1.15 million students back to school in the UAE

by Staff Reporter
Published: Updated:
UAE back to school

As the new year kicks off, schools across the UAE welcome a staggering 1.15 million male and female students for the start of the second semester of the current academic year 2023-2024.

Back to school in UAE for second semester

Public and private institutions are expressing full readiness to receive students, along with teaching, administrative, and technical staff on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

The second semester, spanning 12 weeks with 59 school days, follows the approved school calendar.


In the lead-up to the semester, January 8 to 12 has been earmarked for the analysis and issuance of results for the first semester, setting the stage for the upcoming educational period.

Key dates during the second semester include a trial test scheduled from March 4 to 8, with students tackling exams for Group B subjects during this time. The culmination of the semester will see end-of-term exams taking place between March 13 and 22.

Spring break for UAE schools

Spring break is on the horizon, with teaching and administrative staff enjoying a break from April 1 to April 12. Students will have their break from March 25 to April 12, resuming classes on April 15 for the commencement of the third semester.

The academic year is expected to conclude with the last day of school on June 14 for students, who will then kick off their summer vacation on July 1. Teaching and administrative staff will start their summer break on July 15, 2024.

School bus schedules

Schools have initiated communication channels with parents through social networking sites, sharing instructions and guidelines for a smooth return to classrooms. Weekly plans and bus schedules have also been rolled out, showcasing the comprehensive efforts of schools to ensure a successful and fruitful start to the second semester.

Amidst these preparations, schools reiterate their commitment to providing a high-quality education and a safe, stimulating environment for students. The first day of the second semester is poised to be a pivotal and promising beginning for everyone involved.

What teachers, students and parents say

Akram Tarik, Principal/CEO, GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar

“Welcome back to Term Two! As we embark on this new term and a new year together, we eagerly anticipate a term filled with inspiring learning experiences, growth, and success. This term promises to be one where our children’s potential can continue to shine.

At GFM, we are committed to wellbeing and success, and we’ve planned several new initiatives to support this. Expect more from #TheGFMWay, The GFM HPA projects, and even better support systems designed to nurture academic and personal development. Our focus remains steadfast on creating a supportive, inclusive culture where each of us can help each other to grow, help each other flourish and help each other to develop an ethos of mindfulness.

“To our students, I ask you to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead, challenge yourselves, and remember that we are here to guide and support you every step of the way. Here’s to a term of achievements, wellbeing, and memorable experiences. Let’s make it remarkable together!”

Jan Steel, Principal/CEO, GEMS Royal Dubai School

“We are looking forward to beginning the new term at GEMS Royal Dubai School. This term promises to be full of rich learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom as we continue to pursue academic excellence for every child. This term we will also host our International Day event, which is a vibrant way of immersing ourselves in all the different cultures and traditions within our community. Days like this truly support our #RDShineBright initiative, enhancing student wellbeing and developing a sense of belonging. Lots to look forward to at GEMS Royal Dubai School!”

Sarah O’Regan, Principal/CEO, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis

“GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis is delighted to welcome back our students after the winter break. As we settle back into the school routine in Term Two, we have much to look forward to. We are excited to experience our Arabic Culture week, sports days, school trips to the aquarium and Sharjah Islamic Museum, a ski trip to Azerbaijan, our annual Spring Fair, our production of Beauty and the Beast, Inclusion Awareness Wellies Week, and World Book Day, while finishing the term with our Shining Stars Community Iftar.

“WSO is committed to wellbeing and ensures that our whole community thrives in all areas of wellbeing. Our GroWell programme, which is taught through tutor time, lessons, assemblies, group work, and parent engagements, equips everyone with lifelong tools to flourish and reach their true potential. Our vision is to ensure all our students lead positive, resilient, and fulfilling lives at WSO – and our diverse, enriching curriculum and extra-curricular programmes drive this.

“Students, we are looking forward to seeing all the wonderful things you achieve this term. We know you will all have a fantastic term ahead and will continue to thrive. We are looking forward to seeing the progress you make. Welcome back to Term Two at WSO!”

Dr Ethan Hildreth, Superintendent/CEO, GEMS Dubai American Academy

“We welcome our students, faculty, staff, and community to the new year with much joy and gratitude. GEMS Dubai American Academy reached new heights in 2023. Recognition as the ‘Best American Curriculum School in the UAE’ by Schools Compared reflected the dedication of our students, teachers, and parents. Community spirit and hard work resulted in numerous awards for the arts and technology education as well as commendations for exemplary academic achievement from multiple external entities.

“In addition, DAA undertook dramatic facility improvements such as new learning spaces, expanded spaces for innovation, and a cutting-edge WISE Center for Wellbeing. The WISE Center sets a new standard of focus for student health that undergirds the highest levels of academic success. Among other experiences in 2023, students enjoyed visits from representatives of over 160 leading universities in the world, as well as Nobel Prize and Grammy award winners. In its 25th year, DAA has established itself firmly as a global leader in international education. Families of DAA will benefit from this remarkable momentum in 2024 and for years to come. Our achievement as the Best American Curriculum School is only the next step in our journey of excellence – we are excited about our amazing launch into 2024 and beyond! For students in the new year: develop your habit of reading great books. If you are reading already, build the momentum. The most powerful path to success in school, and your future, is to read, read, read!”

Fatima Martin, Principal, GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail

“We are filled with enthusiasm and optimism, as we welcome 2024. We have a bonus day in February of this leap year, adding to the verve. In 2024, measures to embed AI and address climate change are at the top of our education agenda. Building on the success of the interschool Hackathon in 2023, we are planning for an AI-focused exhibition in 2024. Also, it is encouraging to be a part of an ecosystem in the UAE that reverberates a unified vision for a sustainable planet. At GEMS New Millennium School, we are keen to continue ingraining the concept of sustainability in innovative ways. Our inner engineering WoW! 101 (Wealth of Well-being) initiatives will also continue at robust speed, enabling our students to be resilient, determined and to rise above challenges, achieving their full potential.

“Through Limitless opportunities, Eco-conscious decisions, AI-integrated learning and a Progressive mindset, we are all set and prepared to LEAP into 2024!”

Simon Herbert, Head of School/CEO, GEMS International School – Al Khail

“It is with great pleasure that GEMS International School welcomes back its student community, proudly representing 98 nationalities, along with new students joining in January. As a four-programme International Baccalaureate school, GIS was delighted to be a finalist for ‘Best IB Curriculum School in the UAE’ and to win the Schools Compared Top Schools Award for ‘Best School in UAE for STEAM’ in November.

“This breadth and depth of provision means that students can look forward to more truly personalised pathways, alongside the concept and values-driven approach from our dedicated IB teachers. Our Innovation Hub has just opened, so our primary students will now enjoy robotics, coding, AI, AR, and VR, and the curriculum will link smoothly with our secondary school’s provision within its Centre of Excellence for Aeronautics, Aviation, and Space. Our students are our true ambassadors, and all students here can look forward to an inclusive environment focused on wellbeing for all.

“I hope our students will continue to amaze us with their ideas and support for each other in the new year, as they have in the first half of the 2023-24 academic year (as was noted by our recent KHDA visitors). In turn, leaders at GIS will support students’ ideas, encourage the adoption of skills and learning for life, and ensure a huge range of extra-curricular activities are offered and that education at GIS remains holistic and exciting.”

Matthew Burfield, Senior Vice President – Education, GEMS Education and Executive Principal/CEO, GEMS Founders School – Dubai

“Students returning to GEMS Education schools in January 2024 have so many wonderful opportunities to look forward to in the months ahead. The excitement generated during COP28 will be reinvigorated in our schools, with students engaging in sustainability projects across all GEMS Education schools, and these will also be a core element of the multiple Model United Nations (MUN) conferences happening in the new year. Our school communities have engaged in the journey to COP28 thoughtfully and with the passion needed to make a change, so now it will be our children who turn the initiatives explored by world leaders into reality. We saw so many opportunities for our young people to engage in 2023, and with children from GEMS Education schools presenting papers to the world leaders who joined us here for this monumental occasion, we know we will be able continue that excitement onto 2024.”

David Wade, Principal/CEO, GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa

“After a wonderfully vibrant and successful first term, GEMS FirstPoint School celebrates the new year by welcoming a record number of students in January 2024; this is a very exciting time to be part of this fantastic school community. Now approaching capacity in all year groups, FPS remains deeply committed to student wellbeing and success. The new term will see the completion of a two-year journey towards accreditation with the ‘Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools’, allowing FPS to set the very highest standards for student and staff wellbeing.

“To preserve our established promise to allow our students to achieve their potential and find personal success, we have recruited eight additional experienced and expert teachers mid-year from the UK to join our expanding school in January; this will allow us to maintain our commitment to a broad curriculum, smaller class sizes, expert teaching, personalised study programmes, additional support and interventions, and give our students the very best chance of success in the summer 2024 examinations. We look forward to welcoming all new and returning families in January 2024!”

Jeremy Hallum, Principal/CEO, GEMS Metropole School – Al Waha

“The first term of GEMS Metropole School – Al Waha has been a huge success, with over 700 students and families settling into life at MTW very smoothly. Our unique curriculum, built on the pillars of entrepreneurial leadership, sustainability, inclusivity, and community, is proving very successful. It has been wonderful to offer families that have joined us lots of opportunities to celebrate student achievements. The variety of enrichment activities and clubs before, after, and during the school day has also resulted in students enjoying opportunities to learn new skills and have experiences beyond the curriculum.

“We look forward to Term 2 as we welcome over 100 new students and families to our school community. MTW will continue to flourish over the coming term with many new and exciting opportunities, both within our school day and beyond. The imminent completion of our Bio Cube and farm, and the opportunities these will provide for all students, will further enhance our commitment to sustainability, leadership, and wellbeing.

“Our wellbeing ‘Hive’ is now fully furnished, and it will provide a unique environment for individual, group, and class wellbeing sessions with our many specialist staff working at MTW. Beyond our school day, increased numbers of before- and after-school clubs will further increase opportunities for students to learn new skills, have fun with friends, and represent MTW in competitive events. We are very excited to welcome our new and existing community back for the spring term and we look forward to continuing our work to help every MTW student build a brighter future and achieve their dreams.”

Students’ quotes

Hala Samy Mahmoud Mahmoud Aly, Year 10 Student, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis

“I’m extremely excited to return to school as I look forward to reconnecting with my friends, embracing new challenges in Term Two and getting back into a routine with the sense of community.”

Rhian Arnott, Year 11 Student, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis

“As a WSO student of eight years, I am truly excited to go back to school for Term Two and start 2024 with a bang! As a Year 11 student, I have my mock exams, which although they may be a challenge, allow me to practice for my real GCSEs in Term Three. I’m also looking forward to seeing all my friends and my lovely teachers.”

Raphael, Grade 11 Student, GEMS International School – Al Khail

“I’m feeling energised and ready to take on Term 2. I have missed my friends, and I’m excited to reconnect with them.”

Hafsa, Grade 10 Student, GEMS International School – Al Khail (new joiner)

“Today is my first day having moved from Turkey. I’m slightly apprehensive but looking forward to my journey”.

Alia Al Tamimi, Year 10 Student, GEMS Al Barsha National School

“Winter break was memorable, I spent time with my family and had the opportunity to travel to Singapore for the first time. We spent one week there and visited some of the landmarks. On this trip, I became very interested in learning about new cultures. For the remainder of my winter holidays, I stayed at my grandparents’ farm in Abu Dhabi, making memories that will last forever. I am so excited to be back in GNS for Term Two. I have missed my friends and I look forward to learning new skills and knowledge that will enhance my academic journey.

“In 2024, I have many new goals: I would really like to develop my reading and writing skills and challenge myself further in all studies. I would like to achieve higher grades, but I know that I will need to work hard and push myself further. This term, I intend to focus more on history. I intend to dedicate ample time to revising at home daily, which will pay off in the long run when it comes to end of term assessments. I am looking forward to setting myself small and manageable smart goals. This is something I hope to continue to do throughout 2024. I love PE and I am looking forward to developing new physical skills. I passionately believe that PE is an essential part of the school curriculum. It is important that young people today become more active, which is good for both their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Hamdan Ali, Year 6 Student, GEMS Al Barsha National School

“My winter break was ecstatic! I went to Jebel Jais with my friends where we had a blast. We went on a rollercoaster called the Jai Sledder; we were zooming down the mountain and it was very fast, but we could control it. After, we had a delicious chicken tikka lunch cooked on charcoal and we laughed about the great time we had. I am very happy to come back to school since we are going on our trip to Hatta tomorrow! During the break, I went with my family to Hatta Fort Hotel so we could explore where I am going to be staying with my friends.

“I am also really looking forward to Hatta since I think it will be very special as it is our first overnight trip. It usually takes a bit of time to readjust to normal school routines, but I think it will be easy to get back to our ways. This term I would like to get a Star of the Term award, and I’d be really happy if it’s for my swimming. I always go to extra-curricular activities, and they have helped me get better at it.”

Rana Mohamed Keshk, Year 13 Student, GEMS Wesgreen International School – Sharjah

“I am very excited to see students, teachers, and all members of staff as we start a new year. Inshallah, may this year be filled with success and memorable experiences, much like the previous one. I eagerly anticipate rejoining the school environment and collaborating with the school community once again.”

Arnav Sharma, Grade 11 Student, GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail

“As a student with aspirations to pursue law, I adhere to the philosophy that a small group of thoughtful and dedicated individuals can transform the world. With a little over a year left before my board exams, I am determined to utilise the upcoming 12 months to not only contribute to my school community, but also train my juniors in unique disciplines like quizzing and debating while simultaneously preparing for competitive exams such as CLAT and LNAT. Having actively participated in various events such as hackathons and debates, my advice to students worldwide is to seize every opportunity that presents itself.

“I strongly suggest that you use your school life to perfect those skills you will need to employ in the future and garner invaluable experience from diverse sources. The driving force behind my hard work is the prospect of the future: where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? But more importantly, how do you envision the world in 10 years? The world is rife with conflicts that we often discuss in Model UN events.

“Be a delegate of a country and experience first-hand the problems they go through. It is only through active participation in such events that we can derive inspiration and recreate solutions on a larger scale. Therefore, I implore students everywhere to be active participants rather than passive bystanders, and to seize every opportunity that comes your way because it might not only change your lives but also change the world.”

Kehlani Carrington, FS 1 Student, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail

“I had a wonderful winter holiday. I got some dinosaur presents for Christmas! I’m excited to be back to see Miss Gemma and my friends.”

Leenah Amjad, FS 1 Student, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail

“I had my birthday over the break. I am now four years old, and I was dressed as Elsa! I had a wonderful time with my family during the holiday. I’m excited to come to school and see my teacher and friends.”

Parents’ quotes

Fatma Naseeb, Mother of Mira Albedwawi (Year 5) and Abdullah Albedwawi (Year 4)/ new family of GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar

“I can’t wait to see the accomplishments my children will achieve at their new school. They are both eagerly anticipating a fresh academic environment, making new friends, and acquiring new knowledge.”

David Cottam, Father of Henry (FS2) and Sienna (Nursery) / new family of GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis

“We’re over the moon for Henry (FS2) and Sienna (Nursery) to be starting at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis in Term Two. We have returned to Dubai after six years back in the UK, feeling settled after only a couple of weeks and ready to kick off the new term. It was so lovely to see both our children receive such a warm welcome to school; the team at WSO have been amazing and made the transition seamless. It’s really exciting to look forward and see Henry and Sienna blossom, receiving a first-class education.”

Mr and Mrs Dutta, parents of Arth, Grade 8 student and new joiner at GEMS International School – Al Khail

“We have just relocated from Singapore and we’re navigating through different processes in this new environment. This morning is our very first visit to the school, having only viewed the campus virtually. We are very happy with what we have seen and experienced so far.”

Mr and Mrs Makhmudina, parents of Dariya in Grade 2 and Assenat in KG2, students and new joiners at GEMS International School – Al Khail

“Our girls and us are a little nervous about starting school today, due to English not being their first language. However, the reassurances from the staff we’ve spoken to this morning have helped put our minds at rest.”


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