Formal education was introduced in Bahrain already in 1919, with the opening of boy's school in Al-Muharraq. The first girl's school opened in 1928.
Elementary schooling was for long voluntary by law, but a high percentage of boys and girls attended school. It is first in recent years that it has become compulsory.
Bahrain has proven relatively successful in creating an education system that produces candidates with relevant skills for the job market. The system also seems to produce candidates with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
Although girls today attend school at the same numbers as boys, Bahraini schools are strongly segregated between the sexes. This to the level that many specializations are only open for one sex.
The size of expenditure on education compared to GDP is presently highly uncertain, the last good estimate goes back to 1991, when 3.9% was used. There is, however, no doubt that Bahrain puts serious efforts into offering a good school.
Literacy and Adult education
Literacy rates in Bahrain are fair, and about in the middle compared with other countries in the Gulf region. There remains a difference between men and women, and while the gap is smaller than most other MENA countries, it is among the largest in the Gulf region.
There were in 2000 67 adult education centers, most aiming at reducing adult illiteracy.
There are also special training programs for adults with little schooling, or those in the need of vocational training for new professions. These programs offer instruction in foreign languages, courses in auto mechanics, electrical appliance maintenance, art, family life and office and secretarial skills.
Bahrain has several teaching institutions for individuals with handicaps, principally blind, deaf and the dumb.
Bahrain has both kindergartens and pre-primary schools.
Only recently was primary education made compulsory in Bahrain. Before this, schools were still well-attended, schools were easily accessible to the citizens and there was a common sharing in the understanding of schools benefitting all.
After today's system, primary education start at the age of 6 and lasts 6 years. The next level, the Intermediate, lasts 3 years and is attended by about 95% of all eligible. Until the 1980's, drop-out rates for girls were high, today, attendance is equal between the sexes at this level.
Schools in Bahrain are separated between the sexes, and although attendance for girls is equal to that of boys, there are by far more schools dedicated to boys. As this means that there are less pupils at each boy school, it reflects that education for boys is considered more important in modern-day Bahrain.
Education is Bahrain is free not only with respect to tuition, also supplies, school uniforms and meals are provided for by the state.
Primary schools have tuition in Islam, Arabic, as well as as basic science and technology, social studies, art, physical education and music. The principal language of instruction is Arabic, English is first introduced as a subject in the 4th grade, but becomes gradually also a language of tuition.
There is a designated educational program with great focus on Islam available, but only 1.5% of the total number of pupils follow this, and then only boys.
Around 60% of teachers are female, and many teachers in Bahrain schools are Egyptians.
Immigrant groups often have their own schools, providing education in native language according to national educational plans. This especially applies to Pakistanis and Indians.
About 85% attend secondary education, which lasts 3 years. Its programs are divided into: General; Industrial; and Commercial. Beyond this, there are many specializations, like science, literary studies, agriculture, printing, textiles and advertising. Specific programs are only open to one sex: most technical and vocational programs are limited to boys, textiles and advertising to girls.
About 25% of teachers at this level are non-Bahraini citizens, but this number is on the decrease. In 2000, there were 17 general secondary schools, 4 technical and 3 commercial.
Evaluation at completion of the secondary level is a combination of grades from school and the results from national exams.
Bahrain's first university came from a 1986 merger between the University College and the Gulf Polytechnic, institutions dating back to the 1960's. Arab Open University, which also has branches in the other Gulf countries was established in 1979, and these two were the only universities until 3 more were founded in the 2000's. Another important institution is the Bahrain Training Institute.
Studies at foreign universities is encouraged by the Bahraini state, there are specific programs with scholarships for the most gifted students.