Education and Schools in Bahrain
Bahrain championed the Gulf's first public education system in 1919, and even allowed its female population equal access. Government devotes a large annual expenditure to this sector, and the Kingdom boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the region.
Public schools in Bahrain
The foundations for Bahrain’s modern public school system were laid during the British administration. However, as a result of strong support for education from the Bahraini government the country now boasts one of the best performing education systems in the Gulf.
In Bahrain, basic education is compulsory for all children aged six to 14, and tuition at state schools is free. The Bahrani people value education and school attendance is high. Public schools in Bahrain consistently perform well and the population as a whole is well-educated, with a literacy rate of 94%.
However, expat children living in Bahrain rarely attend Bahraini public schools. This is for a number of reason such as the local language barrier, the transient nature of their stay in Bahrain and the difficulty in overcoming Islamic cultural norms.
While English is taught in Bahraini schools, the main language of instruction is a local dialect of Arabic, which puts non-native speakers at a significant disadvantage.
International schools in Bahrain
To meet the needs of a growing expat population in Bahrain, the country has seen growth in the number of international schools. Currently, there are more than 30 schools for expats to choose from, but demand still outweighs supply. As a result, classes fill up quickly, so registration should be completed as soon as possible – even from abroad, prior to relocation.
Waiting lists are common, especially at the popular English schools, and if expats want to ensure their child has a space reserved it's vital to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. Admission requirements vary from school to school, but usually the following is required:
- Passport copy
- Prior school reports
- Completed application form with application fee
Most schools are located in Riffa, and nearly all of them are co-educational.
As is the case globally, tuition fees at international schools in Bahrain can be very high, at up to 8,000 BHD annually. It is therefore wise for expats to factor this expense into their employment contract when negotiating with the employer. If an employer is reluctant to include an education allowance in the package, it is important that the expat's salary is high enough to adequately cover the costs of schooling.
The curriculum taught in schools in Bahrain varies from institution to institution. Each has it's own unique study plan, course schedule and required textbooks. Final exams and certificates granted also differ from school to school. One common thread, however; is the fact that a mixture of nationalities often attend each school and that Arabic and Islamic studies are a required part of all curricula.
For expat families who find this unacceptable, the only other option is to home-school children.
Generally speaking, standards at international schools in Bahrain are high, smaller class sizes are the norm and most have modern facilities and healthy extra-curricular programs.