United Arab Emirates Liaison

Saeeda Al-Marzooqi, Zayed University

History of Education in the United Arab Emirates

The education system in the UAE has gone through four main stages. First, education in the nation was informal. By relying on the Holy Quran and the Profit's Hadeeth (sayings), teachers, called "mutawwa" and "mutawaa," used to teach basic skills to neighborhood children. Scientific Circle Education was the second stage of education in the UAE. It was practiced by scientists, scholars, and intellectuals who had knowledge of religious education, history, math, and grammar. The teacher and students used to form "circle lessons," which were held in mosques, the teacher's house, or another house in town.

Next, Developed (or Semi Systematic) Education was the main form of education in the UAE from 1907 to 1953. Area pearl merchants helped to open schools in cities, bringing in teachers and verifying quality in education. One of the popular "developed schools" in Dubai was Al Ahmadia, which was established in 1912. This education system became popular with the foundation of the Department of Knowledge. For economic and political reasons, this type of education only lasted until the early 1950s.

The final type of education, which is the modern Systematic Education, was first introduced in one of the Emirates before the federation. It was an education system with proper curriculum, testing standards, and certification of the students at the end of each academic year. In 1971, it was announced that Systematic Education would be the official school system in the newly federated union of the seven Emirates. At that point, the ministry of education was established, government schools were built, and teachers were brought from various Arab countries.

Free and compulsory schooling in the UAE

Since the creation of the federal union of the UAE, local citizens have had the right to education and self-development. The rulers who helped found the country emphasized the importance of education for the development of the nation. According to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first ruler of the UAE, "The youth are the real wealth of the nation." Per the UAE constitution, all UAE nationals would be guaranteed access to a free education at all levels, including higher education. Primary education is compulsory for UAE nationals.

Recent News

At the end of 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Prime Minister of the UAE, held a ministerial retreat on initiatives to enhance the education sector. First, he launched an initiative on Twitter asking the people of the UAE to send suggestions on how to improve the nation's education system. After reviewing 65,000 suggestions, a ministerial retreat was held in the capital. A number of initiatives were adopted by the UAE Cabinet during the retreat. Those initiatives include:

  • A career progression program for teachers that aims to guarantee career advancement, enhance competition, and increase job satisfaction in teachers
  • The launch of a project to evaluate schools and their academic performance in order to enhance competitiveness and catalyze development
  • The launch of a program to attract high-performing university graduates to the education sector in an effort to channel new talent and fresh thinking into the education sector
  • The launch of a comprehensive training program for teachers to enhance their skillset with modern teaching methods—the training program also features courses that address the subjects of innovation, creativity, music, art, and sports
  • The introduction of study courses to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship
  • The development an integrated platform for school curricula in the form of video lessons designed to minimize dependency on private tutoring
  • The adoption of a comprehensive system to identify and develop talents.

UAE Vision 2021: First-rate education

In February 2010, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, launched "UAE Vision 2021," an ambitious national effort to be one of the best countries in the world by 2021, the year of the celebration of the golden jubilee of the union of emirates. Vision 2021 sets goals for the highest quality of health and educational systems development across the country while maintaining environmental protections that ensure the happiness and well-being of future generations.

For more information:


Al-Harbi, Muhammed. (1988). The development of education in the United Arab Emirates. UAE: Dar Al-Thaqafa Alarabia
The Evolution of Education in UAE. (n.d). Retrieved 1 March 2014 from https://www.moe.gov.ae/English/Pages/UAE/UaeEduH.aspx