There are a number of unique educational styles available to international families and expats in Abu Dhabi. Each style has many merits so choosing the right one is often a matter of personal preference.

Why choose an international school in Abu Dhabi?

International schools are a popular choice amongst expats in the country thanks to their promotion of diversity and excellent language programmes which are a must when living abroad, but there are various international schools to be found in Abu Dhabi, all of which offer different teaching styles.

It’s important to understand what these systems can offer your child. Many of the international schools share common traits and have similar goals when it comes to the outcome of your children’s’ education, but the actual approach differs from institution to institution and some will have more appeal than others for different families.

Education style: inquiry-based learning

This goes by a few different names, including problem-based learning and project-based learning. Practised by schools like the American International School and the Canadian International School in Abu Dhabi. The aim of this particular teaching style is to improve on children’s problem solving abilities by applying their learning to a real world context.

Teachers present a question or a problem that needs solving, and the students must use the knowledge and skills that they have developed in order to build meaningful answers. This form of teaching is applied to all school subjects and has been known to yield great results.

Benefits of inquiry-based learning

Children appreciate the opportunity to learn and apply that learning through situations that they can identify with, enabling them to better engage with these challenges in a more practical sense. It’s all about the promotion of understanding.


Evaluation occurs continuously through inquiry-based learning rather than giving an overall assessment at the end of the term, meaning that teachers and students both can assess strengths and weaknesses and be better prepared to improve the final assessment.

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High performance learning

Practised by schools like Nord Anglia Education British International School in Abu Dhabi. It’s a unique approach to learning that combines different types of learning, specifically guided learning by teachers, collaborative study and challenges that occur both inside and outside of the classroom.

High performance learning aims to help students develop into well-rounded and confident people that are capable of independent thinking and problem solving. It’s a successful teaching measure that greatly increases students’ academic successes, improving on their overall grades at GCSE level as well as their chances of entering university.

Teachers are highly involved in the education progress but also act as support figures to the students. The aim of the game is to pass on the skills so that children can learn for themselves, a significant change in the standard student-teacher paradigm that many of use experienced during our own formative years.

Benefits of high performance learning

This approach also promotes cultural understanding and a wider awareness of the world, so it’s not just about making the grades. Teachers working under the system of high performance learning are focused on the development of leadership skills and confidence that can be easily applied in later life, whether it be higher education or the workplace.

International Baccalaureate

The IB is taught at a lot of fine international schools, such as the Raha International School, the teaching style employed for such a curriculum is firmly based around the students and individual focus. The IB takes a very firm stance on the importance of the teacher’s role in a students’ education, believing that teachers should encourage children to ask questions and fully engage with the world around them.

So, in an IB school parents can expect that the teachers will be constantly involved in the development of their child’s education and skill set, ensuring that the children are also playing an active part in their own learning. In fact, the very core of IB’s teaching methods is to make sure that its students are learning how to learn as opposed to what to learn.

Similarity to inquiry-based learning

In general, schools that employ this curriculum take a similar approach to the process of inquiry-based learning, actively encouraging students to be curious and to question things at every opportunity. Studies have found that students that learn in this manner are better able to comprehend the subjects that they’re being taught and can use the skills they develop much more effectively.

Benefits of the IB programme

In effect, this is a teaching style developed to train children up as global citizens, an ideal approach for expat families living abroad that want their children to know their roots without becoming too limited by it.

This website has a list of all the schools offering the IB in the UAE.

Which education style in Abu Dhabi is best for your children?

On the whole, it’s clear that teachers take a very active role in the education of their students at international schools, encouraging students to draw on their own knowledge instead of simply feeding them answers in order to help them pass their exams; the approach is one that demands agency and involvement rather than passably absorbing information that lack real-world applications.

It’s not just about learning, but about growing up into a self-actualised and confident individual that’s ready to take on the world.

These encouraging and interactive methods have been proven to be very successful, and your child will receive a wonderful education under any of them, but of course you must ensure that you select the education style that you feel is the best.

Visit as many international schools as possible and inquire into the curriculum and the teaching methods to get a more complete picture of what to expect for you and your children when you move to Abu Dhabi.