Education and Schools in Bahrain
Education in Bahrain is of a high standard, and because of the burgeoning expat population there are plenty of schools to choose from.
Bahrain championed the Gulf's first public education system in 1932. Today, the Bahraini government devotes a large annual expenditure to this sector, and the Kingdom boasts a literacy rate of over 90%.
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. Textbooks, uniforms, lunches and school transport are also provided free of charge.
Despite these perks, expat children living in Bahrain rarely attend Bahraini public schools. This is for a number of reasons, 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. This puts non-native speakers at a significant disadvantage.
International schools in Bahrain
Bahrain's private education sector is largely composed of international schools. These have been established to meet the needs of a growing expat population in Bahrain. There are dozens of schools for expats to choose from, but demand still outweighs supply. As a result, classes fill up quickly, so the application process should be started as soon as possible – even from abroad, prior to relocation.
Most of Bahrain's international schools are towards the north of the island, especially in Isa Town, or in Bahrain's capital, Manama.
Expats of a number of nationalities will be able to find an international school following the curriculum of their home country. This provides continuity in the child's education and limits the disruption caused by the move. Expats will find that there are a number of British and American schools to choose from, but there are also schools with offering other curricula, such as Indian, French or Japanese curriculum. Some schools offer the world-renowned International Baccalaureate programme instead.
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.
As is the case globally, tuition fees at international schools in Bahrain can be very high. It is therefore wise for expats to factor this expense into their employment contract when negotiating with their 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.