What is Dubai like?

The UAE is safe & secure

The UAE is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and don’t be surprised if you end up feeling like it’s safer than your own hometown. In the cities, petty crimes such as tourist scams, pickpocketing, or bag slashing are extremely rare and almost never heard of. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the kind of cities where if you forget your wallet, bag, or purse in a café or taxi, there’s a high chance you’ll have it returned to you.

There is a good amount of security during festivals, concerts, and outdoor events, and crowds are usually organized. Getting around Dubai at all hours of the day and night is safe, even after the hours of operation of public transportation such as metro or buses.

English is widely spoken

English is widely spoken around the country, even in government offices. You’ll find that street and shop signs, public transportation schedules and maps, and billboards around the cities are all in English, so you’ll have no trouble finding your way around.

Diverse expat community

Of a total headcount of 9.2 million Dubai inhabitants, only 1.4 million are indigenous Emiratis. Regardless of numbers, however, Dubai is a country well-used to catering to overseas students. Wherever you are from, there will be an established community to support you.

Dubai is a fun city

You will never get bored while living in Dubai as there are more activities, events, services and facilities than you could get around to enjoy in one lifetime. There is always something new to try, taste, see, encounter or experience in Dubai. Weekends are the most fun part of living in Dubai. When you live there, you get a number of places to visit to spend your weekends.

Why study in Dubai?

Benefit from excellent educational facilities  

There are a range of study abroad opportunities, from large public universities to smaller private colleges, and everything in between. Many of these will be accredited both by the UAE’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), and by an accrediting agency in another country. For example, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is accredited jointly by MOHESR and by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the US. Not only that, but AUS’s individual programs are accredited to the “gold-standard” within the US system (i.e. AACSB, ABET, and NAAB). This means that students can continue on with their major studies in confidence at a high quality university, while experiencing all of the benefits and adventure that study abroad in the UAE has to offer.

Meet great people

Arabs are known for their sincere hospitality, strong sense of tradition, and great sense of humor. They welcome people from all over the world, and are anxious to share their culture and values. Expect to spend long hours discussing home and learning about your host’s while feeling like one of the family.

Try any activity

Water sports, parachuting, trekking, dune bashing, belly-dancing, eating, shopping, dancing, bargaining at traditional souks, studying, camel riding, exploring, travelling, observing, learning. The list really never ends. About the only thing you can’t experience in the UAE is boredom.

The education system

The UAE’s educational system is split into three general categories:

  • Public schools
  • Private schools
  • Higher education institutions

State schools generally have four levels:

  • Early Childhood Education (ages 3–5)
  • Basic level (ages 6–10)
  • Intermediate level (ages 11-13)
  • Secondary level (ages 14–18)

International schools in the UAE

Private international schools are plentiful throughout the UAE, but especially so in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. They follow various international school systems including the US and UK models, but also French, German, Indian, Irish, and Canadian systems. School admission requirements vary among schools and slots in more popular schools can be hard to come by.

Language of instruction and the academic calendar

The language of instruction at Emirati public schools is Arabic in most subjects, although the numerous private schools and universities in the Emirates also teach in English and other languages. In higher education, English is the main language of instruction.

The academic year in the UAE runs from September to June at public schools and HEIs alike. Since 2010, the school year has been divided into three semesters comprising 180 days of instruction in total. There is a three-week break in December and a two-week break in March. Schools are closed for most of July and August. As in several other Muslim countries, Friday and Saturday are weekly days off, while Sunday is a regular day for school and work.

In contrast to public schools, private international schools usually follow a two-semester system (also running from September to June), while some private schools in Dubai have an altogether different semester schedule that runs from April to March. Universities typically have full-length spring and fall semesters and a shorter summer semester in-between. Most international providers accommodate the local system, but some may have different semester schedules.

Technical Upper-Secondary Education

Study at technical secondary schools typically begins after grade nine for three additional years of upper-secondary schooling (grades 10 to 12). Technical schools offer programs that are more geared toward employment, and usually involve study in vocational specialization subjects in addition to core academic subjects like mathematics, science, Arabic, and English. Some schools require students to pass an entrance examination to be admitted.

Vocational specializations offered at technical secondary schools include a variety of business-related majors (accounting and finance, human resources management, etc.), as well as engineering, computer technology, tourism, foreign languages, health sciences, aviation management, and others. Upon passing the final graduation examination at the end of grade 12, students are awarded the Secondary Technical School Certificate, a credential that qualifies students for tertiary education. At some institutions, such as technical secondary schools that Abu Dhabi’s ACTVET oversees, students may also concurrently earn a recognized Australian vocational trade certificate. These programs are currently in high demand.

General Upper-Secondary Education

Students in the advanced track receive more in-depth instruction in mathematics and science, to better prepare them for university study in disciplines like engineering, medicine, and the natural sciences. Upper-secondary education lasts three years (grades 10 to 12), during which students typically receive six hours of instruction each school day. Subjects include Arabic, English, Islamic education, mathematics, social sciences, information technology, health sciences, physical education, and the arts and science subjects (which differ between the two tracks). Although the language of instruction is Arabic, mathematics and science are taught in English under the Emirati School Model curriculum currently being phased in.

At the end of the program, all students in public schools and private schools that follow the national curriculum sit for a nationwide external examination. Graduates are awarded the General Secondary Education Certificate (known in Arabic as Tawjihiyya or Thanawiyya Al-A’ama).

University admissions

EmSAT is a series of standardized computer-based tests that replaces the Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (CEPA), the test previously used to determine eligibility for college admission. EmSAT is also administered in lower grades to measure overall student and school performance. In grade 12, students must take the EmSAT in mathematics, physics, English, and Arabic, with students in the advanced track also required to take the test in chemistry.

Since English is the main language of instruction, they also require minimum scores in English proficiency tests like the TOEFL or IELTS. Beyond that, some institutions may impose additional entrance examinations.

Holders of foreign high school qualifications like a U.S. high school diploma, the British IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), or the International Baccalaureate (IB) are eligible for admission at public Emirati institutions, but they may have to submit SAT or ACT scores and fulfill additional requirements at individual institutions.

The degree structure

The UAE recently created a national qualifications framework (QFEmirates) in order to benchmark qualifications, define learning outcomes, ease the transfer between academic programs, and facilitate the international recognition of Emirati credentials. (For more information, see KHDA, NQA and CAA). The framework includes 10 levels of qualifications as illustrated below.

Academic Qualifications:

  • Level 4: Secondary School Certificate
  • Level 5: Associate Degree
  • Level 6: Higher Diploma
  • Level 7: Bachelor
  • Level 8: Graduate/Postgraduate Diploma
  • Level 9: Master
  • Level 10: Doctorate

VET Qualifications:

  • Level 1: Certificate 1
  • Level 2: Certificate 2
  • Level 3: Certificate 3
  • Level 4: Certificate 4
  • Level 5: Diploma
  • Level 6: Advanced Diploma
  • Level 7: Applied Bachelor
  • Level 8: Applied Graduate Diploma
  • Level 9: Applied Master

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