Students at an elementary school in Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Al Riyadh

Manama: Saudi Arabia’s education minister has dismissed rumours that the end-of-year exams would be brought forward so that students sit for them before the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Social media in the kingdom were flooded with claims that the education ministry was planning to hold all exams before May 25, the start of the holy month during which all physically-able adult Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from sunrise until sunset.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar-based Muslim calendar that comprises 354 days, moves up by 11 days every year.

Ramadan will in the next years start in mid-May, then early- May and later in April, and the ministry cannot bring forward exams every year, the minister said.

“Ramadan is a month of piety and charity, but it is like all the other months in terms of education, and students should get used to studying and sitting for exams in all circumstances and conditions,” Ahmad Al Eisa said. “If we try to hold the exams earlier this year, then what should we do next year and the subsequent years when Ramadan is in the middle of the school year? Our students have to adapt.”

The minister said in his brief interview on pan-Arab station Al Arabiya that it would be difficult not to have foreign teachers at Saudi colleges.

“We do need international and Arab expertise in our colleges and we cannot do away with it. Their experiences enrich higher education in Saudi Arabia and represent a significant extension to learning. However, we are also keen one making sure that they fully meet the requirements to hire them.”

According to official figures released by the Ministry of Education, 4,895,466 students are enrolled in all Saudi schools for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The figure includes 4,174,535 students in government schools, 654,011 in private schools and 66,920 in expatriate community schools.

Non-Saudi students are 1,109,594, including 733,251 in public schools, 111,072 in private schools and 265,271 in expat schools.

The ministry said that 252,842 Yemeni boys and girls are studying in Saudi schools while the number of Syrian students, both males and females, is 131,297.