- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Saudi Arabia Guide (PDF)
Expat parents moving to Saudi Arabia will most likely opt to send their children to a private international school. Although foreign children are allowed to attend local public schools, the cultural and language barriers make this an untenable option for most.
A number of international schools in numerous cities across 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.
International schools in Saudi Arabia
A portion of the international schools in Saudi Arabia are governed by embassies. 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. 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 large expat community in Saudi Arabia ensures demand for these schools is high. It's therefore 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. 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 pros and cons of schools in their city of choice.
Fees can range from the frighteningly expensive American and British international schools to cheaper, 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 days are shortened during the holy month of Ramadan.
Special-needs education in Saudi Arabia
As expats are largely reliant on international schools, there aren't standard policies across the board and special-needs provisions can vary significantly between schools. Some schools are better equipped than others to provide support for students with special educational needs – networking with fellow expat families and researching schools in depth can help determine which school is most suitable.
Tutors in Saudi Arabia
Local families frequently employ tutors to help children become proficient in English as a second language. Non-English-speaking expat families in Saudi Arabia, especially those with children in international English-speaking schools, can benefit from doing the same. Those looking to learn or improve their Arabic should opt for a local Arabic tutor. Major upcoming exams and trouble subjects are also well served by tutors.
"You have lots of options for schools here. Many people don’t know that. You can put your child in any curriculum and most schools are multicultural. There are lots of English-speaking, or international, schools as they are called here. Your child will learn at least two if not more languages. Almost all the embassies here have their own school. So you can put your child in a school from your own country."
To learn more, read Aysh's expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Saudi Arabia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Saudi Arabia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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