Education System of United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is situated in the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordered by Oman, Saudi Arabia, and shares the sea borders with Iran and Qatar. The country was established in the year 1971 and since then it has experienced vast economic development and social transitions.

Education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is free for all the Emiratis from primary and secondary levels through all higher education levels. The Ministry of Education, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), and the various education zones in the other emirates administer the implementation of government reform initiatives and quality standards.

Presently, there is compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 18. After this, students can go for secondary education where they are prepared for higher education. 


The Ministry of Education administers and oversees the adult education programmes, general education, and literacy. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is responsible for higher education. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the special education schools. .

UAE Educational Background

Education in the United Arab Emirates began with the first civilization and that time it was considered a personal experience. Eventually, education was developed from traditional approach to systematic approach based on well studies curriculum and subjects. Education in the UAE had undergone four types of developments. These are:

First Type: Informal Education –Mutawwa 

This type was very common during which the old female and male teachers, known as“mutawwa” managed the teaching system. This type of educational development was informal. The mutawwa taught all the subjects to the children. It was later replaced by an advanced schooling system

Second Type: Scientific Circle Education

The Scientific circle education was used by a few specialist, scientists, and academicians who had a immense knowledge in grammar, religious education, and history. This form of education took place in mosque’s corners or in a private place and was later replaced by the modern education system.

Third Type: Developed Education or Semi Systematic Education

During 1907 to 1953, the third type of education- developed education started. This form of education was majorly influenced by the Arabian reforms. The  pearl merchants, called as "tawaweesh"opened schools in cities, wherein the education was managed by the specialist and intellectuals. In 1907 was set up the first developed school in Sharjah- the Taimia Mahmoudia, and in 1935 was established a reforming school.  The very well-known school Al Ahmadia which was set up in 1912 in Dubai, 1923 in Salmia, 1925 in Alsada, and in the year 1926, it was established in Al Falah. There has been a vast development in the education sector of UAE since 1936. The most prominent one was the foundation of the Knowledge department. In 1953, Al Qassemia Reformation School was established that had a unique curriculum which helped in developing education. Al- Qassemia was the foremost systematic school established in the Sharjah, UAE. 

Fourth Type: Modern Systematic Education 

The fourth type of educational development began with the establishment of Al Qassemia School in the year 1953-1954 in Sharjah, UAE. It marked the first academic year in UAE formal education system. This type of education was developed in 2 phases- the first phased was managed by the local government and knowledge departments that were set up in the 60s; while the second phase started on 2nd December 1971, which was managed by the Federal Ministry of Education and local ministries. They were were responsible for education related matters. Public schools were built as per the modern and present-day norms. Focus was to increase literacy. 

Understanding the UAE Education System

Public education in UAE is free for all citizens up to higher education level. Non-UAE citizens may attend government schools as fee-paying students. 

Pre-School Education- Kindergarten

Pre-school education in UAE lasts for 2 years and accepts children from the age of 4. This level of education is not compulsory.

Compulsory Education

Schooling in UAE is mandatory for the children aged 6 to 18.

Basic Education

The basic education encompasses primary and preparatory education and is mandatory to attend.

Primary Education/ Elementary Education

This lasts for 6 years and covers grades 1 to 5. This level of education focuses on developing fundamental skills and knowledge in the students.
  • Ages: 6 to 12

Preparatory Education

This covers grades 6 to 9 and is imparted by preparatory school. This level of education prepares for general secondary education or technical secondary. 
  • Ages: 12 to 15

General Secondary Education

The general secondary education covers grades 10, 11 and 12. It comprises of a common first year followed by specialization in Science or Arts. At the end of the twelfth year, pupils are required to sit for an examination in order to receive the secondary school leaving certificate (Shahadat Al-Thanawiya Al-Amma).
  • Ages: 15 to 18

Technical Secondary Education

Technical secondary education provides both preparatory and secondary cycles. The preparatory cycle provides an Engineering course for gaining the fundamental skills that lead to the Intermediate Certificate. Technical secondary education consists of 3 major streams:
  • Technical
  • Agricultural
  • Commercial
At the end of the technical- secondary cycle, a Technical Secondary Diploma is awarded.

Higher Education

Higher education in UAE is offered at universities, higher colleges of technology (HCT) and other higher education institutes. The UAE comprises of many higher education institutions, both public and private. 

Adult Education

The adult education has been more emphasized in the country. The state runs special illiteracy eradication programs along with the Women Federation society. 

Special Education - Children With Special Needs

The government of the UAE focuses on supporting the students with special needs. A special department was formed in the Ministry of Education to serve the children with special needs and to empower them with knowledge.  The UAE has signed the optional protocol to the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The ministry constantly focuses on improving the facilities for special needs children and efforts are made to include special needs students in mainstream educational settings. 

Handicapped centres managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are set up for those with hearing and physical disabilities, the visually impaired and others with special needs.
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