information for global expats

International Schools for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: July 2014

The main problems expats have with the publicly funded state schools in Saudi Arabia are: all of the teaching is done in Arabic, they are generally only open to Muslims, and girls and boys are segregated into different schools. As a result most expat children attend private schools. There are generally two kinds of private schools in Saudi Arabia: Saudi private schools and international schools. International schools tend to educate to standards such as GCSE (UK), PSAT/SAT (USA) and International Baccalaureate. This article is only concerned with International Schools.

There are many International Schools in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh alone there are over 25 catering to both the large diplomatic community based there, and the children of expat employees of various companies and businesses. Jeddah has even more, and there many in Dhahran and Al Khobar. There are lists of international schools on the Helen Ziegler and the English Schools websites, giving details of fees, term times etc.

English-medium international schools are available at primary, intermediate and secondary level. Some also provide pre-school facilities. Primary education is between the ages of 6 to 11, intermediate schooling takes place between the ages of 11 and 14 and secondary schooling lasts for three years until the children are 18 years old. The curriculum at each school will vary depending on which international standard the school has adopted. Generally at secondary level your children will study maths, science, history, geography, English, art and PE, and they may also study one or sometimes two other languages. As an expat, it is important to consider whether the standard of education received is going to be sufficient to enable your child to progress normally if you were to return home. This is especially important at secondary level; you should make certain to check any school’s record to ensure that graduating students have achieved places in universities in your home country on a consistent basis.

In order to register, you will have to contact the school. The following minimum information is generally required for registration:

  • Name of child
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Copy of the birth certificate
  • Child’s school records and exam results
  • Names of parents
  • Address and contact details
  • Passport size photo of the child, and
  • Copy of your Iqama

In addition there may be more detailed information required. You may also have to pay a sizeable registration fee. Fees for international schools in Saudi Arabia vary quite a lot, as an example at the top end, the yearly tuition fees at the American International School in Riyadh for grades 9-12 are over SAR80,000 (approx. £12,500) for the year.

Unlike state schools, International schools are free to set their own term dates, so you will have to check with the schools themselves. Some schools conform to the Saudi standard, with two terms a year with a short break in the winter and a long break for the summer months. Other schools have adopted the traditional three term school year, though again the bulk of the holiday is in the summer. Generally the schools will have half-term breaks as well. In addition, national holidays may also be observed.



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