Just like any other type of schooling, homeschooling is an international endeavor. Millions of families around the world have made the decision to take their child’s education into their own hands, especially during and in the wake of COVID-19. And, like the United States, every country has its own opinions, philosophies, and laws surrounding homeschooling.

In this monthly series, we’ll take a look at different countries around the world and how they view homeschooling as well as the types of laws (if any) those countries have to govern homeschooling. The first country we visited was the second-largest country in the world, and the northern neighbor to the United States–Canada. Then we went island hopping to the Philippines and Puerto Rico before cruising on over to South Africa. We headed back to the Caribbean to the Dominican Republic, traveled all the way to Thailand, made our way back to Mexico, and then journeyed to the Middle East to explore homeschooling in Qatar. We’re going to stay in the same region as we examine homeschooling in Saudi Arabia!

Saudi Arabia is a very interesting country. Here are some cool facts about the Middle East nation:

  • It is the 13th largest country in the world–and 2nd largest Arab country behind Algeria.
  • Nearly 100% of the country (95%) is desert or semidesert.
  • Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river (though it does have coastlines along the Persian Gulf and Red Sea).
  • Women were, more or less, forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia until 2018.
  • The country boasts a population of approximately 35.6 million people.
  • Only around 20% of the Saudi workforce is made up of women.
  • Most Saudi citizens–approximately five out of every six–live in urban areas.
  • The three largest cities are the capital of Riyadh (approximately 6.5 million), Jeddah (approximately 4 million), and the holy city of Mecca (approximately 2 million).
  • The country will soon be home to the world’s tallest building. The Jeddah Tower, under construction since 2013, will be at least 3,280 feet (1 kilometer!) tall, the first building in the world to reach that height, and will boast the world’s highest observation deck. COVID-19 delayed construction, so there is no firm opening date yet.
  • The country makes up most of the length of the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of the Islam religion. The country is home to the two holiest mosques in Islam: the Masjid-e-Nabwi in Medina and the Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca.
  • Approximately 100% of the country is Muslim.
  • Saudi Arabia has the second largest oil reserves in the world and the fourth largest natural gas reserves. 

Rules and Requirements for Homeschooling in Saudi Arabia

There isn’t much in the way of data when it comes to homeschooling in Saudi Arabia. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), education (as well as education-related supplies and resources) in the country is provided by the government. Homeschooling is accepted in Saudi Arabia but is not officially recognized as a method of instruction. This is why homeschooling is generally limited to foreigners and expatriates.

If you’re considering homeschooling in Saudi Arabia, you’re not alone in your journey. Below are a few homeschooling groups in Saudi Arabia that can help provide support and answers to your questions.

One major incentive to homeschooling in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the bounty of sights to see and activities in which to partake. From visiting the stunning mosques to exploring the oasis and lush landscapes of Al Ahsa, to immersing yourself in both the ancient history and modern wonder of the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, there is no shortage of field trips and learning opportunities in the country. That’s not even taking into account the beaches, markets, museums, and other places to learn outside the classroom in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s School System

While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contains numerous public, private, and international schools, not everyone enjoys the same levels of access. For example, Saudi government schools are only open to residents and Saudi citizens; these schools are open to non-citizen children…but only if they are Muslim. Saudi schools also tend to focus on Islamic studies, are generally taught in Arabic, and are separated by gender–important considerations if you’re contemplating enrolling your child in a Saudi school. 

Overall, education is split into primary and secondary levels (as in most countries), with kindergarten being optional. All schools in Saudi Arabia are overseen by The Ministry of Education and the General Presidency of Girls’ Education. Students between ages 6 and 12 must attend primary school, while those ages 13 to 16 attend intermediate school, and students 17 to 19 attend secondary school. Subjects covered in secondary schools include science, literature, math, history, Arabic, Islamic studies, and English.

As far as global rankings, Saudi Arabia placed #35 out of 73 countries in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Countries for Education. Not bad, especially considering the ranking jumped 11 places from #46 in 2020. However, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Education GPS, which uses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to assess the reading, science, and math skills of 15-year-old students every three years, reported these statistics for Saudi Arabia’s students:

  • In reading, students in Saudi Arabia averaged a 399 score, well below the OECD country mean of 487.
  • In math, students in Saudi Arabia scored 373, which is a significant 116 points below the OECD country mean (489). In fact, boys performed even lower with a 367 average, ranked #74 out of 77 PISA-participating countries.
  • In science, students in Saudi Arabia scored 103 points below (386) the OECD country mean (489).
  • Additionally, OECD reports that 30% of students in Saudi Arabia reported being bullied at least a few times a month, compared to 23% on average across OECD countries.

That said, 71% of students (compared to OECD average of 67%) in Saudi Arabia reported that they are satisfied with their lives, with 85% reporting that they are sometimes or always feeling happy, which is always positive news.

Given the relative difficulty for expats and non-citizens to integrate themselves into the Saudi government school system, as well as the middle-of-the-pack education rankings, it’s no surprise that many families seem to be opting for homeschooling in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Bridgeway in Saudi Arabia

Bridgeway Academy is the homeschool partner for more than two-dozen students in Saudi Arabia. If you’re currently living in Saudi Arabia or are planning on moving there, remember that Bridgeway offers plenty of amazing homeschool programs–plus accreditation, record-keeping, and support–that can be used anywhere in the world! And, don’t forget to look up fellow Bridgeway families–it’s a community that can be found in nearly two dozen countries across the globe, and the Bridgeway community is a strong one.Download our free PDF about homeschooling with a U.S. based program and then contact our admissions team today at (800) 863-1474 to start your homeschool adventure. Stay tuned–we’ll be bringing you homeschooling info from another international location soon!