The American curriculum
An holistic approach to learning, the American curriculum doesn’t lock children into a system that they will need to follow up to Grade 10 or 11. Students are encouraged to study a broad range of subjects up to university level, and the curriculum is less geared towards in-depth study. Importance is given to the personal development of each child, so that subjects that have not been mastered can be repeated. However, there is no standardized core curriculum monitoring, as there is with the English National Curriculum, as various US states follow their own programmes. It’s flexible, and if your child struggles with certain subjects, there is the opportunity to revisit them. There are no ‘sudden death’ exams as the curriculum is focused on constant assessment throughout the year instead. However, there are no set standards which means quality of education can vary, even among the few American curriculum schools in UAE.
The British curriculum
Students are encouraged to think for themselves, form opinions, relate to others and gain experience in taking responsibility for their actions. The English National Curriculum is divided into a number of year blocks, which are called ‘key stages’, as well as the Early Years Foundation Stage, which covers pre-schoolers. The term ‘British School’ does not necessarily mean the school is following the English National Curriculum. GCSE, IGCSE and A- Level qualifications are internationally recognised and respected, and are accepted at the vast majority of universities worldwide because the British curriculum is a strictly regulated education system. However, some parents might consider it too inflexible. Some reports suggest that overall marking standards have fallen in recent years, too, while A-Levels might also be considered too restrictive, allowing a maximum of three to four subjects of study only.
The International Baccalaureate (IB)
This programme runs from FS1 (three years old) right through to sixth form. The Primary Years Program (PYP), for students up to Grade 6, offers an integrated curriculum enabling children to learn through guided exploration and structured inquiry. Children take an active approach to learning, taking part in team projects that require them to use a number of skills from an early age, including things like public speaking and putting together presentations. Students complete tasks which are initially marked by teachers and then moderated by external moderators. The standards are generally high and the IB system offers an holistic approach to education. It focuses on developing personal skills students will require for life after school, rather than just academic achievement. However, students must prove they can keep up with the workload. Many find it tough going, especially in the later years.
The French curriculum
The French curriculum follows the programme of study established by the French Ministry of National Education and is officially recognised by the French government. At Kindergarten level (ages two to six) the French école maternelle is more than just a playschool; the curriculum includes reading and writing, numeracy and sometimes a foreign language, as well as creative activities. Primary school consists of five classes, ages six to 11. The primary school curriculum in France includes literacy and numeracy, with classes in French, arithmetic, and also geography and history, the arts and English. The College (for students aged 11-15) programme includes French, maths, history, geography, technical education, art/music, physical education, civic education, some science. This is an excellent option for students of French origin who are looking to continue their education in France. But schools are limited if you wish to remain in the UAE.
The Australian curriculum
The Australian Curriculum is based on the assumption that every student can learn and the needs of every student are important. It enables high expectations to be set for each student as teachers account for the levels of learning of individual students. The approach aims to develop students’ key skills so that they become successful and qualified individuals once they enter their professional life. Assessment is carried out on a project by project basis. There is a lesser emphasis on specific content and a greater emphasis on process, particularly higher order thinking and inquiry. The Australian curriculum is also broader and provides students with a wider range of academic options. The standards are high, the learning is holistic with a strong academic element and the qualifications gained through Australian schools are internationally recognised and accepted at most universities. However, choice of schools is currently limited in the UAE.
The Indian curricula (CBSE and ICSE)
There are two choices of Indian curricula in Dubai: the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). Both have their pros and cons.
The CBSE is considered more scientific in its approach to education, with each syllabus divided into segments so that they can be comprehensively taught throughout the year, and so students can balance their studies.
The ICSE is considered to be very tough academically, with a lot of facts that need to be committed to memory to succeed. For both systems, the academic standard is incredibly high, with the emphasis on core subjects such as maths, languages and science. However, the traditional Indian system is sometimes criticized for its reliance on exam-based grading and rote-learning, rather than problem solving.