Expats moving to Jeddah with children will certainly consider education and schooling a priority. The quality of a child's schooling has a huge impact on their transition into expat life. This is especially true in a country with dramatically different cultural norms to those that expats kids may be used to.
The expat community in Jeddah is fairly sizeable. While expats have access to public schools in Saudi Arabia, the cultural and language barrier leads most families to opt for private international schools. Fortunately Jeddah is home to a good selection of international schools.
International schools in Jeddah
Several private international schools cater to the expat community in Jeddah, allowing foreign children to study curricula similar to what they had back home – but they can be pricey and space is limited.
It’s important for expat parents to apply to several schools as early as possible. For the most part, schools don’t restrict who can attend, but some may give preference to certain nationalities and students with strong academic records. Admission requirements vary according to the institution, so it's best to contact each school directly to find out more about enrolment procedures. Some schools require references from previous schools and others may require potential students to take entrance exams.
Being charged a non-refundable application fee is standard. Expat parents should also budget for additional expenses such as textbooks, extra-curricular activities and school excursions.
The school year in Saudi Arabia runs from September to June. It is normally divided into two or three terms, 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.
Homeschooling in Jeddah
Homeschooling is not generally recognised in Saudi Arabia and expats living in Jeddah may struggle to find resources. However, it is not illegal and so numerous expats do follow this option, even if just temporarily until they manage to secure a place for their child at an international school.
Special-needs education in Jeddah
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 Jeddah
Local families often employ tutors to help children become proficient in English as a second language. Non-English-speaking expat families in Saudi Arabia can benefit from doing the same, especially if children are attending an English-speaking international school, while 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.
►For a list of expat-friendly schools, see International Schools in Jeddah
"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 Jeddah?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Jeddah. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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