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The Kingdom of Bahrain is a group of islands slightly more than three times the size of Washington, D.C. located off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. With a population of approximately 677,000, this is a small country in a turbulent area of the world. Declining oil reserves have caused Bahrain to rely on Saudi Arabian oil while Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and has become an international banking center.


The Kingdom of Bahrain has focused on education for centuries. Traditional education based on the Koran has been in place for hundreds of years, and secular education has been in place in Bahrain since the early 1900s, although there is some dispute as to exactly when the first public school was established. Before 1919, a number of prominent citizens in Bahrain agreed to establish a modern formal school. A number of the Shaikhs had endorsed this idea and contributed to this project.

The year 1919 marked the official beginning of the modern public school system in Bahrain. Al-Hidaya Al-Khalifia school for boys was opened at the northern tip of Muharraq. The first Committee of Education consisted of several leading merchants and was presided over by the late Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al-Khalifa who was popularly known as the "Minister of Education." He was also responsible for the management of the Al-Hidaya school. In 1926, the Education Committee opened the second public school for boys at Manama. Unlike many countries in the region, Bahrain saw that educating women was equally important and in 1928 the first public school for girls was opened at Muharraq. Due to the financial and administrative difficulty faced by the Education Committee, the schools came under the direct control of the government in 1930.

Dating from its earliest establishment in Bahrain, education has grown exponentially with the greatest growth taking place in the latter 1960s and into the 1970s. Indeed, primary and secondary enrollment proliferated at an astonishing rate, and that trend has continued to the present. The education act of 1975 extended intermediate education from two to three years, and made basic education compulsory. The number of female students is nearly equivalent to that of male students, with male students slightly in the lead.

Education is free at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels, and at the post-secondary levels there is only a nominal fee. Many scholarships are offered and students are encouraged to continue to post-secondary education, either in Bahrain or abroad. As with other Middle Eastern countries lacking a sufficient post-secondary educational infrastructure, Bahrain actively supports its students seeking post-secondary education abroad.

Bahrain's education system is overseen by their Ministry of Education.

Primary and Secondary Education

Today the typical student completes six years of primary education, three years of Intermediate School, and three years of General Secondary School for a total of 12 years of combined primary and secondary education (though a few vocational secondary school programs are only two years), from either a religious or public institution. Students graduating from a public secondary institution receive a Secondary School Leaving Certificate where those graduating from a public institute receive a General Certificate of Secondary Education. Alternative studies from career oriented secondary institutes receive a Tawjahiya Secondary School Certificate.

Post-Secondary Education

The 12-year certificate from either type of institution is the minimum requirement to continue to higher education. After twelve years of study the student is eligible to pursue post-secondary education that typically lasts four additional years and results in a Bachelor's degree, which is comparable with a U.S. bachelor's degree. Completion of the Bachelor's degree may lead to further study in graduate level programs.

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Robert Watkins

Special Assistant to the Director, University of Texas at Austin


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