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Best schools in Abu Dhabi, UAE

A snapshot: schools in Abu Dhabi considered (but not necessarily chosen) by English-speaking expats.

Schools selected for full GSGI review are noted with  next to their names.

 (pending) means that the school is on our list to review.

By full GSGI review, we mean school write-ups that are completely selected, researched, visited and written by our own editors. Our final reviews take the good with the bad, warts and all, but we look for a preponderance of good before we drill down for in-depth details and descend on the school for an exhaustive visit. We are aware of the other schools on this page and we continually add or remove schools, as deemed appropriate.


Schools in Abu Dhabi pending review by The GSGI.

American International School (AISA) (pending)

PYP/ American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed (elementary), gender segregated (secondary); day; independent; privately owned; 1,750 students

One of the group of nine international schools, owned by ESOL Education. Founded in 1995, originally aimed at Americans and other expats but now the whole school has a more mixed student demographic. Dually accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

British School Al Khubairat (BSAK)  (pending)

EYFS/ adapted National Curriculum for England/ GCSE/ A Level; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,900 students

Originally opened as a primary school in 1968, it has expanded, in age terms, both upwards and downwards since then. Offering an all-through British education from nursery to graduation. Posting exceptional exam results for a non-selective school, with students gaining places at leading global universities. In 2017, the first school in Abu Dhabi to be awarded the full accreditation of the British Council's International School Award (ISA).

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi  (pending)

EYFS/ adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level/ EPQ; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 1,200 students

A partnership between Cranleigh School in the UK and the master developer; Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) UAE. Opened in 2014, on Saadiyat Island, now being joined there by other schools. British students account for 27 per cent, followed by Emiratis (18%) and Americans (13%). Great buildings, small classes and impressive results from the first small cohort to have taken A-Level exams.

Repton School (RSAD)  (pending

Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 1,300 students

A British partnership school, opened in 2013 on Al Reem Island, on two campuses. There will be capacity for up to 2,300 students with Rose Campus being an Early Years to Year 2 school and the larger Fry Campus running from year 3 to year 13. The school's stated aim is to become the 'premier technology school in the UAE', so watch this space. Around 20 per cent of the students are Emiratis, with UK, US, Indian and Canadian citizens being the other largest groups amongst the 60 or so nationalities attending the school.

These schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.

Abu Dhabi International School (AIS)

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP/ IGCSE/ A Level/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 4,000 (2,600 in MBZ City) students

Founded in 1992, teaching an American curriculum, from Kindergarten to Grade 9, on two campuses (the second opened in 2016). The original Abu Dhabi City campus offers the IGCSE curriculum and the newer site teaches American and International Baccalaureate Diploma programmes. Nearly 80 per cent of the students are international, coming from around 70 nationalities, and five per cent of the places are reserved for special needs students with learning difficulties.

American Community School (ACS)

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,200 students

Plans to build a new Saadiyat Island campus to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the school's foundation in 1972. Instruction is in English with Arabic, French and Spanish taught as foreign languages. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), with around 60 per cent of students holding US passports.

Amity International School

Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE; ages 3-16; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,200 students

Despite being part of an Indian organisation, the school follows an adapted British curriculum. Opened in 2015, with the first cohort starting IGCSEs in 2019. Emirati students are the largest group (around 30 per cent), UK passport holders (17 per cent) and a small number (4 per cent) of US citizens. In 2019, a new head (formerly Vice-Principal) took over the helm from the Founding Principal.

Belvedere British School

Adapted National Curriculum for England/ GCSE/ A Level; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 815 students

Linked to a prep school in Liverpool in the UK, the Abu Dhabi version opened in 2012. They provide a British education and a traditional approach, including wearing uniform. The school has expanded upwards and is still bottom heavy with a much larger number of primary students and a very small sixth form cohort.

Brighton College Abu Dhabi

Adapted National Curriculum for England/ GCSE/ A Level; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; privately owned; 1,800 students

Owned in partnership by Brighton College International Schools and Bloom Holdings (part of National Holding of Abu Dhabi). Opened in 2011 on a brand-new campus and divided into a Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior School. Now an HMC (Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference) School. Recent graduates continued their education at UK universities, including Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol.

British International School

Adapted EYFS/ adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 1,800 students

Founded in 2009 and now owned by the Nord Anglia Education group, currently running around 70 international schools worldwide. The majority of students are British or Emirati with a smaller Indian contingent and the remainder from other nationalities (a slightly higher ratio of boys to girls). Also offering collaborative programmes, devised by MIT and Juilliard School in New York.

Canadian International School

Alberta State Curriculum/ Alberta High School Diploma; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 900 students

Teaching a rigorous Canadian curriculum to English-speaking students from all over the world, since 2007. The largest contingent is Canadian (over 20 per cent), followed by Emirati, Canadian and British (roughly 5 per cent). There is a strong Parent Council which coordinates social events.

Gems American Academy (GAA)

PYP/ adapted American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ IB Diploma; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 2,050 students

On a brand-new campus in Khalifa City A since 2011, the only US curriculum school in Abu Dhabi operated by Dubai-based GEMS education. Students mainly hold Emirati, American, Korean or Canadian passports with the majority of teachers either American, Canadian or British. Average International Baccalaureate Diploma average results are just under the UAE figure but above the global one of 30. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

Gems Cambridge International School

Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level/ BTEC; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 3,500 students

Founded in 2013, this is another relatively youthful Abu Dhabi school and is still 'bottom heavy' with a high proportion (around 2,000 students) in the Primary School. Emiratis account for 30 per cent of the student body, followed by Pakistanis, Egyptians and Indians so there is a smaller percentage of native English speakers than in some of its competitors.

Gems World Academy

PYP; ages 4-11; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 550 students

A small elementary school, by Abu Dhabi standards, but more international in terms of the number of different nationalities than other schools run by GEMS education Abu Dhabi who took over this school in 2011. Graduates have automatic entry to GEMS American Academy to continue their education. A higher proportion of SEN and ELL staff than in some other schools.

Lycée Francais Louis Massignon

French curriculum/ Brevet/ French Bac; ages 3-18; co-ed; independent; private non-profit; 1,750 students

Founded in 1972 and on its present site since 1982, authorised by the French Embassy in the UAE and inspected by Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge (ADEK). Also, part of the French school network, Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), now with over 500 global schools in nearly 140 countries. Classes (almost entirely in French) for students from over 40 nationalities.

Lycée Francais Théodore Monod

French curriculum/ Brevet/ French Bac; ages 2-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,100 students

The younger of the two lycées in Abu Dhabi, opened in 2003 and operated by the Association Franco-Libanaise pour l'Éducation et la Culture (AFLEC). Approaching one third of the students are French nationals, with a small number of Emiratis and the remainder (over 60 per cent) from a wide range of nationalities. The school accepts students right up from the 'Toute Petite Section' (under three) to high school level.

Raha International School (RIS)

PYP/ MYP/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 2,000 students

Founded in 2006 and the first school in Abu Dhabi authorised to offer the International Baccalaureate programme (taught in English). Approximately 15 per cent of the students are Emiratis, with the remainder from over 80 different nationalities. Now with an architecturally, exciting second campus in Khalifa City. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

For more information on the schools above please go to each school's individual entry on The Good Schools Guide International search.

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