Skip to main content

Flag of BahrainAs in other countries, the Bahraini school system is divided into government and private schools. Expats are not allowed to attend government schools and must look to the private sector, so ensure your package includes adequate provision for school fees.  

Although there are over thirty private schools in Bahrain, most of these are what are known as national private schools, usually offering a bilingual Arabic and English education based on the Bahraini national curriculum, and aimed primarily at Bahrainis.  

International Schools

Expats use the foreign private (international) schools. Your choice will depend on what curriculum you would like your child to follow and there are schools catering to the large Indian and Pakistani communities as well as a French school and a small Japanese school. The International School of Choueifat offers a mixture of the English and American curricula under the auspices of the SABIS system, which originated in Lebanon. 

English Schools

For those wishing their children to follow an English or American curriculum, the number of possible schools is relatively small, particularly for older children. Demand for places often outstrips supply, especially in the younger year groups, so it is advisable to get applications in as early as possible. 

Only two schools offer the English national curriculum from nursery to Year 13: St Christopher’s School and the British School of Bahrain. The former also offers the IB Diploma. Those with primary school age children have a couple of other choices. Nadeen School is a small and friendly primary, particularly popular in the younger years and with a good reputation for bringing on those with English as a second language. The British Preparatory School offers schooling up to Year 2 only.

American Schools

Parents looking for an American curriculum school have an even smaller choice. The Bahrain School (which also offers the IB Diploma) is a long established US Department of Defense School. Priority is given to children from US armed forces families and fees are comparatively high for non-forces students. It also has limited boarding facilities. Riffa Views International School is a relatively new purpose built school. It currently only offers KG to Year 8, although it plans to expand by a year group each academic year.

Special Education Needs

Unusually for the Gulf, Bahrain is fortunate to have an excellent and extremely well funded private special needs school. The Children’s Academy teaches in English to children aged between three and nine years. A fifth of the pupils are expats and the school caters for a range of needs including Down’s Syndrome, Autism, ADHD and Developmental Coordination Disorder. The school also runs an outreach programme in the afternoons for children from nine to sixteen years of age with a variety of learning and developmental needs. 

Accreditation: British Schools Overseas

In addition to any overseas accreditations they may have, Bahrain now also requires all international schools to pass OFSTED type inspections carried out by the recently established Quality Assurance Authority for Education and Training. Inspections of private schools are on going and those that have been completed are available on the QAAET website. But you can also check on each GSGI individual school entry whether it's been accredited yet by an authorised DfE agency, with details about this long-needed programme in our article Inspected by Ofsted: True or False?

Local Requirements

Schools in Bahrain have to comply with Ministry of Education regulations, both with regard to health issues (vaccination records from birth are required for registration) and curriculum requirements. All schools that accept Arab children are required to provide Arabic from a certain age, split into Arabic for Arabs and Arabic for non-Arabs. Additionally, schools must provide Islamic studies for Muslim students. Other religious studies are permitted subject to approval from the Ministry.

School Year, Holidays, Hours and the Moon

The school year starts in September and ends in July with two week breaks in December and March. The school week runs from Sunday to Thursday and schools generally start early (between 7.30am and 8.00am) and finish early (between noon and 3pm, depending on age).  Bahrain also has lots of national and religious holidays when schools are required to close. As the timing of many of these is dependent on the sighting of the new moon, they are often not announced until the last minute.

Transitions In and Out

Bahrain’s international schools cater well to new arrivals and most families do not take long to settle in. Pupils come and go throughout the school year so children are used to welcoming new faces. There are plenty of local students at all the schools, though some, such as St Christopher’s, limit their intake of Arab pupils to ensure an international flavour is maintained. 

Uniforms and Hats

Uniforms are generally required and hats are mandatory in summer when the soaring temperatures require the strict enforcement of a ‘no hat no play’ rule. Most schools allow children to remain inside at break times during the hottest months.

School Buildings and Extracurriculars

Facilities vary from school to school. Some are housed in converted villas, others have sparkly purpose-built premises. Those that cannot offer adequate on-site sports facilities try to make arrangements to use off site pools and playing fields. Some schools have a canteen or tuck shop, but this is not the norm. 

The larger private schools have teams in swimming, football and a range of other sports and there are opportunities for the sportiest children to travel round the Gulf region with their school teams. However, the opportunities for inter-school sports in Bahrain are limited and parents whose children are keen on sport often end up enrolling their children in sports clubs outside school. 


Private bus companies offer transport to all the schools. Arrangements need to be made with the bus companies directly and the bus will collect your child from their door. Be aware though that this door-to-door service means journeys take longer so often your child will be collected between 6am and (if they are lucky) 7am. For those arriving from Europe this can take some getting used to but the alternative of stationary rush hour traffic is often even less palatable to parents!

The Under-Five Set

Pre-school children are well catered for and there is a wide range of nurseries and pre-schools (to see brief paragraphs about the ones most discussed by expats, click on Pre-Schools in Bahrain Considered by Expats). The large international schools all have nursery sections. For those who prefer a more intimate atmosphere, there are several smaller pre-schools to choose from.  


Most expats agree the range and quality of pre schooling and primary schooling in Bahrain is excellent, offering facilities often far better than local state schools back home. At senior level, there is no doubt some parents prefer the boarding school route, believing Bahrain to be too limited. Older year groups and sixth forms therefore tend to have a larger percentage of Bahraini students than younger year groups. Those who choose to stay though generally seem happy with their decision.


Related articles

  • Special Needs introduction

    Signs of special needs in school age children; how to get help; which type of school to choose; Education, Health and Care Plans ... Read more ... Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need.  Our SEN team helps…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get an exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Receive our monthly newsletter. For further…

  • Where to find a state grammar school

    Identifying and locating grammar schools. Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools.

  • Choosing a school for a child with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.

  • State boarding schools

    If you think your child would benefit from a boarding school education, but are put off by the high fees and consequent limited social mix of a typical independent boarding school, you may find that a state boarding school is the answer

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >


Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Last chance to appeal for secondary schools

Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now