By now, you've probably realised that Dubai offers numerous options in terms of education systems and curricula. Being in such a culturally diverse country with a large expatriate population means that the demand for different types of schools is high. It's important for parents to know that every school system carries with it a core philosophy, curricula and teaching/learning approaches.
The downside to having more choice in schools can be that parents often become overwhelmed trying to sort through the details of the different school systems and curriculum in Dubai.
Getting started, parents should first understand that different education systems carry their own particular cultural and social values that get transmitted to students. Even within an international or overseas environment, these values can be very strong, especially when teachers from those specific systems and cultures come abroad to teach.
Parents must carefully consider the type of education system they want to have their child educated in. What are the dominant values of that school and culture? Will the values of that culture align with your child and families' needs? What are the specific traits of that culture or education system that could be passed onto your child? This is worth thinking about.
Often, 'international schools' can meet the needs of an internationally-minded family. When families are not looking to buy into one culture or the other, or they want an educational perspective that mirrors the kind of multicultural setting that their children are in, they should look for a school which has an international philosophy. IB or International Baccalaureate schools aim to do just that-they focus on providing different viewpoints or worldviews for a population of students (and often teachers) who do not fit into a school with one dominant culture or mindset.
These schools are popular for students who are truly international–those who are expatriates or third-culture kids, for example, but parents might also consider international schools if they want to give their child a wider way of looking at the world through their learning experiences.
For some families, an international school might not suit their needs or preferences. Some families like to come to Dubai and actually enjoy fitting their child into a school with a culture they themselves come from or want to be a part of. They might also feel that it is familiar territory. Different families have different needs.
For families that do want a true international school for their child, they should look for schools that support a culturally-diverse mindset and student population. They should examine whether the school differentiates the curriculum to reflect the multicultural setting of the UAE. For instance, does the school teach students to calculate with American dollars , British pounds or does it incorporate the UAE Dirham? Does the school also adapt the curriculum to enable students to learn about the country they live in? Are the holidays and traditions of multiple cultures celebrated, or is it only the dominant culture within the school?
A school which is a true international school will try to offer numerous opportunities for students to connect to the learning content in ways that are meaningful to them outside of the traditional text-books and curriculum and this can add interesting perspectives and considerations to the classroom lessons. Be sure to consider whether a more 'international' learning environment would be appealing to you and think about the kind of school that would suit them best. Also, be aware that there are several authentic international schools that can be found within different types of education systems, not just in IB schools.