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An Introduction to the Saudi School System

by Eddie Rayner

Making sure that children receive a decent education is one of a parent’s main duties, thus it’s critical to invest the time to investigate and contrast various teaching methods. Of course, each nation has developed its own system for educating its children, and the lengthy histories of the various curricula do provide a framework for parents wishing to provide their children with a top-notch education. Moving to Saudi Arabia is no different, and between the curricula, language of instruction, and cost, ex-pat parents have a lot to consider. Thankfully, Saudi Arabia has a large number of excellent international schools.

The Saudi educational system offers several pathways. Saudi public schools, for instance, are taught exclusively in Arabic and are segregated by gender. While these schools accept ex-pat children, they must follow the Muslim faith.  The second choice is Saudi private schools, many of which teach in Arabic and follow the national curriculum; few of these would be appealing to expatriates. The majority of ex-pats choose to enrol their youngsters in international schools, which often adhere to British, American, or other international academic standards.

The Saudi educational system offers several pathways

Western ex-pats love international schools because they maintain pupils on the same academic path as their counterparts back home. This is extremely practical with some international accreditations, such as the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement programs, because the diplomas are generally accepted when applying to universities throughout the world.

There are more than 30 international schools in Jeddah and Riyadh alone. Depending on the type of school, the structure might vary, but most provide K–12 instruction. This scholastic continuity is convenient for the majority of ex-pats.

There are more than 30 international schools in Jeddah and Riyadh alone

How to Choose an International School

Saudi Arabia has a far larger indigenous population than some of its more ex-pat-heavy neighbors, hence there aren’t quite as many international and private schools to choose from. This, though, can be a good thing in some ways as it makes life a little simpler when considering options.

What language does your child speak or wish to learn should be the first thing you consider? Also, where might they be attending university, and which curriculum would be best for this? Consider a British curriculum school, for example, if they intend to continue their education in the UK or another Commonwealth nation. Three of the leading schools to consider are British International School, Riyadh, Dhahran British Grammar School, and British International School of Jeddah.

American curriculum schools typically offer instruction in English and make every effort to align their curriculum with that of the United States. The American educational system is flexible, therefore schools frequently provide options like AP classes alongside, for instance, an IB curriculum. Due to their adaptability, they are very popular. Schools to consider include the American International School, Riyadh, American International School of Jeddah, and  Dar Jana International School.

What language does your child speak or wish to learn should be the first thing you consider?

IB schools in the Kingdom generally provide Arabic or another foreign language in addition to English as a primary language of instruction. Due to their high demand, it can be challenging to locate a school that will accept students. However, The KAUST School, King Faisal School, and Jeddah Knowledge International School are all worth a try.

In Saudi Arabia, ex-pats come from all over the world to work, hence numerous national schools cater to students from specific countries. Different schools have different languages of teaching, curricula, calendars, and fee structures, and some give preference of admittance to citizens of their nation while others accept all students. These include Riyadh Multinational School (Australian Accreditation), Ecole Française Internationale Riyadh, German International School, Jeddah, Pakistan International School, Riyadh, and International Indian School, Riyadh.

So, the message is, do your research and your child’s education is in good hands!