What’s Good To Know Is Hard To Learn

Yes, we are back once again to the question of the children’s schooling. Mainly S’s because he is the one who is old enough for me to be actively worrying about his education (while I am passively worrying about J and B’s education for now).

at the beginning of the school year we had decided to enroll him in the British school next year. Now, it’s not that clear anymore. “Why” I hear you ask? Because I am facing a dilemma of sorts. Do I send my children to an international school effectively cutting them off for a large part of their day from their family, culture, language (yes they can still learn Arabic but classical Arabic and not the Arabic they would use to converse with their peers. imagine learning how to talk to people from reading pride and prejudice and you’ll get an idea).

I use to think this was me blowing things out of proportion but I spoke with many people who have siblings or children in international schools over the last year. While they all tell me how happy they are with their children’s educational experiences and how far they have come in the international system (be it American, British or other) when I ask them about how comfortable they are in their society and with their peers they all unanimously tell me that they have problems in this area.

Some have minor problems such as not understanding the slang and not being in the “know” when it comes to what’s cool and what’s not with Saudi children of the same age. Others have major problems of not feeling like they fit in, not wanting to fit in, feeling like they are neither Saudi or (American, British etc). I have not found one parent or sibling or friend of a Saudi child in an international school (that has a minority of Saudi students that is) that could tell me their children do not face these problems.

Another thing these children are not learning is how to deal with people from different parts and societies of their country. If we are raising the next generation of Saudi’s then shouldn’t they be able to understand and fit in with the majority of their countrymen and women? Or at least know how to deal with them and understand what they are saying. My Grandmother is a bedouin woman and while I understand most of what she says in her ‘ajmi’ accent and words I needed a translator when my great-uncle talked… literally. And I spent my whole life with them.

Saudi is a very tribal country and men do not go easy on other men when they do not know the proper etiquette that is required when dealing with them. Etiquette that they don’t teach at school, that they can only learn from mixing with people and watching and learning. And God forbid that a man misunderstands a word or doesn’t know the right reply to a traditional greeting or saying (or woman for that matter although as usual less is expected and they mostly think it is either funny or cute). I remember walking in to my in laws house when I first got married and my father in law said “قوة ” and I said”…..” and then everybody laughed. No one told me I was supposed to say “الله اقويق”! And this when I spent my whole life here and in the Saudi community.

So here is my question; What is more important? Your children’s comfort in society? Or their education? Better educated awkward person? Relatively well-educated well-balanced person?


  1. I go for: Relatively well-educated well-balanced person.
    Bright hard working kids will do well despite their schooling – but you’re right you can’t get back those social lessons which are best learn with your peers.
    That’s why we’ve gone for maturity and self-assurance before academics. I know too many bright high-achieving social-outcasts to make any other decision. If Saudi social skills are that complex (and I have no reason to disbelieve you) then I’d go with the more social option and now I’ll stop talking…LOL

    • Lol no reason to stop! They are subtly complex but if my children were to work in any field where they had to interact with other Saudi’s which is almost every field it might nit ruin their job but it definitely won’t help that they do not know the proper way to talk or act in a social situation. I hope Some Saudis give their point of view as well.

  2. Welcome, first of all to WMB.
    I would go for relatively well-educated well-balanced person…the world changes…we should teach our children to change with it.

    I do understand how culture works though…

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