Persian Gulf States Table of Contents


Bahrain has the oldest public education system in the Arabian Peninsula. The system was established in 1932 when the government assumed responsibility for operating two preexisting 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 percent as recently as 1985. The literacy rate for 1990 was estimated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization to be 77 percent for adults (82 percent for males and 69 percent for females). Nevertheless, literacy levels among Bahrainis born since independence in 1971 were high because an estimated 70 percent 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 twelve- to fourteen-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 percent of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds attended secondary schools.

In addition to the public education system, there are fortyeight private and religious schools, including the United Statesoperated and accredited Bahrain International School, which offers classes from primary school through secondary school. There were 5,000 teachers in 1988, of whom 65 percent were native Bahrainis. Egyptians constituted the largest group of foreign teachers.

In 1927 the first group of Bahrainis to receive a university education enrolled at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The first institution of higher education in Bahrain, the Gulf Polytechnic, was established in 1968 as the Gulf Technical College. In 1984 Gulf Polytechnic merged with the University College of Art, Science, and Education (UCB), founded in 1979, to create a national university offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. During the 1991-92 academic year, more than 4,000 students, one-half of whom were women, studied at the two campuses of UCB/Polytechnic.

Bahrain had three additional institutions of higher education in 1993. The College of Health Services, established in 1976, offers various medical technology and nurses' training programs. The Hotel and Catering Training Center offers postsecondary vocational courses in management and culinary arts. The newest institution, the Arabian Gulf University (AGU), was established outside Ar Rifaa in 1984 and funded by the six member countries of the GCC. Construction of AGU facilities, however, was delayed by the decline in oil revenues experienced by all GCC states in the mid-1980s. The first faculty, the College of Medicine, opened in the fall of 1989 and provided medical education for fiftyeight aspiring physicians. The projected completion date for the AGU campus is 2006; officials anticipate that AGU will accommodate 5,000 students annually, once the university becomes fully operational.

Health and Welfare

In 1925, when Bahrain was a British protectorate, the government established free medical service, including immunization, outpatient treatment, and hospitalization. The availability of preventive and curative health care led to the virtual eradication of such endemic and infectious diseases as smallpox, trachoma, and dysentery. By the 1980s, life expectancy was estimated at sixty-five years. In 1993 Bahrain's comprehensive health care system included facilities for inpatient and outpatient dental care, general medical care, maternity care, orthopedic care, pediatric care, and psychiatric care. Almost all primary and secondary treatment within the public health system is free to citizens and foreign residents.

The largest public hospital is the 1,000-bed Salmaniya Medical Center, which opened in 1978. The center is a general teaching hospital that has accident and emergency facilities and fully equipped laboratories. More than one-half of Bahrain's 400 physicians work at Salmaniya. The public health system also includes twenty-seven regional health centers that provide such primary care as diagnostic services, minor surgery, dentistry, prenatal and postnatal care, and general family medical care. In addition, the system includes sixteen child welfare centers. The government also maintains the 135-bed Bahrain Military Hospital, which is reserved for members of the armed forces and their families.

In 1992 there were two small private hospitals in Bahrain. The forty-five-bed American Mission Hospital, operated by the United States-based Arabian Mission of the Dutch Reformed Church, is the oldest hospital in the country and is one of the oldest on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf. Many members of the country's ruling elite were born at this hospital, and they continue to come to it for medical care. The newer, twenty-three-bed International Hospital caters to very wealthy patients.

The government established a social security system in 1976. The General Organization of Social Insurance (GOSI) was set up to administer the program, which provides pensions (since 1986) and compensation for work-related accidents. Only Bahraini citizens are eligible for retirement pensions, but both nationals and foreign workers are covered against accidents. GOSI required all companies employing at least ten persons to participate in the program. GOSI collects 7 percent of an employee's monthly salary for the pension program and requires employers to contribute an additional amount equivalent to 11 percent of a Bahraini's monthly pay. Employers pay an extra 3 percent of their payrolls to cover all employees against accidents.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress