Insider tips on student recruitment in Bahrain
Recently, we sat down with Sara Abdulla from Al Mawred Education Services based in Bahrain to pick up a few tips on how to appeal to Bahraini students. Our video interview below begins with a market background on Bahrain's education system, which is "the cornerstone of national development and the bridge to a bright future," according to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The country places a high value on education and has been recognised for its impressive literacy rate of 97.3%. Bahrain has benefited from a fast growing economy, but seeks to reduce its dependency on oil and create a globally competitive economy driven by the private sector and an even stronger education system. The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) has outlined an Economic Vision 2030 to serve as a guide to achieve this. "Over the next 10 years, the size of Bahrain's workforce will double. Currently, approximately 4,000 Bahrainis a year are entering the job market with at least a college degree. If present economic trends continue, the quality and number of jobs available will not satisfy the demand."
Their vision is to boost the middle class with an "ultimate aim to ensure that every Bahraini household has at least twice as much disposable income - in real terms - by 2030."
More disposable income means a greater ability to afford an education overseas, making Bahrain a country with long-term appeal. And with an increasing population base, the K-12 sector is receiving particular attention: "E-learning is being used on a large scale in [our] schools," said Minister of Education Dr Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi. Furthermore, the vocational and technical education sector has been identified as key to boosting skills and employability, and Bahrain agency Tamkeen has partnered with TVET UK to share best practices. The total number of students in government education in 2012/13 was 128,741 vs. 84,552 in non-government education. Most private schools in the country teach in English, but language skills are strong regardless of the type of school one attends. "Bahrain has the highest level of English language speakers in the region, which makes it very easy for the students to go abroad," explains Ms Abdulla, who also reveals the study preferences of Bahrainis, giving a glimpse into what educators might expect from these students. In Part 2 of our interview, we dig deeper into the nuances, exploring the differences between school and location choices in larger destinations such as the UK vs. the US and particularly on how Bahrainis adjust when abroad. We also look at the appeal of Arabic-speaking destinations such as Turkey and Malaysia, and Ms Abdulla stresses, "the [choice of] destination is dependent on how active this country or this institution is in marketing itself in Bahrain." Finally, Ms Abdulla discusses how to market to Bahraini students and parents - which marketing messages will resonate with each audience - as well as the strong influence advertising and social media have along with in-person visits to Bahrain.