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The UAE K-12 Education System

The education system through secondary level is overseen by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The K-12 education system of the UAE comprises of primary schools, middle or preparatory schools and secondary schools. There are many public and private schools in UAE. The public schools in the UAE are free for the UAE nationals and the language of instruction in the public school is Arabic and English. The private schools charge fees that vary. Education at primary and secondary levels is common and mandatory. 

UAE K-12 Education System: Detailed

Pre-school Education- Kindergarten

The pre-school education in UAE is not compulsory and may include daycare and creche facilities.
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Ages: 4-5

Basic Education

The basic education includes two cycles-
  • Primary education
  • Preparatory education
Both the cycles of basic education are compulsory to attend. 

Primary Education

The Primary education focuses on basic literacy and numeracy skills, and covers basic education in mathematics, sciences, Arabic language, and English language.
  • Duration: 6 years
  • Ages: 6 to 12 
  • Grades: 1 to 5
Curriculum: Arabic, English, Islamic education, science, physical education, mathematics, social studies, arts and music.

Preparatory Education

The preparatory education prepares students for either general or technical secondary education. 
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Ages: 12 to 15 
  • Grades: 6 to 9

General Secondary Education

In the first year of general secondary education, pupils follow a common curriculum. In the second and third year, they get to specialize in arts or science. 
Students upon successful completion of the general secondary education receive the Certificate of General Secondary Education (CGSE), also known as Shahadat Al-Thanawiya Al- Amma. 
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Ages: 15 to 18 
  • Credential: Secondary School Leaving Certificate
Curriculum: 

Year I: Arabic, English, Islamic education, mathematics, history, physical education, geography, biology, computer science, physics, geology, chemistry, , and family education (for girls).

Years II-III: These two years include basic subjects, such as Arabic, mathematics, Islamic education, physical education, English language and family education (for girls). Also, students are required to select from science or literary streams, and have to study the following additional subjects-
  • In literary stream: sociology, history, economics and geography
  • In science stream: geology, physics, biology and chemistry
Year III: The two streams subjects taught in the second year of secondary education are expanded. Literary stream include psychology, philosophical subjects, and logic, rather than economics and sociology. 

Technical Secondary Education

Technical secondary education encompasses 3 streams:
  •  Technical
  • Agricultural 
  • Commercial
 The technical education is split up into two stages:

Stage 1: Includes technical preparatory education

Stage 2: Includes technical, commercial, and agricultural secondary education. All requires 3 years of study. 

The technical secondary education focuses on a particular area of study and prepares pupils for the employment in that area. The language of instruction for specialized subjects is English, but all other subjects are taught in Arabic.
  • Duration: 6
  • Ages: 12 to 18 
  • Credential: Technical Secondary Diploma

Upon completion of the general and technical secondary levels, pupils are awarded a certificate after passing the general examination that is conducted at the end of each academic year. This certificate enables the pupils to go for higher studies at university level. 

School Academic Year

The school day in the UAE generally begins between 7:00am and 8:00am and concludes between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm, with a standard lunch break. The Kindergarten and primary pupils have a shorter day. The school year is split up into three terms:
  • Autumn Term: Starts in September and ends in December
  • Spring Term: Commences in January and concludes in end of March
  • Summer Term: Starts in April and ends in June
The school calendar in the UAE has about 172 working days for students. The holiday periods change from year to year, while the general public holidays are common to all schools. 
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