Choosing a school for your child can be a daunting task. They are being enrolled not just to a specific curriculum but also to a community, so it is important to pick wisely.
Twenty Dubai private schools were rated outstanding in 2023 after the latest round of school inspections by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
The KHDA, inspected 199 private schools to assess them in various categories, eventually rating them from 'outstanding' to 'weak'.
This year there were 25 schools that improved their performance from the previous inspection in 2019.
“This year’s results show that thousands more students have access to better quality teaching and learning, a sign of the dedication and expertise of teachers and school leaders," said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA.
“We are grateful to the whole education community for supporting our schools to be among the best in the world.”
KHDA said that more than three quarters (77 per cent) of pupils in Dubai attend private schools rated good or better, compared to 70 per cent during the last full inspection cycle in the 2018/19 academic year.
“We’re pleased to see that schools in Dubai have continued their improvement journey,” said Fatma Belrehif, chief executive of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.
"We will continue working with the school community and parents to ensure that all students benefit from the high standard of education offered by Dubai’s private schools.”
Growth in numbers
Inspections represent an important snapshot of life in education, said the principal at one of Dubai’s most popular schools.
“Staff, students, parents and governors demonstrated to the inspection team during their visit that the academic, social and moral outcomes for all continues to shine in our day to day work at the school,” said Fiona Cottam, principal of Hartland International School.
“The main challenge faced for this inspection was the exponential growth in the school since inspectors last visited.
“We have over doubled in student cohort size since 2020, with nearly 70 per cent of staff never having gone through inspection before.
“This meant that, in many ways, we were genuinely a very different school and therefore maintaining the high standards that we did, whilst still driving improvements post-pandemic, has been a very rewarding, if unusual, journey.”
The Nad Al Sheba school, which maintained its overall rating of Very Good, had 1,440 pupils enrolled in its classes, aged from three up to 18, in 2023.
The principal of one school ranked as outstanding said there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed as pupils returned to classrooms in the wake of the pandemic.
“Post-Covid, there were a few things that needed to be mended – for example, the social and emotional upheavals that we saw in the children, and their reluctance to do extended writing,” said Nargish Khambatta, principal, Gems Modern Academy and senior vice president education for Gems.
“We prioritised socio-emotional studying by getting our school counsellors trained in restorative practices and used ‘circle time’ very effectively.”
She also spoke about the challenges that lie ahead to maintain the school’s high rating in the report.
“The goalposts keep changing for teachers and, being the committed professionals that they are, they always go the extra mile for the children in their care,” she said.
“The challenge of helping teachers focus on their own wellbeing is always on our minds and we put just as much conscious effort into promoting the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of our teachers as we do of our students.”
Another school that celebrated being ranked outstanding was Dubai College.
"I am delighted that the efforts, outcomes and support of the parents, students and staff at Dubai College have been recognised as outstanding once again,” said headmaster Michael Lambert.
“We missed the KHDA during Covid so it was great to have the inspectors back in school lending a critical eye to proceedings and sharing their expertise and insights.
“There is nothing inevitable about the culture of self-improvement which they have created.”
The KHDA announced that some private schools were allowed to increase tuition fees by up to six per cent in the 2023-2024 academic year, citing operational costs and the economic situation as factors in the decision.
The regulator said only schools that maintain or improve inspection ratings would be allowed to increase fees.
- Schools that maintain their inspection ratings will be eligible to raise tuition fees by up to three per cent
- Schools that improve their rating from “weak” to “acceptable” and from “acceptable” to “good” can increase fees by up to six per cent
- Schools that move from “good” to “very good” can increase fees by 5.25 per cent
- Schools that improve from “very good” to “outstanding” can apply a 4.5 per cent rise.
Enrolment at Dubai private schools has increased by 4.5 per cent since the last academic year, the KHDA said.
However, not all schools will be taking advantage of the allowed fee increase.
The Indian High Group of Schools announced that it would not be increasing its fees for the next academic year, despite having government permission to raise them by up to 3 per cent.
In a letter to parents, Punit Vasu, Indian High Group of Schools' chief executive, announced that despite increasing operational costs and inflation rates, the group had decided to freeze tuition fees for the next academic year.
He emphasised the group's commitment to affordable education.
“We strongly believe it is imperative to support all our stakeholders in ensuring they have continual access to world-class learning without having to face the added pressure of an increase in tuition fees,” Mr Vasu said.
The Indian High Group of Schools, which has three campuses in the emirate, is a non-profit group licensed by the Community Development Authority — Government of Dubai.