In recent times, news about Saudi Arabia has usually covered some mind-boggling and audacious projects in the making such as NEOM or the Line, or the threat of sports washing.
Not much else has been brought up in print in other areas. But the reality is that there have been remarkable developments, particularly in the field of education.
The face of education in Saudi Arabia has undergone significant changes over the past three decades, transforming from a traditional system to a modern and innovative one.
The Saudi government has recognised the importance of education in driving the country’s economic and social development and has made significant investments in modernising the education sector.
Earlier limited resources were devoted to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. When King Salman took over the reins of the country, the country began to rapidly modernise, with the government recognising the need to equip its citizens with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
It began to implement a series of reforms aimed at expanding the country’s education system and incorporating modern teaching methods and technology.
One of the most significant reforms was the introduction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan unveiled in 2016, which set out a comprehensive strategy for modernising the education sector and preparing young people for the future.
This plan included a focus on STEM education, the introduction of new teaching methods and technologies, and the development of partnerships with leading universities and institutions around the world.
The government has continued to invest heavily in the education sector, building new schools and universities, introducing new programmes and curricula, and providing training for teachers.
The focus has shifted from traditional studies to a more comprehensive education that covers a broad range of subjects, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The government has also invested in technology, including the introduction of smart boards and other digital tools, to enhance the learning experience for students.
Cormac O’Donnell, an Irish expatriate and an authority on Middle Eastern secondary schools, notes, “The education system in Saudi Arabia has come a long way in the past few decades. The integration of technology in the classroom has had a major impact on students’ ability to engage with their studies and has opened up new opportunities for learning.”
He adds that “The investment in new and innovative curricula is also a testament to the country’s commitment to preparing students for the demands of the global job market. This is a key factor in ensuring the long-term success of the education system and the future of the country.”
The changes in the education sector have had a profound impact on the country, leading to increased enrolment and graduation rates, particularly in STEM subjects.
The number of students pursuing degrees in these subjects has increased significantly, and many young people are now entering careers in fields such as technology and engineering. This has helped to drive economic growth and innovation in the country, creating new opportunities and helping to position Saudi Arabia as a leader in the region.
The Kingdom is also likely to be shaped by its growing population. With the number of students enrolled in schools and universities expected to grow significantly over the next few years, the government will need to invest in new educational facilities and resources to ensure that students have access to high-quality education.
In 2019, they started on that road by concluding a deal with the UAE group GEMS Education JV to build a network of new schools for 130,000 students across the kingdom, offering quality education.
An official at the time stated that “We are confident that the experience, reputation and track record of GEMS Education will ensure that our schools remain leaders in academic excellence and the development of our students.”
Finally, the future of education in Saudi Arabia will be shaped by the country’s continued efforts to become a leader in education on a global scale.
To do that will require the country to invest in research and development, attract top talent from around the world, and collaborate with leading international educational institutions to share best practices and stay at the forefront of educational innovation. Under the King and Crown Prince’s leadership, there is no doubt that the course is set in the right direction.
Overall, the face of education in the country is shaping up to be an exciting and transformative period, with the potential to have a major impact on the country’s economy and society.
With continued investment and commitment from the government and other stakeholders, Saudi Arabia has the potential to become a leading player in the global education landscape in the years to come.
— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena