Private Schools in Abu Dhabi Vs Public Schools: What do parents prefer and why?

GIIS communications team
Jan 16, 2023
Admission Tips

In the 1960s there were very few formal schools in the UAE. But today the gulf country is proud to host some of the best schools in the Middle East that provide unsurpassed education. In Abu Dhabi the education system is given a lot of importance because it is a vital aspect that increases the economic and business sector of the city.

In Abu Dhabi, most Emirati parents prefer to send their children to private schools because they believe that private schools in Abu Dhabi not only provide better education but also a higher social status in the community. As per the survey, from 2003 to 2010 there was 75% increase in Emirati children attending private schools. At the same time there was a 15% decline in public schools.

The expat parents in Abu Dhabi can choose between Public as well as Private schools. However, they need to compulsorily pay the school fees because free schooling is only provided for Emirati nationals. Yet, majority of the expats prefer to send their children to private schools.

Public Vs Private Schools in Abu Dhabi

Private schools in Abu Dhabi have a large variety of features that set them apart from their government-operated counterparts. For example, private institutions usually have smaller class sizes and offer one-on-one tutoring services, which allow students to progress at their individual pace. Public schools in comparison typically have larger classes and less individual attention from teachers.

Private schools also tend to have higher academic success rates than public ones – with 95% of graduates obtaining a degree compared to 90% at public schools. Another difference between a public and a private school is in the funding. A public school is funded by taxpayers and has to have an open enrollment policy. This means that any student can attend the school for free if they meet certain criteria. In Abu Dhabi, only the citizens of the city can attend the public schools for free. Private schools are not funded by taxpayers, so they don't need to have open enrollment policies. They also have more flexibility in terms of what students they can accept as well as how much tuition fee they charge.

In all public schools students are segregated based on their gender. Boys and girls are taught separately throughout their school education. Every activity is conducted separately for both genders including recess time. But in private schools all classes have both genders.

Also the medium of teaching in such schools is Arabic. English is there but it’s considered a second language. Private schools in Abu Dhabi teach in English, but they must offer Arabic as a second language for non-Arabic-speakers.

Difference in Curriculum

You can find up to 14 different curricula in the private school sector of Abu Dhabi. Most Schools provide either two or more curricula. Considering the vast majority of the expat population in Abu Dhabi, most Private International Schools have adopted curriculum from different countries. Parents who want to have their kids educated in the school system of their home country can opt either between a country specific curriculum or an international curriculum. For instance, let’s take the curriculum from India. In India there are several curriculums and school education boards. But in Abu Dhabi, for most Indian private schools you will find only CBSE Curriculum or KSEB Curriculum.

Besides Indian Curriculum, British, German, French, and American Curriculum are also quite popular. However International Baccalaureate (IB) is a preferred option for most expat parents.  With a plethora of curriculums, every school has their own teaching style. Some schools focus more on traditional rote methodology and others follow a less rigid and practical based learning.

For all public institutions, the Ministry of education has designed a national curriculum that emphasizes UAE values and culture. The MOE curriculum is imparted in Arabic and is recognized by all universities in UAE.

Comparison Between Costs of Education

Private schools usually charge higher tuition fees because they have to be able to pay for their facilities and the salaries of their teachers. Tuition fees at private schools in Abu Dhabi range from AED 2700 to AED 107,200 per year. Public schools are generally more affordable than private schools. For Emirati children public schooling is free. But if expats want to send their children to government run schools then they can expect to pay around AED 6000 per year. This is also why public schools have a larger diversity of students - it's their way of giving access to those that would otherwise not be able to afford an expensive education. In turn, this leads to lessening the educational quality of public institutions because the students that attend them are not as academically proficient as those who attend private schools.

Why Do Parents Opt for Private Schools Over Public Schools?

Despite higher tuition fees, Emiratis as well as expats admit their children to private international schools. The reasoning behind this is that besides higher quality education and learning, private schools help in building stronger skill sets and make it easier for students to enter top universities in Emirates or Abroad. Additionally, parents want their children to mingle with students from all nationalities to broaden their cultural understanding, and that can occur only in a multicultural environment that is predominantly offered by private schools. And lastly, lack of use of English in Public schools is a big hindrance for parents because they want their children to be confident communicators and speak fluently in English. And this can only be achieved at private schools. 

GIIS communications team

Related Topics

More from same author

Enquire Now

Featured Blogs

Top Scholarships

GIIS Super Star Scholarship


95.01% or 8A* and Above in Board examinations

Learn More

9GEMS Holistic Development Scholarship


Talent Based - 9 GEMS

Learn More

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Global Skills Scholarship


Talent Based - Technology

Learn More

Zayed Gandhi Means Cum Merit Scholarship



Learn More

Global Citizen Scholarship


96.5% and Above

Learn More

Global FUTURE-READY Merit Scholarship


91.0% and Above

Learn More
Enquire NowBOOK A TOUR