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Best Schools for Performing Arts, Abu Dhabi, Dubai


Crowd cheering and watching a band on stage, blinded by stage lights.

Historically, Music, Dance and Drama were viewed by many parents as non-core activities that did little to support their children academically. Today, the body of research that supports the Performing Arts as an important tool for the development of academic skills is significant.

Most schools across all curricula provide access to one or more of the Performing Arts as part of the schools’ ASA or co-curricular activities, but increasingly, schools are specializing in this field of study as part of the core curriculum. has investigated Performing Arts provision in the UAE and prepared a comprehensive Guide to the Best in-school provision. Our focus has been on schools that fully integrate Performing Arts into the curriculum – not on activities that take place only after-school or by a dedicated number of students who take part in periodic School productions.

Good those these are, often such productions are an adjunct to the curriculum and not a core element of it.  We have included those schools that believe that every student should participate in these subjects and, accordingly, offer dedicated curricula, curriculum time and specialist teaching expertise to support them.

The criteria we used to determine the schools that are included in our guide were strictly around the provision of Music, Drama and Dance in combination – and certainly Music and Drama – being part of the core curriculum of the school. We looked for schools that offer at least 2 of the 3 subjects through all curriculum stages of the school.

Teaching of the subjects should lead ultimately to public examinations where applicable – GCSE, A Levels and IBDP – or to High School Diploma credits. There should be a strong peripatetic programme offering support for either ABRSM, Trinity or LAMDA qualifications. And finally, students should participate in inter-school or public competitions and events.


In line with curriculum developments, the majority of schools that we have identified follow the UK curriculum (together in some cases with the IB Diploma Programme), although we have also included two US curriculum schools, who are recognized for their strong provision.

But first of all, we would like to explain why these subjects matter and why schools are increasingly growing their commitment and developing their provision.


Why is Music important for your child?

Research findings show that music can increase a child’s ability to learn, especially in reading and mathematics.

  • The study of music, including the rhythmic, tonal and practical skills it provides, has been shown to provide a superior cognitive performance in reading.
  • Neuroscientists have underlined the benefits of an education in music when they discovered that music uses more parts of the brain than most other activities. These are the same areas of the brain which are involved in analytical and mathematical thinking.
  • Another study showed that music education can positively impact physical and mental well-being, including relieving anxiety, promoting relaxation, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and also helping with social development.
  • While music can increase the ability to learn, the benefits of education in music reach beyond the classroom and academic settings. Music teaches children to connect with themselves and others. It teaches them how to make decisions and to problem solve. It raises self-esteem and opens doors to dreams and aspirations.


Why is Drama important for your child?

The making and performing of theatre enables students to develop essential life skills:

  • physical and vocal self-confidence;
  • the social disciplines of working in a group;
  • an extended emotional range;
  • development of creativity and a respect for the work of others.

These skills are ever more needed in an adolescent world full of isolating technologies. With more frequent demand in the work environment to present ideas and argue a position, Drama enables students to develop verbal and presentation skills and to develop a confident and appropriate presence (using humour, pathos and other emotional skills) to motivate their audience .

Drama teaches young people about the world in which they live; they are able to investigate the human condition, cultures, societies and historical events through a range of dramatic strategies and conventions. Students are able to explore practitioners who have shaped theatre, study substantial and influential play texts and perform and direct live theatre experiences, all of which enable them to develop their analytical and practical performance skills.


Why is Dance important for your child?

Dance has tended to be part of the PE curriculum, if offered in school at all. Increasingly, and often in collaboration with PE staff, it is being integrated into Performing Arts delivery.

  • Dance enables students to develop physical, technical, expressive and mental skills – working both independently and as group members.
  • Dance helps children mature physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. The physical benefits of dance are widely accepted, but the emotional, social and cognitive attributes have only recently begun to be appreciated.
  • Dance involves a greater range of motion, coordination, strength and endurance than most other physical activities.
  • It promotes psychological health and maturity and also fosters social encounter, interaction, and cooperation.

Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches children to function in and understand the world. The relationship of movement to intellectual development and education is an embryonic field of study that has only recently begun to be explored.

If schools are offering these subjects as a core part of the curriculum, it also makes sense to ensure that students gain not only from the benefit of their participation, but through formal recognition that can be added to their academic record.

Increasingly, schools that offer Performing Arts subjects are also ensuring that students are entered for recognised examinations.  Look out for participation in one or more of the organisations who are active in the UAE and whose details can be found on the next page.

About The Author
Lis ONeal

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