters in education.
It offers blended trips, dance, music, drama and group projects.
The Millennium School: up to Dh24,849 per year
The 22-year-old school in Al Qusais has close to 2,800 pupils enrolled from pre-primary to grade 12.
It was established in 2000 with only 40 pupils and 11 teachers.
Today, there are 160 teachers with a turnover of 9 per cent.
Fees at the Indian curriculum school start at Dh16,898 in pre-primary and go up to Dh24,849 in grade 12.
The school focuses on providing personalised and digital-driven learning.
The Winchester school: up to Dh30,835 per year
The UK curriculum school teaches the National Curriculum for England to pupils from foundation stage one to year 13.
The school was established in September 2003 and has close to 3,900 pupils.
The school is ranked “very good” by the KHDA for effective teaching and assessment across all grades.
The curriculum is designed to meet the individual needs of pupils and it has been rated outstanding in this particular category.
Fees at the school start at Dh13,822 in foundation stage one and go up to Dh30,835 in year 13.
Gems New Millennium School: up to Dh31,025 per year
Located on Al Khail road, the school follows the CBSE curriculum but offers pupils in the secondary the option to also study the IGCSE British curriculum.
Pupils can either choose to go down the CBSE route or pick the IGCSE curriculum in years 10 and 11 and the AS and A levels in years 12 and 13.
The school improved its ranking from good to very good in its last DSIB inspection in 2019.
There are pupils from more than 30 different countries. Fees range from Dh21,397 in pre-primary to Dh31,025 in grade 12.