How to find the best schools in Bali in 2021
Last updated 16th July 2021
Having trouble choosing a school to send your children to in Bali? The island has many international schools to choose from and most of them come with a big price tag! Apart from choosing between curriculums like the British Cambridge System, Australian, International Baccalaureate, Montessori, The Green School Way, Steiner and Reggio-Emilia Inspired Nature-Based systems, there are alternative ways to learn – like home-schooling, online distance education, unschooling and world schooling!
Factors to consider in your Bali school plans
- The age of the children
- How long you plan to stay
- Where you want to live and willing to commute
- Your budget
- Extracurricular activities
- Class sizes
- Curriculum offered
- School calendar dates and holidays
- School community and nationalities of students
- Wait lists
- Make up of teachers
What are Schools in Bali Like?
Often class numbers in Balinese schools are not large. In fact, both my children’s classes had no more than 14 children. Due to the nature of being in an expat school, there will always be the element of a transient school community. Homework and deadlines can be a bit more relaxed considering families can be coming and going or simply having a few days away. Some schools in Bali don’t have homework at all!
Most Balinese schools start early in the morning between 7:00am – 8am and so finish a little earlier between 2:30pm-3pm. Apart from following a typical school calendar there are also many other local holidays and religious days that are taken off. Bali is full of ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. We were surprised at how many days the school was closed due to these special cultural days. In fact, there are many opportunities to enjoy long weekends and holidays as there are 13 national holidays proclaimed by the Indonesian government.
We learnt that there are four types of public holidays in Indonesia: religious, national, international, and commemorative. Ones that are designated tanggal merah (literally red date, or a date that is designated in red on a calendar) signify national holidays when government offices, schools, banks, and most businesses are closed.
Each Balinese school has their own unique community feel with opportunities to meet different families from around the world. Green School Bali, for example, has a specific setup for parents to stay at the school and work online. They encourage parents to engage in various activities and provide a great set up with a cafe to work online on the campus.
As the Green School Bali has a world-wide reputation, many wish to attend for a short time to experience its unique appeal and then move on. This short-term attendance (even for just a single term), I believe, was causing lots of disruption understandably so it is only available for the very early years (age 3-5) if availability allows. You need to enroll for a minimum of one year otherwise. Some schools also have public and closed Facebook groups and even relocation support and advice.
Not only are you enjoying the global community of families, but each school has a great make up of teachers from around the world. For example Green School Bali promote having teachers from 15 different nationalities. By law, there needs to be a local Indonesia teacher employed with each class as well. These local Indonesian teachers often have good English skills and an education background.
Balinese schools vary in their facilities and school campus, like school halls, libraries, computer rooms, music rooms, sporting facilities, the grounds and lots more. Although the children are outside a lot of the time, the heat can be unbearable and you are grateful for air conditioned classrooms. I have personally visited many schools in Bali. I have watched my children play in their sport facilities and we have met lots of different families that attend all of them – in fairness, some are happy with their overall experience and others not. Then again this is like any school around the world too – there is always something that we may not like.
As you’ll see below, there is a lot to consider when choosing a school in Bali and I can give you honest advice and feedback wherever you are in the world. I can truthfully say, speaking from my lived experience, that the international price tag doesn’t give you the quality you expect in return. Unfortunately, the assumption of ‘the more you pay, the better the education and facilities’ doesn’t necessarily apply when it comes to Balinese Schools. But if you have the budget for it then by all means I can talk through the pros and cons of each of these schools and the areas they are located in.
How much do Schools in Bali Cost?
Once you start googling ‘schools in Bali’ you might get a surprise at the cost of school fees and start to question if your Bali dream can still become a reality. Most international schools on the island, for example, cost approximately between $7,000-$25,000 AUD per year (plus extras), per student, and if I can be very honest, it is not value for money. Ultimately, it comes down to what type of school you end up choosing and the particulars of that school.
I personally think you need to be realistic and remember that ultimately you are not going to Bali for the incredible school education but for all the other life changing experiences that living back at home cannot buy! Apart from the yearly school fees, there are additions such as enrolment fees and additional levies. Some include extras like school camps, sports, and additional excursions. See our list of The Best Schools in Bali further down to continue your research!
Bali’s International and independent Schools
An international or independent school is an educational facility for children aged between 2 and 18, that operates outside of, in this case, the Indonesian Government education system. Bali, and Indonesia generally, has a rich history of diverse schooling options and so there are many of these schools to choose from.
For example, Bali’s French School was established back in 1991 and is accredited by the French National Education ministry and under the supervision of the French Embassy in Indonesia. Originally set up for children of expats, these schools teach varying curriculums (i.e. UK British and Australian), follow different school calendars, and have vastly different facilities, languages and sports. I recommend not being too distracted by the nicest looking facilities at these schools – you still need to visit them in person as opposed to just viewing a nice-looking website with great photos!
There will be a particular Balinese flavour to each school and they will each will have their own pros and cons. Teachers at Balinese schools are usually expats themselves that come and go and will often get a contract for a couple of years.
Some international schools such as Canggu Community School, Australian Independent School and Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School offer high schoolers the opportunity to do International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. This may be a great opportunity as the IB is not as mainstream in Australia and may suit your child. Click here to understand more about International Baccalaureate education. You can also consider International Schools online.
In a bid to regulate the quality of education in Indonesia, quite a few years ago, the government introduced legislation that no longer permits schools to use the word ‘international’ in their name. This is to prevent low-quality schools from using the term to merely to charge higher fees. These schools are required to teach Indonesian civics, language, and religion and in addition they must allow Indonesian students to attend and must employ local teachers to teach Indonesian subjects.
Bali’s Best Schools
All these schools are co-education (mixed sexes) in nature, there aren’t any same-sex schools to consider in Bali. Depending on the current COVID restrictions, some schools have a hybrid model with time split between home and school as well other as various COVID rules. Best to check their websites to get more update information on restrictions and enrolments.
This list covers the majority of schools in Bali.
Bali’s International & independent Schools
- Australian Independent School (AIS) (January – December school year calendar like Australia)
- Bali Island School (BIS) (offers IB)
- Canggu Community School
- Cendekia Harapan
- Lycee Francais de Bali (French School)
- Green School Bali
- Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School Bali
- Montessori School (up to 13 years old)
- Pelangi (popular school in Ubud)
- ProEducation School Plus Bali
- Sanur Independent School
- Sunrise School (not high school)
- SLK (Sekolah Lentera Kasih) (preschool, primary and secondary)
- Skywalker House Bali (4-12 years old)
Bali’s International & independent Childcare and Preschools
- Australian Independent School (AIS)
- The Anak Atelier, Preschool and Kindergarten
- Bali Island School (BIS) (offers IB)
- Canggu Community School
- Cendekia Harapan
- Cheeky Monkeys Early Learning Centre, Sanur
- Empathy school (up to 12 yrs old, Ubud)
- Lycee Francais de Bali (French School)
- Umalas Kids Club
- The Garden Early Learning Centre
- Lollypop Preschool
- Skoebi-do Child Care Canggu
- Skoebi-do Child Care Sanur
- Sunrise School (Primary School, similar style to Green School based in Kerobokan)
- Stella Mundi
- Wood School Bali
Bali Attracts Many to the Environmentally Focused Green School Bali
The Green School in Bali has made a world-wide name for itself and is often the main attraction for families to move to Bali in the first place. It has a very unique approach when it comes to learning and they do say that enrolling at Green School Bali is a two-way selection process. The wall-less bamboo campus nestled in Ubud jungle launched back in 2008. While Green School teaches traditional subjects like math, science, and language, it also draws on alternative approaches such as Steiner and Montessori, which emphasise creativity and self-direction.
I have interviewed many families who have children of all ages attend the Green School so to gain a further insight into the school experiences and life I suggest you read the following interviews:
The school very much encourages you to read, watch, question, discuss and deeply consider whether joining the school is the right decision for your family. Click here to see if the Green School is the right school for you and your children.
Distance education & Other Bali Schooling Options
Apart from attending international schools, there are many other less expensive options to look into. These can be some smaller schools, home schooling via online distance education, home-based schools, and tutoring. If you’re looking for more information about schooling remotely online whilst living in Bali, read about these two families, both with two children, who have loved their distance education via Brisbane and Canada.
You may have to consider time zones for when their lessons would be delivered. For example, if using distance education (virtual schooling) in Australia, your children may have to start online at 6am Bali time. However, the school day is finished usually between 10am-12pm. Every Australian state has a different online set up and you need to check prior to leaving for Bali the different enrolment details and criteria. These schooling options are of course considerably lower with Brisbane’s Distance Education, for example, costing $1,560 AUD per year.
Other school alternatives are places like Wood School Bali (Giyanar near Ubud), which was started by and Indonesian founder/director and his American wife. It covers preschool to middle school (enrol ages 3-15) and drop-ins/short terms for traveling families. They are based on the philosophy of Neohumanist Education which is an International network of schools. Their students follow international standards for all academics and have done a tremendous amount of social service for our community. They also accommodate Worldschooling families for drop-in enrolment as space allows. They have a lovely community of have families from all over the world including European, American, Japanese and Australian.
What about Home Schooling in Bali?
Home based schools (not to be confused with Online Distance Education) in Bali are rapidly growing across the island for example the Bamboo Garden Home School (near Canggu), Children of the World School and Learning Centre(Kerobokan) and Little Stars School (Sanur). There are quite a few lovely family-based home schools that are popping up but they do have wait lists because of the small numbers they can hold. They usually cater for students up to 12 years of age. Reach out to people in the Homeschool Bali community Facebook page.
These little schools are often inspired by alternative curriculum and philosophies around the world, including Reggio Emilia but also the British Curriculum and Cambridge International Programme. For example, the home-based school, Bali Riverside Homeschool, is a small private study group for children of upper primary and lower secondary school age with an International standard of education taught by an experienced teacher with core subjects based on the Cambridge International Programme.
In the Umalas there is the Caterpillar School Bali an Early Years Learning Center (ages 20 months- 9 years old). It is nature based & Montessori Inspired. In the Canggu area you have the relatively new Bloom Boutique Atelier , Reggio Emilia, nature based learning little farm house currently for 2-7 years of age and will extend to age 12 from January 2022.
Or it may be the case where you look at getting a tutor to come to your villa for your own child/ren or you share a tutor with similar age children.
If you are interested in home schooling but nervous about the social aspect you can connect with the Bali home school community on Facebook HomeSchooling Bali Facebook group which is a supportive space in which to share and discuss resources, information, specialist teachers, after-school activities and group excursions. There are many other family and children related Facebook groups that can also offer extra activities to develop skills in other areas like sports, arts, music and so forth.
How has Covid-19 Affected Schooling in Bali?
With COVID affecting the way we learn and even causing school closures, I can now comfortably say we have all experienced home schooling to some degree, and so both home and distance schooling have become a common option. Some schools are offering hybrid models such as attending school for a few days and home for a few days. For example, the Green School were doing a blended programme with 4 days at school and one day distance learning. As restrictions keep changing, so do the rules for school so please visit their website to get the latest COVID information.
Many families have stopped paying school fees and have decided to run home-schools from their own villa with a few other children and hiring a teacher to conduct the lessons. They can choose their own curriculum like the one from Montessori for example, and it can also be used as an interim option until their regular school opens again.
I understand home schooling is not for everyone but it could be a good option if you are looking at moving to Bali for 6-12 months. That way you don’t need to choose a school based in Bali and live close by to it. There is a lot more flexibility and you can set your own schedule. You can find activities for your children to be social after their condensed school day has finished. There are so many great activities on offer!
Transport and Traffic Considerations when Selecting a School in Bali
In most cases, I would advise choosing the school in Bali first and then looking at where you should live on the island. The logistics of driving to school in Bali traffic is something you need to consider as you don’t want to spend most of you day commuting. However, this is just a fact of life in Bali and the reality is that it will always take some time commuting every day. Luckily, some schools offer schools buses and parents organise carpools as well.
Unfortunately, you will not get an accurate indication when you Google the directions and look at the distances and time it takes from your home to your Balinese school. You need to drive the route and, depending on the day you, it could be another 20 minutes or more. Every day is unpredictable: there could be a Balinese ceremony (very common!) so the road is blocked off, sudden floods (in the wet season) or new potholes causing the traffic that day to fluctuate.
There could also be no obvious reason for the added traffic on any given day! This is where a lot of people prefer riding a motorbike to a car to avoid extra congestion, but it’s not always the ideal solution when commuting more than a single child to school.
Visa Requirements for Attending a School in Bali
You should also check the visa requirements when doing your school enrolments. Some schools may be less restrictive but, generally, students studying in Bali should have the Student KITAS Visa (a sponsored visa that stands for Kartu Izin Tinggal Terbatas). This Visa is given to those students studying full time and it costs roughly $1,000 AUD per child.
In our situation, the Student KITAS was organised through the school’s visa agent and this allowed them to stay in the country for one year without leaving. This visa treats them basically like an Indonesian citizen and they receive certain discounts at places like attractions and for accommodation.
They can also go in the Local Passport Holder line at the airport if entering back into Bali. Often there will be two prices advertised to tourists and KITAS/local residents. Families who may not have children going to school full time can look at applying for other visas. The original Social Visa has been replaced with the Business Visa 211 but there are other options for expats like the Investment KITAS, Family KITAS and Working KITAS.
Special Needs Education in Bali
ProEducation and Australian Independent School are schools that cater for students with special needs. ProEducation offers support and/or therapy and they look at areas such as Speech and Language & Occupational Therapy Services.
Learning Bahasa in school in Bali
By law every school in Bali needs to employ local teachers, so you will find that most classes have a Balinese assistant teacher. These teachers have excellent English and are a great asset to the class.
My children learnt Bahasa Indonesia twice a week for two years and I had fun learning alongside them too. We got one of their Balinese Assistant teachers to come to the villa for a few school terms to get on top of the language. It was also great to be able to practice our Bahasa every day when we chatted to the friendly Balinese staff or talk to locals at places like warungs and markets.
Will my children be behind in their studies when we return home?
After two years, my children came back to Australia to a private primary school in a new Australian state. They weren’t behind academically and my daughter adjusted back to school life straight away and my son took the first term to get readjusted. You will be surprised at how flexible and adaptable children are. They did receive maths tutoring whilst living in Bali once a week for about 6 months. We even tried the local Kumon Maths school to see what that was like but because it was run by local teachers for local children, it was hard to sometimes follow.
The other thing to note was that it was important to us that they were on the same school calendar and didn’t get moved a year ahead or behind. Another consideration is coming from Australia there is only one school that operates on the Australian calendar year (end of January to December), unlike Northern Hemisphere countries that start the school year around August. Therefore, if you attend a different school and return back to Australia, your child will have experienced a class ahead or behind what they are usually doing.
Overall, we thought they were young enough to catch up if necessary and still, to this day, my children love to incorporate their Bali life into their school projects and explain how it shaped their identity today.
Tutoring in Bali
Tutors are popular in Indonesia and it can be considered as a great help to give expat children an extra boost when adjusting to their new life or you may have been doing this back home. Tutors can help with adjusting to a different curriculum or to assist with learning Bahasa quicker. With the current COVID climate they have become even more popular to alternative school fees.
Some people just use a tutor as an alternative to school altogether or compliment it with online distance learning. Many of these tutors specialise in a particular subject or can assist across a few areas. Maths, English, Science and Bahasa tend to be the most popular.
You can find a tutor a few different ways: through the school community, chatting to other expat parents, Facebook groups, tutor agencies, and small tutor businesses. Tutoring can be a lot more economical when comparing to what we would pay back at home. Some offer private tutoring in your home or small groups at various setups.
What extracurricular activities can children do in Bali?
Sometimes the numbers are small for certain classes, for example with certain sports, and the class might not be able to go ahead. Still, there are plenty of extra-curricular activities to discover that can be done after school. There are dedicated Facebook Groups to give you inspiration and where people advertise their lessons and workshop activities. My children did swimming lessons in our villa pool, Bahasa lessons, tennis, art, and soccer.
Some ideas for after school activities in Bali include surfing lessons, swimming lessons, art classes, martial arts, yoga, instruments (like piano and guitar), singing, horse riding, dancing, gymnastics, drama, and skateboarding.
Depending where you live, the Finns Club in Canggu (Next to the Canggu Community School) as a large after school sports program that includes Soccer, Boxing, Swimming, Tennis, Rugby, Surfing, Muay Thai, Fencing, CapoDeoeira, Basketball and Ten Pin Bowling.
Supporting school education for the Local Balinese children
At my children’s school (AIS), I volunteered on the Parents and Friends Committee and for one year I was the Parents & Friends President. The highlight of the position was starting a new fundraising campaign for the Bali Children Foundation. This foundation is a charity that started in 2002 to help thousands of children to complete school, find employment, and improve their lives and the lives of their community.
We still continue to sponsor a lovely boy, Kadek, who lives in the city of Tigawasa, in North Bali and we get emailed his school reports and letters twice a year.
Choosing the right school in Bali for your family
Choosing a good school in Bali remotely is super tough and often the website is all you have to go by when trying to decide the right school for your family – that’s why I put this article together! The best scenario would be to do your research and then have a short list of schools ready for a visit to Bali prior to making your move, otherwise you may not have the opportunity or time to tour schools and do this before arriving and need to enrol online from your home. It is a big decision to make as it will greatly affect your Bali experience in so many ways.
Finally, don’t forget to check the requirements on leaving your current school. How much notice you need to give, if you want to return there in the future and perhaps even get feedback from your teachers as to the curriculum and learning style that may be appropriate for your child.
In any case, please contact me, wherever you are in the world, and I can give you the confidence to help to create that short list and answer many questions. I also understand that everyone’s child is different, and everyone’s needs and circumstances vary. This is why I suggest getting in touch to talk things through further and see if I can help.
I really enjoy assisting families with children of all ages from child care & preschool to middle school and high schoolers. So please feel free to reach out and ask about how I can help you choose the right school in Bali for your family.