The standard of education in Kuwait is high, and the government has invested in this sector in recent years. Kuwaiti nationals are entitled to free education at public schools. However, public schools in Kuwait are not usually an option for Western and non-Arabic expats owing to language and cultural differences.
Most expats in Kuwait choose to send their children to private international schools, which usually follow the curriculum of their home country.
The academic year in Kuwait usually runs from September to June. The school week is from Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. Although times vary between schools, the school day is usually from around 7.30am to 3pm, with additional hours in the afternoon for extra-curricular activities. Moreover, both public and private schools are adapting their systems to an e-learning approach, and typical online lesson times are subject to change, depending on student age groups.
Public schools in Kuwait
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Education regulates both public and private schools in Kuwait. Although public schooling is free to all Kuwaiti citizens, many Kuwaitis opt for private schools, which offer better facilities and are also well-subsidised by the government.
Education in Kuwait is compulsory (kindergarten is available but not mandatory) for all children aged six through 14. Basic education is divided into three levels:
- Elementary (five years)
- Intermediate (four years)
- Secondary (three years)
Arabic is the language of instruction at public schools in Kuwait, although children are also required to learn English as a second language. Within the public education system, girls and boys are split up and attend different schools.
Private and international schools in Kuwait
There are many private schools in Kuwait, both those following the Kuwaiti school system with Arabic as the language of instruction as well as those offering international curricula. International schools cater to the expat community in Kuwait. Most are co-educational and follow the American, British, Canadian, Pakistani or Indian curricula, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.
These schools must incorporate Kuwaiti cultural and language studies into their teaching plans. So, children attending these schools also take Islamic studies and learn Arabic.
Expat parents should expect to spend a considerable portion of their budget on their children’s education in Kuwait. On top of high tuition fees, additional costs include uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular activities, bus transport services and an initial non-refundable admissions fee.
Due to the high demand for places at international schools in Kuwait, we encourage parents to plan as early as possible. Waiting lists can be long as space is limited.
Nurseries in Kuwait
Expat parents with toddlers and young children in Kuwait have several choices for preschools, kindergartens and daycare centres. Kuwait City offers many nurseries. Some are attached to larger international schools, others are stand-alone kindergartens guided by various learning values, including the Montessori programme and English National Curriculum.
Special needs education in Kuwait
Schooling options for children with disabilities and special education needs in Kuwait are more limited, particularly for families who prefer an integrated education. Though separate from mainstream classrooms, many schools are uniquely dedicated to providing special needs education. These are largely concentrated in Kuwait City.
We recommend expats explore the international schools in Kuwait to see what services they provide. Some may be merely wheelchair accessible but not have specialised programmes or support teachers. Other schools, such as the American School of Kuwait, offer greater services for students with mild special needs, learning disabilities, mobility and visual handicaps, and speech and hearing impairments. Private international schools commonly offer psychological wellness and counselling programmes.
Homeschooling in Kuwait
The law on homeschooling in Kuwait is unclear. While education is compulsory for children aged six to 14, school attendance itself is not explicitly so. According to the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), many families are advocating for it to be formally acknowledged.
Homeschooling allows parents and children greater flexibility with learning environments – and is much more affordable than private education. Homeschooled children can learn at their own pace and follow their interest areas.
Several private and international schools offer an integrated home school programme, which is increasingly popular given the need for online learning. So, we recommend expat parents network with other homeschooling families in Kuwait through social media, online forums and schools themselves.
Tutors in Kuwait
Whether children attend a mainstream school or are homeschooled, tutors can be a valuable resource. Tutoring is especially helpful if students are struggling in a subject, require extra support or want guidance close to exam times. Parents can find tutors via online platforms, such as TeacherOn, as well as private tutoring centres. It’s easy to select a tutor based on their subject areas and familiarity with specific curricula.
►Check out our list of recommended international schools in Kuwait
►See Accommodation in Kuwait for all you need to know about finding expat housing
"Avoid any smaller nurseries as they tend to be a day care set up in someone’s house and run by unqualified people with limited English language...There are also groups and classes for those children that are too young for school." Gemma discusses various private schooling options in Kuwait and provides helpful recommendations in this expat interview.
"...there are a variety of high quality English schools, following a range of curricula, including the International Baccalaureate and the standard O Levels and A Levels. I imagine the difficulties occur more for the teenagers who may find a lack of freedom. There are many expats who have lived their whole lives in Kuwait, and are very happy, but still remain expats." For more on children and schools in Kuwait, read our interview with Avril Bailey.
Are you an expat living in Kuwait?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kuwait. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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