Education in the UAE – A Tree begins with a Seed (Arabic proverb)

While the United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971, the earliest records of education systems can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century. Before the advent of the Modern Educational System, the Ministry of Education surmises that there were three iterations in educational development, including the Mutawa and the Katateeb, Educational Circles and Semi-Organized Education.

Sheikh Saqr Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, since his accession in 1951 as the Ruler of Sharjah, was a pioneer in encouraging modern education in the Trucial States and spent a good proportion of his revenues on its expansion. He encouraged the development of the state school Al Qasimiyah, which was opened in 1953 with the British providing a new building and adopting the Kuwaiti curriculum. The following year, the first school for girls started in Sharjah, called Fatima A’zahra’a.

A Five-year Development Plan was conceived, and covered a wide field including water development, agriculture, education, public health, police services, and public works. The success of the plan made it possible to go ahead with an accelerated program, which included a Trade School at Sharjah, an Agricultural School at Ras al Khaimah, the provision of teacher training for Trucial States students at Bahrain and the construction of four elementary schools. In 1959, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region, set up Al Nahyaniah primary school in Al Ain. In 1959, Qatar Education Department started providing teachers and constructed schools in Dubai and Sharjah.

After Abu Dhabi began to generate large oil revenues in the 1960s, it developed and funded its own educational system.

On December 2, 1971, the UAE celebrated not only the formation of its Government but a new schooling system. One of the first government bodies set up was the Ministry of Education and Youth, which was headed by the then Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi. The second phase of modern systematic education focused on building public schools, with the primary focus to increase literacy.

More recently, one of the biggest educational developments the nation has undergone is the experimental New School Model in Abu Dhabi. This revolutionary curriculum was inaugurated in 2008, with two teachers in each class - one English and one Arabic - for a bilingual learning model.

It has now become the most advanced Arab country in international education, as evidenced by the results of a study on Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that shows UAE’s superiority in science, mathematics and languages.


Author: UAE National Library and Archives

Pre - Union (1950s and 1960s)
Establishment of Schools in the Trucial States – First Phase of Modern Education


Post - Union
Second Phase of Modern Systematic Education in the UAE