Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Education as a national priority

Education is one of the UAE Government’s top priorities in its endeavour to develop its human capital and a diversified knowledge-based economy.


The UAE’s Ministry of Education (MOE) developed Education 2020 strategy, which is a series of ambitious five-year plans designed to bring significant qualitative improvement in the education system, especially in the way teachers teach and students learn. Smart learning programmes, new teachers' codes, licensing and evaluations systems, as well as curriculum revision, including teaching math and science through English, are all part of the strategy. A key area of focus has been to transform K-12 programmes, to ensure that students are fully prepared to attend universities around the world and compete in the global marketplace.


The Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme was launched aiming to shape a new learning environment and culture in government schools in Dubai and the northern emirates.


The government promoted technology in schools to foster future employment and 21st century among today’s youth, in line with its strategy to introduce computers and tablets in all schools.


The Government of the UAE strongly supports education and learning services for students with special needs. The Federal Law No. 29 of 2006, is the first law in the UAE to protect the rights of people with special needs.


Education in the Federal budget

The focus on education in the UAE is underpinned by the fact that in October 2016, the UAE Cabinet approved a federal budget of AED 48.7 billion for the year 2017. The education sector received the maximum allocation of 20.5 per cent, which amounts to AED 10.2 billion.


Enrolment in UAE schools and universities

The UAE’s education sector is one of the fastest growing in the region. There are about 1.03 million students enrolled in both public and private schools as of the academic year 2016-17.


The total number of students in schools and universities in the UAE is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent annually until 2020.


Adult literacy percentage

The Illiteracy rates for both genders in the UAE are less than 1 per cent. This was achieved due to government efforts to eradicate illiteracy and make education accessible. Some of these are:


Law on compulsory education

The UAE Government issued the Federal Law No. 11 of 1972 concerning Compulsory Education. The law obligates the parent or the legal guardian to send their children to school.


New law in July 2012

Aiming to bring the compulsory school-leaving age more in line with many other advanced countries across the world, the UAE Cabinet approved a new law in July 2012. This law makes it compulsory for Emirati children to start schooling at the age of 6 and remain in school until they have completed Grade 12 or reach the age of 18, whichever occurs first.


The law also obligates guardians of children to follow up their children’s commitment and continuity in education in line with the academic calendar set by Ministry of Education.


Continuation of the obligatory education stage

According to Article 14 of the Ministerial Decree No. 820 of 2014 on registration terms for students, the student’s parent must write a personal undertaking to the school, acknowledging the rules of the Obligatory Education Law and any other resolutions issued in this regard. Further, the parent undertakes to send his children to school during this 'Obligatory Education Stage'.


National Literacy Strategy

Following the announcement of 2016 as the Year of Reading, the Cabinet issued directives to prepare an integrated National Literacy Strategy and a framework to produce a reading generation and establish the UAE as the capital of cultural and knowledge content.


Home schooling

Home-schooling system applies to students who are not included in the admission categories in the adult education centres or students who are included in the admission categories in the adult education centres, but are unable to attend the classes.


Abu Dhabi Education council website provides information and services related to home education.


Adult education

Parallel to general and technical education, Ministry of Education offers adult education to those who would like to have another opportunity for education or to develop extra-occupational studies.


Adult education in Abu Dhabi is provided through the adult education centres of Family Development Foundation (FDF). In addition, Abu Dhabi provides home-schooling in 77 locations across the emirate.


Continuing Education Center

The United Arab Emirates University established the Continuing Education Center in 1998 to meet the needs of institutions, individuals and different sectors of the community for growth through developing skills, acquiring knowledge and exploring potential. The centre provides training courses, workshops, seminars and specialized conferences through specific units related to various managerial, administrative, scientific, technical, linguistics and social fields.


Expected years of schooling

As per the UAE’s laws, children must complete 12 years of schooling, where they start at the age of 6, and remain in school until they have completed Grade 12 or reach the age of 18.


Average years of schooling

According to 2012 statistics, the average years of schooling in the UAE reached 8.9 years, growing by 5.3 years since 1980.


Key achievements towards ‘Quality education’

  • Dedicating nearly 20 per cent of the government’s major spending for developing education system
  • Providing free education to UAE citizens in public schools all the way until higher education
  • Operating public and private education school system offering over 16 curricula to serve different nationalities living in the UAE
  • Having a wide range of highly accredited universities, both public and private
  • Having special facilities for adults learning, continuing education 
  • Dropping the illiteracy rate in the UAE to less than 1 per cent
  • Signing an agreement with software company Microsoft to follow best practices in education to support smart education programmes
  • Signing the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol.


Read more about the sustainable development goal ‘Quality education’.

Achievement Progress


Proportion of children at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in mathematics


Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age) (2015)


Gender parity index for achievement in mathematics by the end of lower secondary (2012)