Education as a national priority
The UAE's Ministry of Education (MOE) developed Education 2020 strategy, which is a series of ambitious five-year plans designed to bring significant qualitative improvement in the education system, especially in the way teachers teach and students learn. Smart learning programmes, new teachers' codes, licensing and evaluations systems, as well as curriculum revision, including teaching math and science in English, are all part of the strategy. A key area of focus has been to transform K-12 programmes, to ensure that students are fully prepared to attend universities around the world and compete in the global marketplace.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme was launched aiming to shape a new learning environment and culture in government schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
The government promoted technology in schools to foster future employment and 21st century among today's youth, in line with its strategy to introduce computers and tablets in all schools.
The Government of the UAE strongly supports education and learning services for students with special needs. The Federal Law No. 29 of 2006, is the first law in the UAE to protect the rights of people with special needs.
Raising the standard of education
Ministry of Education’s strategy for 2017-2021
Ministry of Education launched a strategic plan for 2017-2021 to develop an innovative education system for building a knowledgeable and globally competitive society. The system will include all age groups to be able to meet future labour market demand. It shall ensure quality of the output of Ministry of Education and provide best services for internal and external customers.
The new plan is based on the following values:
- citizenship and responsibility
- the principles and values of Islam
- commitment and transparency
- equality and justice
- participation and accountability
- science, technology and innovation.
Read more on MoE’s strategy for 2017-2021.
Benchmarking the performance levels of the education system
Since 2008, the UAE has participated in many international tests to examine and benchmark the performance levels of its education system. These tests include PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study). The UAE received top ranks in the Arab world in line with the National Agenda which calls for the country to rank among the top 20 in PISA by 2021.
In 2017, Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced the national-level Emirates Standardized Test (EmSAT) test to measure pupils’ knowledge of Arabic, English, Maths and Science. EmSAT includes three types of tests:
- Baseline test: This tests measures skills and knowledge of students required for Grade 1
- Advantage test: This test tracks the development of students in Grades 4, 6, 8 and 10 during their general education
- Achieve test: This test measures the knowledge and skills of students in Grade 12 as they finish their general education and move on to higher education. This test is vital for college admission and placement.
EmSAT replaces Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) which all state school pupils in Grade 12 were required to take as a prerequisite to entering public universities or colleges in the UAE or receiving government scholarships to study abroad.
Reforming the teaching system
The UAE has a new system for teachers licensing which is called ‘Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards (TELS UAE) and Licensing Programme’.
The professional licensing scheme for teachers was introduced in 2017 and expected to be fully implemented by 2021, in line with the requirements of the UAE National Agenda.
The system will standardise qualifications for Emirati and expatriate teachers in private and public schools.
Teachers will have to pass a national examination and show a portfolio of evidence.
The system is co-developed by National Qualifications Authority (NQA), Ministry of Education, the Department of Education and Knowledge, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Institute of Applied Technology.
Read more on qualifications to be a teacher in the UAE.
The UAE’s regional support to education
The UAE hosts the Regional Center for Educational Planning (RCEP)-UNESCO which is the technical arm of the UAE’s Ministry of Education that is responsible for building individual capacities, developing human resources and disseminating knowledge in the areas of planning and policies to fulfil national priorities in line with the international best practices.
The RCEP’s governing board has adopted a strategic plan in which education in 2030 is a strategic objective with stand-alone resources. In 2016, RCEP committed to developing an educational road map for the region, by allying with national and regional organisations that foster inclusive education across the broadest spectrum of incomes and ages in the Arab world.
Inline of its 2015-2021 plan, Ministry of Education( MoE) made a major overhaul in the school education curriculum after considering the various aspects that enrich the thought and mind of students. The goal behind this overhaul is to prepare the students for the future, so that they become equipped with different skills, while instilling noble values, strengthening national identity and stimulating innovation, creativity and critical thinking in them.
Introducing two tracks for education
To prepare students for the knowledge-economy, the UAE abolished the section system based on the scientific and literary streams and replaced it with the two-track system: general education and advanced education. This step is aimed at equipping the students with skills needed to succeed in higher education and meet the needs of the job market. It also facilitates high school graduates to enrol directly in universities without having to go through a foundation year, which will be eliminated by 2018.
The new structure will prepare the students to gain direct enrollment in engineering, medical and natural sciences programmes in the UAE’s universities and overseas.
Assessing schools quality
To ensure quality education and support schools’ improvement and students’ outcomes, Ministry of Education carries on regular school inspections. Read more on the UAE’s school inspection framework (PDF).
Education in the federal budget
The UAE sets a huge part of its budget to develop the education sector. In the year 2018, the education sector received AED 10.4 billion from the federal budget.
Enrolment in UAE schools and universities
The UAE's education sector is one of the fastest growing in the region. There are about 1.03 million students enrolled in both public and private schools as of the academic year 2016-17.
The total number of students in schools and universities in the UAE is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent annually until 2020.
Adult literacy percentage
The Illiteracy rates for both genders in the UAE are less than 1 per cent. This was achieved due to government efforts to eradicate illiteracy and make education accessible. Some of these are:
Law on compulsory education
The UAE Government issued the Federal Law No. 11 of 1972 concerning Compulsory Education. The law obligates the parent or the legal guardian to send their children to school.
New law in July 2012
Aiming to bring the compulsory school-leaving age more in line with many other advanced countries across the world, the UAE Cabinet approved a new law in July 2012. This law makes it compulsory for Emirati children to start schooling at the age of 6 and remain in school until they have completed Grade 12 or reach the age of 18, whichever occurs first.
The law also obligates guardians of children to follow up their children's commitment and continuity in education in line with the academic calendar set by Ministry of Education.
Continuation of the obligatory education stage
According to Article 14 of the Ministerial Decree No. 820 of 2014 on registration terms for students (Arabic), the student's parent must write a personal undertaking to the school, acknowledging the rules of the Obligatory Education Law and any other resolutions issued in this regard. Further, the parent undertakes to send his children to school during this 'Obligatory Education Stage'.
National Literacy Strategy
Following the announcement of 2016 as the Year of Reading, the Cabinet issued directives to prepare an integrated National Literacy Strategy and a framework to produce a reading generation and establish the UAE as the capital of cultural and knowledge content.
Home-schooling system applies to students who are not included in the admission categories in the adult education centres or students who are included in the admission categories in the adult education centres, but are unable to attend the classes.
Parallel to general and technical education, Ministry of Education offers adult education to those who would like to have another opportunity for education or to develop extra-occupational studies.
Adult education in Abu Dhabi is provided through the adult education centres of Family Development Foundation (FDF). In addition, Abu Dhabi provides home-schooling in 77 locations across the emirate.
Continuing Education Center
The United Arab Emirates University established the Continuing Education Center in 1998 to meet the needs of institutions, individuals and different sectors of the community for growth through developing skills, acquiring knowledge and exploring potential. The centre provides training courses, workshops, seminars and specialized conferences through specific units related to various managerial, administrative, scientific, technical, linguistics and social fields.
Average years of schooling
According to 2012 statistics, the average years of schooling in the UAE reached 8.9 years, growing by 5.3 years since 1980.
Key achievements towards 'Quality education'
- Dedicating nearly 20 per cent of the government's major spending for developing education system
- Providing free education to UAE citizens in public schools all the way until higher education
- Operating public and private education school system offering over 16 curricula to serve different nationalities living in the UAE
- Having a wide range of highly accredited universities, both public and private
- Having special facilities for adults learning, continuing education
- Dropping the illiteracy rate in the UAE to less than 1 per cent
- Signing an agreement with software company Microsoft to follow best practices in education to support smart education programmes
- Signing the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol.
Read more about services and information under education.
Read more about the sustainable development goal 'Quality education'.
Updated on 16 May 2019