As Saudi Arabia's formal centre of commerce and diplomacy, Riyadh has historically had a large expat community. As such, the city has a good selection of international schools to serve the needs of its foreign population.
Expats don't have access to public schools in Saudi Arabia as admission into these institutions is usually restricted to Saudi citizens and naturalised Arabs. This increases demand at international schools, resulting in limited places and often hefty fees. It's therefore important that expats apply to several schools as early as possible.
International schools in Riyadh
The requirements for securing a place at an international school in Riyadh vary from one institution to the next. Some schools may require written references from a child's previous schools while others require students to sit an entrance examination. While most international schools in Riyadh are not selective, others, such as the British and American schools, give preference to students according to their nationality. Although it is not necessary for children to attend a school sponsored by their country of origin, the logistical transition between systems tends to be easiest in this sort of situation.
A non-refundable application fee is a standard procedure. Some schools also require parents to pay an extra seat deposit. In addition, parents often have to fork out for uniforms, textbooks and extra-curricular activities. Therefore it is advisable for expats to negotiate a schooling allowance into their expat relocation packages wherever possible.
The school year in Saudi Arabia runs from September to June, and is normally divided into two or three semesters, depending on the school. The school week is Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. School hours in international schools are usually from 7am to 3.30pm. Schools days are shortened during the holy month of Ramadan.
Homeschooling in Riyadh
Homeschooling is not generally recognised in Saudi Arabia and expats living in Riyadh may struggle to find resources. However, it is not illegal, so numerous expats do follow this option, even just temporarily until they manage to secure a place for their child at an international school.
Are you an expat living in Riyadh?
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