Education System of Saudi Arabia
In 1932, when Saudi Arabia officially became a nation, education was mostly limited to a few people, mainly the children from well-off families living in the main towns and cities. But today, public education from primary through university education is open to each and every Saudi national.
The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporate (TVTC) (earlier, known as the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training) are responsible for the education sector in Saudi Arabia. The highest authority that administers and regulates the education system in Saudi Arabia is the Supreme Committee for Educational Policy that was founded in 1963.
In 1930s started the formal primary education in Saudi Arabia. King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud started an extensive program to set up schools in Saudi Arabia in 1945. He was the founder of the country. In 1951, the kingdom has 226 schools with about 29,887 pupils. In 1957 was established the first university- the King Saud university in Riyadh.
The Ministry of Education was set up in 1954, and in 1975, the Ministry of Higher Education was established.
In 1964, the first government school for girls was established. By the end of 1990s, the schools for girls were built all over the country.
Education Profile of Saudi Arabia
Compulsory education in Saudi Arabia lasts for 6 years.
General education in Saudi Arabia comprises of pre-primary/kindergarten education, primary school of 6 years, followed by 3 years each of intermediate and secondary school.
Pre-primary education in Saudi Arabia is provided by kindergartens and nursery schools. Children aged 3 to 5 years can attend pre-primary education. This educational level is not compulsory and also is not the part of the official education levels.
Primary education in Saudi Arabia is compulsory to attend. The duration of primary education in Saudi Arabia is 6 years. Children start attending the primary school from 6 years of age.
Students in order to move to the next educational level, i.e. intermediate level must take an exam at the end of grade 6 of the primary education and get an elementary/primary education certificate.
Intermediate and Secondary Education
In Saudi Arabia, intermediate education lasts for 3 years. Upon successful completion of the intermediate education, pupils can go for general as well as specialized education.
The final level of general education is the secondary education that lasts for 3 years. The secondary education comprises of programmes in sciences, arts and commerce, or vocational and technical education.
Technical and Vocation education: The technical secondary institution offer vocational and technical education and training. This education lasts for 3 years, and is offered in the fields of commerce, agriculture and industry.
Higher Education in Saudi Arabia
Higher education in Saudi Arabia is provided by public as well as private universities, girl’s colleges, an institute of Public Administration, and teacher’s colleges. All universities-public and private are accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education. The universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia are finance by the government and private sectors.
There are different institutions for men and women. Some of the higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia offer distance learning.
Universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia provide following degrees in several humanities and scientific specializations: associate, bachelor, masters and doctorate. In Saudi Arabia, studies in the area of social sciences and humanities lasts for 4 years; while studies in the field of engineering, pharmacy and medicine lasts for 5 to 6 years.
Higher Education Qualifications
The University level higher education qualifications in Saudi Arabia:
Bachelor’s degree: This degree requires 4 years of full-time study; for pharmacy, medicine, veterinary, and engineering, it takes 5 to 6 years of study.
Master’s degree: This degree requires 2 years of study, following the bachelor’s degree programme. This degree requires completion of coursework and a thesis.
Doctorate/PhD: This degree requires 3 years of study, following the master’s degree. This degree requires completion of coursework and a thesis.
The general department for private education at the Ministry of Education manages the private education in Saudi Arabia. There are private schools for girls and boys separately in Saudi Arabia. The government provides free textbooks and an annual financial support to students in private schools.
Special and Adult Education
Special education: The Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education manages and runs schools for the deaf, blind, and the mentally and physically disabled. Also, there are educational institutions for elderly disabled individuals.
Adult education: In Saudi Arabia, there are many adult education centres that aim to provide education to all and remove illiteracy from the Kingdom. The government organizes 3-month adult education courses during summer for people living in rural regions.
The admission requirements vary depending on the course of study, institution and study type you wish to pursue. In order to gain admittance into the university level-bachelor degree programme, students must have completed their secondary education.
Costs of Study and Living in Saudi Arabia
The cost of study and living varies depending on type of study program and location you chose.
Tuition fees: In Saudi Arabia, education is generally offered free of charge at all levels for Saudi citizens. Though some of the undergraduate degree programmes do charge fees from international pupils. Check with your chosen institution about the tuition fees.
Costs of living: The living expenses vary depending on your lifestyle.
Visa for Saudi Arabia
International students who want to study in Saudi Arabia must apply for visa. Lots of information is required for Saudi Arabia visa. Students must have the following documents:
- Confirmation/admission letter from the recognised educational institution in Saudi Arabia
- Original and copy of birth certificate
- Medical certificate
- Travel approval from your government
- Police report
- Visa fee receipts indicating that you have paid all the required visa fees
Also, Saudi Arabian student visa does not allow you to work while in the country.
Teacher Education and Training
In Saudi Arabia, there are many teacher training colleges. The Ministry of Education manages teacher training colleges and train teachers at different levels- primary, secondary and higher education levels.
Primary-school teachers must have a secondary school diploma and they are trained in junior colleges in Saudi Arabia. The training lasts for 2 years, and upon successful completion of training, a diploma for junior college training for teachers is awarded. Students who get B average and above are eligible for universities.
Secondary-school teachers can go for bachelors of education at the university in Saudi Arabia, or go for a bachelor’s degree programme along with a 1-year higher diploma. The bachelor of education lasts for 4 years. They can teach at the intermediate and secondary educational levels.
Higher Education Teachers are educated at King Abdul Aziz University's Centre for Teacher Training and Development in Saudi Arabia.