Abu Dhabi, UAE

Shaikha Alzaabi
Abu Dhabi Education Council

Overview of Education System

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is undergoing a significant transformation, as it quickly becomes a major global economic player. Abu Dhabi’s national vision is to produce a society that is confident in its growing role as a global economic center, and the key to turning this vision into a reality lies at the heart of quality education. As such, educational reform has become a top priority of Abu Dhabi’s leaders.1

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) is responsible for all educational decisions in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi including managing, guiding, adopting, and implementing various educational development strategies and initiatives. The ADEC operates 257 public schools in three regions within the Abu Dhabi Emirate—Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the West Region. It also regulates 188 private schools offering Kindergarten (KG) to Grade 12.2

There are 127,770 students in public schools and 223,803 students in private schools in Abu Dhabi.3 Public schools have a student population comprising 77 percent Emirati nationals and 23 percent expatriates.4 Private schools have a student population comprising approximately 76 percent expatriates and 24 percent Emirati nationals.5 Several private schools offer international curricula, including the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement courses, and the General Certificate of Secondary Education, as well as Asian programs.

The public schools operate in a centralized system with centrally developed policies, curricula, and common year-end assessments. Performance standards are established by the ADEC. All public schools follow the Abu Dhabi School Model, an initiative that was first introduced in 2010 for students in KG1, KG2, and Grades 1 to 3. The model was introduced in additional grades in subsequent years.

Languages of Instruction

One of the ADEC’s primary goals in implementing the Abu Dhabi School Model is to foster bi-literate learners with academic proficiency in Arabic and English. ADEC schools are staffed with Arabic-medium teachers (AMTs) and English-medium teachers (EMTs), who deliver instruction in Arabic and English, respectively, as outlined below:6

  • Kindergarten—Students in Kindergarten (KG1 and KG2) are taught by AMT and EMT classroom teachers in both Arabic and English.
  • Cycle 1 (Grades 1 to 5)—The language of instruction differs by subject. Arabic is the language of instruction for Arabic Language, Islamic Education, Social Studies/Civics, Art, Music, and Health & Physical Education. EMTs provide instruction in English Language, Mathematics, and Science.
  • Cycles 2 and 3 (Grades 6 to 12)—The language of instruction again differs by subject. Arabic is the language of instruction for Arabic Language, Islamic Education, Integrated Social Studies, Art, Music, and Health and Physical Education. English is the language of instruction for English Language, Mathematics, and Science.

In private schools, the language of instruction, English or Arabic, depends on the type of curriculum.