Education and Schools in Saudi Arabia
The state education system in Saudi Arabia is, to a large extent, poorly administered by Western standards. Only locals and naturalised Arabs have access to Saudi public schools, and expat children don't have the option to enrol.
A number of international schools in Saudi Arabia offer diverse curricula. Expats living in the Kingdom either send their children to a private international school or send them to boarding school back in their home country.
Private international schools in Saudi Arabia
A portion of the international schools in Saudi Arabia are governed by embassies, while others are privately organised and host multiple curricula under a single roof. It is not necessary for expat children to attend the school sponsored by their country of origin, although the logistical transition between the old and new education systems tend to be the easiest in this situation.
Unlike Saudi public schools, where boys and girls are segregated, international schools are usually co-educational. For the most part, international schools are not selective with regards to nationality; though in some cases, embassy-run institutions do give preference to their respective nationalities. The American and British schools both adhere to this principle.
The large expat community in Saudi Arabia ensures demand for these schools is high so it's best to make an application for registration as early as possible to obtain a suitable slot. All schools will charge a non-refundable registration fee for this service. Admission requirements vary between schools, and parents are advised to contact the school of their choice directly for clarity on what is required.
Expat families in Saudi Arabia should consider cost, curriculum and convenience when weighing the advantages and liabilities of schools in their city of choice.
Fees can range from the frighteningly expensive American and British international schools to cheap, smaller organisations. In addition to basic fees, parents will be expected to cover other costs such as uniforms, textbooks and extra-curricular activities.
The school year in Saudi Arabia runs from September to June and is normally divided into two or three semesters, depending on the school. The school week is Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. School hours in international schools are usually from 7am to 3.30pm. School days are shortened during the holy month of Ramadan.