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American curriculum in Dubai: What You Need To Know…

American curriculum in Dubai: What You Need To Know…

Dubai offers a selection of fifteen different curricula at its extensive private school network. American curriculum schools are among those available, but what does an American curriculum truly consist of? How might the American curriculum in Dubai differ from that followed in the United States?

This is an excerpt from a white paper which provides an overview of American curriculum schools and highlights key resources for parents who need to know more about the American curriculum.

In this brief, we will explore the following questions:

What is the American curriculum?
• What is the American curriculum in Dubai?
• What three things should parents know if their student is attending an American curriculum school in Dubai?


What is American curriculum?

In the US, standards, from which curriculum is derived, were interpreted in a variety of ways by the different US states. In June 2009, the US National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), in partnership with a team of nationwide educators announced the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a US educational initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects and Mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative strives to establish consistent education standards across all US states, as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.


What is American curriculum in Dubai?
The overall performance of the 31 American curriculum schools remains largely unchanged since the previous cycle of inspections. One school’s overall performance declined. Over five cycles of school inspections, the proportion of American curriculum schools performing at an unsatisfactory level declined from 20% to 5%. The proportion of Good and Outstanding schools is similar to what it was in 2008-09.

DSIB assessed that the curriculum is of Good or better quality in around 60% of American curriculum schools and of Acceptable quality in the rest.

Students’ attainment in relation to American curriculum standards in five key subjects is broadly acceptable and is largely unchanged in 2012-13.

Attainment is strongest in English and weakest in Arabic. Arabic writing skills remain generally weak and the ability to write independently in English needs improvement. The skill of applying mathematics to real-world problems remains underdeveloped among many students, and there were a noted lack of opportunities for students to perform investigative science.

Teaching in the majority of American curriculum schools continues to be of an acceptable quality overall. Around one-third of the teaching is good or outstanding, and there is less unsatisfactory teaching now than compared to previous years.

The overall leadership remains acceptable in the majority of American curriculum schools, with the proportion of good or better leadership is slightly higher than last year.

Almost all American curriculum schools now comply with the Ministry of Education’s requirements for teaching time to be allocated to Islamic Education and Arabic.

What three things should parents know if their student is attending an American curriculum school in Dubai?
1. Parents should familiarize themselves with the new standards in the core subjects. These standards identify what your student should know, understand, and be able to do at various grade levels.

2. A curriculum is more than textbooks and courses, but also about instruction strategies and assessment approaches. Learn more about Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which represent an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively via collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Instruction and assessment conversations take place in these collaborative meetings. Many American curriculum schools have been implementing this framework for years.

Assessment in American curriculum schools is not exclusively limited to standardized tests. Parents should know exactly where their learner is as an individual and in comparison to other students in his or her grade level.

3. Professional development is essential for school leaders and teachers in curriculum. Schools should have a comprehensive professional development plan for the whole staff. This plan should be aligned to inspection data, accreditation information and other sources of information gathered by the school leadership team.

Your learner’s school should be partnering with US-based organizations to connect with current resources, best practices, and research in American curriculum.

As one can see, there is a great deal more to selecting your student’s American curriculum school than a beautiful campus or hearing word-of-mouth recommendations from neighborhood parents. Parents should foster a deeper sense of understanding what uniquely defines an American curriculum school. These components are manifested in a variety of ways in American curriculum schools throughout Dubai.

Fortunately, resources exist like those highlighted in this paper to help parents make more informed decisions. In addition, KDSL is available to consult with parents, schools, governments, or educational organizations to provide more specialized consultations on American curriculum schools.

Written by KDSL Managing Director Kevin Simpson and KDSL Consultant Abigail Swetz and edited by Kerrin Ann Barrett, PhD. For the full version of this white paper, go here. To learn more about KDSL, go here.



Leave A Reply
  1. Mariam says
    November 25, 2014, 8:48 am

    Few pointers for parents to focus on while looking for schools:

    Facilities and structure are sometimes used to cover up a tremendous lack of quality education and certified teachers. Don’t be fooled by the fancy atmosphere if you are looking for a good quality, hands on, educational experience for your child.

    Look closely at the classes in session. Feel free to ask the administration to tour the campus during school hours. Remember, it’s your right to ask questions about their policies regarding discipline in and outside the classroom. After all, you are trusting them with your most valuable asset (your child).

    While touring the campus, play close attention to discipline in the school. In my opinion the behaviour of students from grade 8-12 is a good criteria to judge the behaviour/discipline practice of students in a school.

    Question the administration about the qualification of teachers in general and try to find out if the school hires teachers without relevant teaching certificates and degrees. It is common practice in the Middle East to have European teachers in many schools. Whether the do posses the relevant qualification and experience is not always questioned.

    Some schools very strictly enforce the international criteria while hiring teachers but that’s not the case with all schools. Unfortunately some extremely commercial schools consider it best to turn a blind eye to appropriate teaching qualification while hiring, as it costs them more to have a qualified faculty. This however, does not keep them from charging hefty fees from the parents of the children joining their schools.

    Try to find out the assessment policy of the school. It is not uncommon for commercial schools to make sure that the ‘customer’ is happy with them. And they don’t hesitate to give a false notion of good academic achievements by their students. Ensuring that a good and reliable assessment policy is in place can save parents from disappointment later on when the child sits an external/international exam.

    Most importantly, remember that happy teachers make happy students. Satisfied and happy teachers are essential for a rich and healthy learning experience for your child. Focus on the teachers and curriculum more than on the glitz and glamour offered at the schools in Dubai.

    • Professor says
      November 25, 2014, 5:34 pm

      Thanks so much for this Mariam. Very useful…


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