The United Arab Emirates is home to one of the biggest international private school markets in the world.
A global business hub, the country’s population is 80 percent foreign nationals by some estimates—creating a unique demand for foreign schools and curricula from the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
Within this market, there is a growing need for U.S. standards-based curricula and learning models tailored to address specific gaps in national performance, said speakers at an event today at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, addressing opportunities for education companies in Dubai.
About a quarter of all private schools in the UAE use a U.S. educational model, compared to about half that use a British model. (For more on the country’s private school market, see Sean Cavanagh’s in-depth look at the UAE’s education landscape.)
Among parents—whether UAE nationals or expatriates—there is a demand for a high-quality American education that will be a “stepping stone” to U.S. colleges and universities, said Vincent Ferrandino, a former senior education advisor to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
“There is tremendous room for growth and improvement for American education, American pedagogy” in Dubai, said Ferrandino.
Schools looking to teach an American curriculum in Dubai must choose one set of U.S. state standards with which to align, said Mark Stapleton, the director of external relations for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The organization partnered with Dubai’s private school regulatory body, the Knowledge and Human Development Agency, to develop an accreditation protocol for U.S. schools in Dubai.
Providers who can say that their curriculum is compliant with certain states’ standards and aligned to Common Core may have an advantage in the market, Stapleton said.
Also in high demand: American educational programs that “think deeply about engaging with Emirati society,” said Gunther Brandt, a consultant for Esol Education, an international K-12 education company specializing in the Middle East, and a former headmaster at one of the company’s Dubai schools.
U.S. curriculum and education providers in the country have a responsibility to “make a deep commitment to a very strong Arabic language and culture program,” he said.
Publicly available data, like the Knowledge and Human Development Agency’s private school inspection reports, can also help American companies understand where they could fill a market need, said Kalthoom Al Balooshi, the agency’s executive director of education development.