Our Associates make it a priority to know as much as possible about the regions they represent, our schools, and our administrative and teaching candidates there. And there's only one way to get the full picture of how everybody is doing: Associates must go and see for themselves. This spring, Senior Associate Bill Turner completed a tour of schools in one segment of the Middle East. Here he describes the teaching life in Bahrain.
Whilst all the Gulf countries are, of course, different, one strong similarity among the U.A.E., Kuwait, and Qatar is that you will not often meet or mix with nationals (usually referred to as 'locals'). Bahrain is quite different. As in Oman, in Bahrain, you will find yourself regularly talking to Bahrainis. They teach in schools, drive taxis, and work in restaurants, and are often described by expats as being "very down to earth."
Bahrain is small (760 sq km) and surrounded by a 160km coastline, though it actually consists of 30 islands, some very small! It is attached to Saudi Arabia by a 25km bridge, and you will see plenty of Saudis enjoying the attractions of Bahrain at weekends. It is the home of Gulf Air, has a good international airport, and is within an easy one-hour flight from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Teachers say the culture of Bahrain is very easy-going and friendly. Being fairly small, Bahrain is easy to get around, and although people complain about the traffic, Bill says,
"I think they have forgotten what real traffic jams look like! There is some congestion at rush hours, but overall it is not significant."
Bahrain offers the regular attractions of five-star hotels--beautiful beaches, sumptuous brunches, live music, etc.; traditional souqs and modern malls; and the chance to play Robinson Crusoe by exploring deserted beaches in your 4x4. If you like history, the country's fascinating past is well recorded and protected in monuments and the fascinating Bahrain National Museum. The annual Bahrain Grand Prix is a sporting highlight.
There are 120 international schools in Bahrain. They have a Quality Assurance inspection every three years (reports are visible here). This is largely considered reputable, as it is done well, with quality local and imported inspectors, and is a significant factor in the raising of school standards. The tri-annual inspection has been driven by an ambitious 2030 vision to steer the country away from the dominant oil and gas industries towards diversification and a knowledge economy.
Bahrain has a strong relationship with the U.K. and this year celebrated 200 years of friendship by commissioning 200 events, mostly to do with education. There are plenty of schools offering British and American curricula; only one offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP and MYP, but 13 offer the IB Diploma Programme. Seven Bahraini schools are signed up to Search Associates. Bill visited six of these and found all to be lively, cheerful, well-led, and proud of what they are doing. Personal and professional development are taken very seriously.
Schools feel settled and mature – in this respect more like Kuwait and Oman than Qatar and the U.A.E. Some have been around for a while. Packages, as usual, vary quite widely in sum and in the details. Check the various parts carefully: flights, accommodation, medical insurance, tuition benefits for children as well as the actual salary. Best news: it's tax free!
For more information on our schools in Bahrain, check out the Search database.