Saudi Arabia has a number of international schools. More than 8.4 million expatriates work and reside across the Kingdom and that explains why such schools are in large numbers and continue to grow. These schools offer educational programs mainly for the foreign nationals residing across the Kingdom. Most of the schools are generally non-profit seeking bodies and are governed by their communities or private bodies with the support of their respective diplomatic missions.
International Schools of Saudi Arabia can be classified into three broad divisions on the basis of the curriculum they follow. The three main heads are US model curriculum, the UK model curriculum and the international model. Though the US model has inspired the third one, it also consists of language programs of their respective countries.
The international schools offer education from kindergarten to high school i.e., grade 10 levels. Some of them even offer plus two years of undergraduate levels. They offer various subjects including science, arts, music, information technology, design technology and math, aside from their own social and cultural studies.
Generally, these international schools are approved and recognized by some higher educational bodies of the country to which they belong and licensed by the Ministry of Education.
Indians are the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom and have a number of international, private and community schools. At least 10 international Indian schools with more than 50,000 students enrolled are functioning under the umbrella of the Embassy of India and under the license from the Ministry of Education. They follow India’s CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) curriculum. Riyadh has two such schools — International Indian School-Riyadh and International Indian Public School. The other international Indian schools across the Kingdom are in Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar, Taif, Tabuk, Majma, Buraidah and Jubail. The biggest among them is International Indian School-Dammam, which has about 16,000 children. The international Indian schools in Jeddah and Riyadh have around 10,000 students each, followed by Jubail 6,000, and Majma and Alkhobar 250 each. There are more than 20 CBSE board-affiliated privately run schools in Saudi Arabia including seven international Indian community schools. Some other privately run international schools follow British and American curriculums.
“Students of other nationalities can also seek admission to various international schools with the permission of the Ministry of Education,” a diplomat said. The International Indian School in Tabuk, for instance, has children from many nationalities. They include Egyptian, Pakistani, Ukrainian and Azerbaijani children.
Besides, there are American International School of Jeddah, Pakistan International Schools (English and Urdu), Bangladesh International Schools (English and Bengali), Sri Lankan International School, Continental School-The British International School, Jeddah Prep and Grammar School-the International British/Dutch School, French International School, German International School, Greek International School, International Philippine School, Italian School, Korean International School, Turkish International School, Indonesian International School and many others.
Pakistan International School had its origin in September 1959 when the affairs of the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia were being looked after by the Pakistani Embassy. The building of the British Embassy was also in possession of the Embassy of Pakistan in Jeddah. The school was started in two rooms of the British Embassy only for the children of Pakistan Embassy Staff. When the school started functioning, no formal permission was received from the Kingdom.
Following a correspondence initiated by the late Ali Akbar Khan, then the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the approval to open the school exclusively for the education of wards of Embassy Staff only. Later on, the approval was accorded to admit the children of Pakistani community residing in Kingdom.
Due to increase in numbers of students, the school was shifted to Baghdadiyah district to meet the educational requirements of Pakistani children, living in and around Jeddah. It was housed in a building donated by Abdullah Sharbatly, a Saudi philanthropist of great eminence. It was upgraded to matriculation level in 1969. In 1980, construction of the present building Pakistan International School Jeddah (PISJ) in Aziziyah district was started, with the approval of the Jeddah Municipality.
It was further elevated to the status of Intermediate College in 1979 and was affiliated with the Federal Board, Islamabad. The institution’s foundation stone was laid by the then Makkah Gov. Prince Majed in September 1981. The building was completed in 1984 and inaugurated by Prince Majed. The school provides education for Pakistani children Boys & Girls) from KG to intermediate level. For the SSC and HSSC exams, the school is affiliated with Federal Board, Islamabad.
“We have established 13 centers throughout the Kingdom right up to Yanbu and Najran, where the children are registered as external students of the school and they are being provided books and guidance to prepare for their annual exams,” the school said in a statement. The school conducts special annual examinations for such students every year.
The American International School of Jeddah (AISJ) is a private, college-preparatory English language day school for students three years of age through twelfth grade. AISJ has offered excellence in American education for over 57 years and has a reputation for providing a rigorous American based standards curriculum which develops critical thinking and character building through a problem-based, student-oriented approach to learning.
The school-learning environment offers a unique international and multicultural experience with over 1,000 students from 45 countries, according to AISJ’s Superintendent Dr. Mark A. English. AISJ has a highly qualified staff of educators, he said, adding that it recruits approximately 80 percent from the United States and Canada, and the remaining 20 percent from 15 different nations. Educational levels of the faculty include: 54 percent with a Bachelors degree, 42 percent with a Masters Degree, and 1 staff member with a PhD. AISJ is fully accredited by the US-based Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. AISJ is also recognized and licensed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education to operate as a school for expatriate children. “AISJ is committed to the development of the whole child where everyone is valued, challenged, and successful,” he added.