Choosing a Curriculum

British vs. American vs. IB

Knowing which curriculum is right for your child is a key decision that many parents find very overwhelming. Especially when there are over 17 different curricula on offer in Dubai alone! In this blog, we profile 3 of the most popular – British, American and the IB.

choosing a curriculum

The British Curriculum

How is it structured?

The British curriculum is very structured, it is broken down into 6 stages starting with the Foundation years through Key Stage 1-4 and ending with the Post 16 years.  There are a number of statutory areas that are set out for all schools to follow and these tend to be subject orientated with a strong focus on literacy and numeracy and the sciences.

There are regular testing points to make sure children are achieving their potential and GCSE’s and A Levels are widely regarded as the gold standard in external exams.  This means that it is easy to track children through the system and to ensure progress and also that each child is introduced to the essential knowledge they need to be well rounded citizens in an age appropriate way. The external exams are recognised by Universities all over the world and will often bear additional credits as they are deemed to be of such a high academic standard.


What makes it special?

The British curriculum prides itself on teaching pupils to think independently and to develop the ability to critically analyse information, vital transferrable skills in the 21st Century. It allows for differentiated teaching so the brightest children can be stretched and support can be offered for children who need it. At every point in the curriculum from EYFS onwards children are encouraged to gain independence and confidence and develop the ability to make choices and decisions. The British curriculum is globally recognised and very transferrable internationally and domestically because the core requirements are the same.


School Profile – Manor Primary

If you are looking for a small, village feel school in the heart of Dubai, Manor Primary is for you. One immediately feels the community that has been created in this British curriculum school that the principal, Karen Davies, has had a strong hand in. Classes will never be more than 20 pupils per class and the UK trained staff are evidently hands on, as is the senior leadership team.  Extracurricular programs are very important to the vision of Manor Primary to produce well-rounded global citizens. A bonus is that their after school programs can go until 5pm which is very handy for working parents.

The American Curriculum

How is it structured?

The American system is worldwide and was originally established to service American families abroad. This however is not the case anymore and American schools in large cities around the world can see up to 100 nationalities grace their hallways.

Each school aligns itself to a particular state and they follow that curriculum, as well as accreditation from that state or group. That being said, sometimes they follow different overarching curriculum frameworks such as the Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, or the C3 Social Studies Standards. There is also the option of the Advanced Placement program for grade 11 & 12 that can give them university credit should they score high enough. American schools are also accredited by an in-country team to comply with the local educational standards.


What makes it special?

While the American curriculum tends not to be as rigorous as the British curriculum in Maths and English in the early years, students will still have well-rounded subject knowledge appropriate for their stage of development. With the adaptability of the American curriculum to different states and frameworks it can easily incorporate inquiry-based, hands-on learning and a plethora of educational opportunities. Furthermore, American schools tend to have strong extracurricular and sports programs to supplement their world renowned curricula.


School Profile – The American School in Dubai

The American School in Dubai is a non-profit, well-established American curriculum school with as strong of programs as it has reputation. Students at ASD not only perform well in the usual core subjects such as maths, science and English, but also have opportunities to educate the whole child and become individuals through drama, sports and tech opportunities. Of particular note is their makers space in the elementary school where a dedicated educator works to integrate tech into the regular school day. Anything from 3D printing, to coding and robotics, to sewing, this space is incredibly well utilized, stocked, and integrated into everyday learning.

The International Baccalaureate

How is it structured?

A worldwide recognized curriculum, the International Baccalaureate is a program that helps a child become a global citizen. Consisting of 3 programs, the PYP (Primary Years Program), the MYP (Middle Years Program) and the DP (Diploma Program), students and teachers coexist as theoretical equals and develop the curriculum together. Centred on Units of Inquiry based on theme, students do not take subject classes separately, but as part of a multidisciplinary unit.

The IB is centralized in Geneva and each school is accredited by their accreditation team to be a truly IB school, as well as an in-country accreditation team, usually.


What makes it special?

This curriculum is especially good for a family that is on the move often as it translates very well around the world and is recognized internationally. While the PYP has seen great success, the MYP’s reputation isn’t as strong. However, the DP is a very rigorous, academically and research wise, fabulous for studious, disciplined students. The IB diploma is recognized at all major universities around the world.


School Profile – North London Collegiate School

North London Collegiate School in Dubai has an IB curriculum that has close ties to its alma mater in London and its other campuses around the world such as Singapore and South Korea. Through their units of inquiry students approach learning through topics rather than single subjects, while still having firm programs of reading, writing and maths in the primary years. NLCS also has strong extracurricular opportunities such as a swim team, chess and robotics, and orchestral club. A unique feature at NLCS is the offering of Mandarin as a second language beginning in grade 2 (year 3) alongside Arabic, French & Spanish.

For help choosing the right curriculum for your child, speak to one of our expert consultants today.