Dubai is one of the prime expatriate locations in the United Arab Emirates. It attracts a lot of movement in and out of the country, and the non-Emirati population vastly outnumbers the local resident population.
Its continuing economic growth and vast business opportunities attract more British expatriates every year, moving with their families to explore and uncover a different way of life.
Any international relocation comes with a lot of planning, research and information-gathering, even more so when there are children involved in the move. Education and childcare are at the top of the to do list when moving, particularly for those with children in important school years, and need reliable and high-quality continuity in their schooling.
In this guide, we look at some of the advantages and drawbacks of moving to Dubai with children.
Dubai, as with much of the UAE, has a reputation that is widely reported in the British media as being restrictive and controlled. However, the expatriate experience is quite different. While it is a Muslim region and it follows Sharia Law, Dubai is far more diverse and inclusive than you may expect.
For children, it offers a wonderful opportunity to grow up in a country that is a real cultural mixing pot. It’s also well-located for international travel, and many expatriate children will have the chance to explore some of the greatest holiday destinations during their breaks from school.
It can be difficult for children to get used to a new country, as it involves a lot of change. Younger children of pre-school age can find the transition a little easier, as they are less likely to have fixed friendships and can adapt to a change in routine quickly. Older children may find the move disconcerting and find it harder to leave behind a life that they are already accustomed to. However, they are also old enough to be more engaged in the moving process, which can help with the adjustment process.
Children who take part in sporting activities in the UK will not be disappointed upon moving to Dubai. There are plenty of private sports clubs for everything from cricket to football, rugby to horse riding. Indoor sports are popular in the exceptionally hot summer months, and swimming and diving are both popular pastimes. There are junior leagues and sports meets for those who like competition, and joining a team is a good way to make new friends with similar interests.
There are plenty of family entertainment venues and attractions in Dubai, which expatriates can take advantage of. Popular options include the famed ice rink in Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and the Aquaventure Park. These are particularly busy in the long summer months, when the outside temperature can be uncomfortably high.
The number one priority for expatiates moving to Dubai with children is finding the right school. International schools are in very high demand with such a high foreign population in the region, so waiting lists can be long, especially for primary education.
One advantage is that there are many prestigious establishments opening all the time in Dubai to cater to the demand. When researching schools, it can be worth looking at newer ones that have just opened or are due to open soon, as the waiting lists for these may be shorter than the more established schools. While it can be a risk to invest in a new school, most have other international locations that can be a good indicator of their calibre.
International schools in Dubai attract a good-quality of teaching staff, often expatriates themselves coming from independent schools around the globe. School fees may be included or partially included as part of your employment contract, which can be an advantage as they are relatively high. The Which School Advisor has a complete list of fees for 2017/2018 on its website, which is also a useful resource for finding schools that follow the British curriculum.
When selecting a school, there is a lot to take into consideration. Academic performance and the core subjects taught are important, but other factors include the quality of the facilities, the available extracurricular activities and the subject options available over and above the standard. It can be an advantage for children who will be living in Dubai long-term to take lessons in Arabic.
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