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In photos: UAE schools celebrate going back to school for 2024

In photos: UAE schools celebrate going back to school for 2024

by Tabitha BardaJanuary 2, 2024

The 2 January was the first UAE school day of 2024, and students across the country have been excited to be reunited with their classmates and teachers after a restful three-week Winter Break.

A boy is happy to return for a new year at GEMS International School Al Khail

Racing in for the first day of the year at GEMS Wesgreen International School Sharjah

Dubai’s private school regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), aptly kicked off the New Year messages with a greeting and thank you to the people who make all of the education world work: the teachers. The KHDA shared its gratitude to Dubai teachers for their commitment and kindness, stating that their efforts have helped schools in Dubai reach a higher standard than ever before – possibly in reference to the strong performance of Dubai private schools in the latest PISA rankings, a global measure of student performance. Read about Dubai schools’ performance in the latest PISA rankings here.

The KHDA message read as follows:

“Thank you teachers of Dubai

“Because of your devotion and expertise, our school community is the largest and highest achieving it’s ever been.


“We are grateful for your love and devotion to your students and for enabling schools in Dubai to take their place among the best in the world. “

Schools across the UAE also shared their messages for the new year. Here is a selection of some of the most fun, inspiring and moving messages from UAE schools for the new year 2024:

Raffles International School

Raffles International School marked the first day of the year at school with a video welcome by its much-loved Principal, Mr Steven Giles. Talking directly to the camera, Mr Giles outlined all of the improvements that has happened in the school over the Winter Break, listing a new science lab, an extended fitness suite, and a whole new catering team, among many others:

GEMS Education

GEMS Education shared an inspiring message of hope and peace for 2024, with GEMS Education Founder, Mr Sunny Varkey, stating:

“We at GEMS Education are looking forward to another great year ahead with lots of exciting new developments – including school openings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – to look forward to.

“Rest assured, our core values of care and commitment to excellence that have served successive generations of students for 65 years will never change – and nor will our commitment to your child’s wellbeing and security.

“Our schools will continue to inspire, guide, and nurture your children, fostering a love for learning that extends well beyond the classroom. We are more than an education provider; we are a diverse, international family that puts focus on family first. Together, let us make 2024 a special year of growth, discovery, and care for each other.

Above all, we fervently pray for peace around the world after global conflicts took too many innocent lives in the previous 12 months.”


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A post shared by GEMS Education (@gems_education)

Kings InterHigh

Online school Kings InterHigh entered the new year with a positive, growth mindset, stating:

“Here’s to embracing new endeavours, exploring exciting possibilities, and opportunities for continuous learning and growth!⁠”

The school – which offers the British curriculum and has a base in the Middle East as well as its headquarters in the UK – wrapped up 2023 by asking its students what their favourite moment of the year had been. They shared some lovely insights, with one student cherishing the new friends they’d made since joining the online school; another celebrating the successful end of a challenging module, while another savoured the satisfaction of having saved up to buy his own new bike:


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A post shared by King’s InterHigh (@kingsinterhigh)

Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills

DIA Emirates Hills saw in the first school day of the new year with some very special news that the DIA Library bid to have an Emirates Literary Festival author visit was successful. The school shared its application video, long with the following message:

“Let’s start 2024 with some wonderful news!
“We are thrilled to announce that DIA Library’s bid for an Emirates Lit Fest Author School Visit has been successful, and we are among the winning schools included in their educational outreach programme.
“We would like to share this exciting news with our school community by sharing the bidding video that won the hearts of the ELF committee.
“Let it be a year full of great news for DIA EH!”

Dubai International School Al Barsha

DIA Emirates Hill’s sister school, DIA Al Barsha, opened 2024 with a festive greeting and inspiring words:

“DREAM big, INSPIRE others, ACHIEVE your goals, and always BELONG😊 Here’s to a year filled with growth, success, and togetherness!”

It marked the first day back at school with some inspiring photos of the students playing outside, in a celebration of the school’s sports team being back together and of the glorious Dubai winter weather:

“Back from our break and ready for some lunchtime laughs with friends! 🌮 Great to see our #DIASharks back @diabarsha and enjoying their time sharing stories and experiences…all while having fun in the Dubai ‘winter weather’.”

Arbor School Dubai

Arbor School Dubai shared its wishes for a happy new 2024 with a festive message, as well as a fleeting video clip of one of its star faculty members – Darwin the giant tortoise – loping along in the school grounds, with the caption, “Darwin is excited for the new term!”.

The famously eco-friendly and progressive school has a multitude of animals residing in the grounds – from butterflies to guinea pigs, fish, snakes, bees and hedgehogs – either housed within its biodomes, or roaming the school fields freely. Chief among these is the veteran Darwin the tortoise, whose familiar shell and friendly face was the perfect way for students to be welcomed back to the new term.

The English College Dubai

For The English College, the first day of the 2024 new year was all about happiness. The school shared a selection of adorable photos of its students in the playground, enjoying the temperate weather and sharing laughter and joy at being back at school again. Have a very happy new year English College students and teachers!

Arcadia School

Arcadia School Dubai celebrated the new year with words of thanks and hope:

“As we end yet another amazing year, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of our journey to nurture lifelong learning.
“Looking forward to yet another bright year filled with amazing learning experiences.”


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Bloom World Academy

Bloom World Academy had a lot to celebrate this new year, as it is welcoming more than 50 new students to its burgeoning community. As well as excited fresh faces in the lower parts of the school, the new senior school students will be joining tomorrow:

A selection of GEMS Education Principals also shared their thoughts for 2024. Here is a selection of their ideals, goals and hopes for the new year:

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

Simon Herbert - Principal and Head of GEMS International School Al Khail

Simon Herbert – Principal and Head of 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.”

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

Photograph of Ms Sarah O'Regan, Principal and CEO of GEMS Jumeirah Primary School in Dubai

“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

Top Schools Award for Best American school in the UAE 2024. Pictured: a delighted Dr. Ethan Hildreth, the powerhouse Superintendent of this Outstanding plus US school for children

Dr. Ethan Hildreth, Superintendent of 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!”

Back to school 2024 in photos

GEMS Wesgreen International School Sharjah

GEMS Wesgreen International School Sharjah

GEMS New Millennium School Al Khail

GEMS International School Al Khail

GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail

Racing in for the first day of he year at GEMS Wesgreen International School Sharjah

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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