At the beginning of the 20th century, Qur'anic schools (Kuttab) were the only form of education in Bahrain. They were traditional schools aimed at teaching children and youth the reading of the Qur'an. After World War I, Bahrain became open to western influences, and a demand for modern educational institutions appeared. 1919 marked the beginning of modern public school system in Bahrain when Al-Hidaya Al-Khalifia School for boys was opened in Muharraq. In 1926, the Education Committee opened the second public school for boys in Manama, and in 1928 the first public school for girls was opened in Muharraq.
The system was established in 1932 when the government assumed responsibility for operating two pre-existing primary schools for boys. Subsequently, separate facilities for girls and various secondary programs were established. Since the 1970s, education has been one of the largest current government expenditures. Despite the intensity of government efforts, however, the literacy rate for adult citizens was only about 75% as recently as 1985. The literacy rate for 1990 was estimated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be 77% for adults (82% for males and 69% for females). Nevertheless, literacy levels among Bahrainis born since independence in 1971 were high because an estimated 70% of primary and secondary school-age children attended school.
In the 1986-87 academic year, 88,152 students attended 139 public schools. Education in the public system, which included six-year primary schools, three-year intermediate schools, and three-year secular secondary schools, is free. Students receive supplies, uniforms, meals, and transportation to and from school at no charge. Almost all children in the six- to eleven-year-old age-group attend primary school, and about two-thirds of all 12- to 14-year-olds are enrolled in intermediate schools. However, there was a significant drop-out rate, especially for girls, after the completion of intermediate school. In the 1986-87 academic year, only 41% of 15- to 17-year-olds attended secondary schools.
In the academic year of 2008/2009 the number of public classes in Bahrain ( including religious classes) are 4,326, with the number of male students 62,381 and female students 63,233. with a distribution of 62,172 in primary classes, 32,327 in preparatory classes (junior high) and 31,115 in secondary schools.
In addition to the public education system, there are 48 private and religious schools, including the United States operated and accredited Bahrain International School, which offers classes from primary school through secondary school. There were 5,000 teachers in 1988, of whom 65% were native Bahrainis. Egyptians constituted the largest group of foreign teachers. Bahrain also is home to St Christopher’s School,which the Guardian has named as one of the eight best international schools in the world, the only school in the Middle East to make the list.
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