Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Schools in Saudi Arabia

One of the problems faced by expatriates working in Saudi Arabia is that of schooling for their children. Government-run schools in the kingdom are exclusively meant for Saudi and Arab children. The only option left for expatriates is to try in the so-called "International" schools.

Westerners usually prefer to educate their children in schools which follow either British or American system of education. School fees are quite expensive in such schools and I would advise you to include educational expenses for your children as part of your employment contract, or else it would put a big hole in your pocket.
Almost all of these "International" schools are co-educational, and are concentrated in bigger cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, Jubail, Al-Khobar, etc.
Non-westerners usually have their own national schools, each following the syllabus in their respective countries. The Ministry of Education monitors the running of these schools by having an observer for each of the community schools.
Primary education is not much of a problem here, but expatriates working in Saudi Arabia must take into account the risks of secondary education in the kingdom. Typically, as the child moves into higher classes, he or she moves away from the "real" world back home, in the sense that the competitive spirit required for higher education is almost absent. This could be quite a problem when the child returns home and faces competitive examinations.
There is also the problem of high turnover of qualified and experienced teachers from schools in Saudi Arabia. Almost all the female teachers in the kingdom are dependent on their husbands, i.e., they are not sponsored by their schools but are dependent exaptriate wives and so when the husband leaves the country, so does the teacher. This could be quite a pain, particularly for higher classes. You should not expect a high standard in the schools here as in your home country.
Getting admission into any of the private schools is quite easy. The usual custom in International schools in the kingdom when you join your child mid-way through the academic session, is to charge you from the beginning of the academic year, so please be prepared for this too.
Qualified and experienced teachers are quite scarce, and you must be prepared to shell out money for private tuitions, in case your children are in higher classes. Westerners usually charge on hourly basis while non-western teachers generally charge a monthly flat fee for private tuitions. In almost all cases, it is a one-to-one arrangement between the parent and the teacher. It would be worthwhile to bring the required books and CDs from your home country, as they may not always be available here all the time.
There is always a demand for qualified and experienced female teachers, but I would advise potential teachers to be choosy about the schools where they teach. The best way would be to enquire with fellow expatriates about the reputation of the school where they propose to join. Remember that cultural differences among different nationalities could sometimes be quite stressful for the teacher.
Finally, you as an expatriate working in Saudi Arabia must make a judicious decision considering all these factors.


Carol said...

Expat Guru,

Keep up the good posts. Please email me as I wish to ask something offline and do not know how to contact you directly.

My email address is: american_bedu(at symbol)yahoo(dot)com


Expatguru said...


Thanks for your comments. At the outset I would like to once again clarify that I am not a legal expert nor do I claim to be one. The intention of this blog is neither to indulge in Saudi bashing, nor showering praises on the system, but to just present an unbiased and fair picture to the potential expatriate, purely based on my own experiences in the kingdom.

Having said this, I would like to maintain my anonimity, which is why I have not given my email id here. This was also why I did not comment on your wonderful blog (though I wanted to), as you required an email id to be mentioned. As an experienced ex-diplomat, I am sure you understand my situation and I apologize for not being able to respond to you privately.

Carol said...


I oftentimes host special programs for Saudi TV2 on expat life and adjusting to the Kingdom. If this sounds interesting to you and especially given the focus of your blog, you know how to reach me via email to discuss further.


Expatguru said...

Thanks Carol. I would get in touch with you.

gazala said...


Are there are any Indian schools in Madina?

Expatguru said...


The International Indian Schools recognized by CBSE are available only in Jubail, Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah.

Ayesa said...

Thanks for the educational blogs. First of all, I would like to ask if ALL female foreign teachers in the Kingdom are dependent on their husbands (that is, are all female expat teachers not being sponsored by their international schools, whether they are working for Western international schools or "native country" international schools)? I asked this question because I was wondering if there are any schools in the Kingdom that give working visas to female expat teachers. Secondly, if female foreign teachers have their kids studying in the same school where they work, do their children get discounts (lower tuition fees)? Lastly, are foreign female teachers allowed to work in the female Saudi and Arab schools (schools meant for Saudi kids only)? If yes, does this include the Special Education schools meant for Saudi special children (i.e., children with physical, mental and learning disabilities). Any information would be very helpful as I am still deciding on applying as a teacher in the Kingdom and bringing my young family along with me. Thanks very much.

Ayesa said...

I just read your personalized consultancy section/form. Sorry for posting my query on Saudi education/schools here on the comment section. Thanks anyway and keep up the interesting blogs.

Expatguru said...


Not all female foreign teachers dependent on their husbands. There are schools which give teacher visas to female teachers too. However, note that if they bring their husbands, they cannot work as they would be considered as dependents of their wives. Again, it depends on your contract whether you are eligible to bring your kids along or not and whether the kids are entitled to a discount in the fees. Nothing is automatic or assumed unless written in the contract. Expat female teachers cannot work in schools meant only for Saudis.

Expatguru said...


It doesn't matter. You asked a very good question which deserved a good reply and I have published it. I don't do this for money, Ayesa, and if the question would benefit a large number of expats, I would certainly answer it for free!

Anonymous said...

Is homeschooling allowed in KSA? Would there be any trouble bringing in all the books, supplies and curriculum into the country? Is it better to bring these items or have them shipped over?
Also are there any social groups, clubs or organizations for young kids?

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link given in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, pesonalized and detailed reply by email.