Proceedings of The 3rd International Conference on Teaching, Learning and Education
Early Childhood Education in Bahrain: A Way Forward?
Hala Al Khalifa
There has been a significant amount of research which reaffirms the importance of children accessing and participating in formal education at a young age. Apart from the cognitive and social benefits, there are long-term economic benefits to a country. Despite such benefits, some countries have not taken the necessary steps to change their policy on compulsory student starting ages; Bahrain is one country which has maintained the compulsory age for children to start their formal education at six years of age. This paper describes the benefits of pre-school ECEC and provides an insight into the current situation of ECEC provision in Bahrain. Embedded within the contextual analysis of ECEC provision in Bahrain is the emphasis placed on parents to enroll (and fund) their children in education before the compulsory age. The result has meant that only 26% of Bahrain’s children below the age of six actually receive any formal privately-provided education. Within such provision, this paper describes the barriers the country faces to mandate all children starting their formal education at a much lower age. Some of these barriers include a lack of political will, others relate to the financial impediments. Despite the barriers to shift Government policy, the paper explores some potential solutions that are adopted in other international settings to ensure quality ECEC is universally available (and mandatory) for all children in Bahrain at a much younger age than is currently in place.
Keywords: Early childhood education, Bahrain, policy.