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Sending an Army of Saudis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I was one of the lucky ones who were given the opportunity to study abroad and like anybody else who experienced this and understood the value of it I can only wish the same upon anybody who seeks the best education anywhere in the world. What’s most important is investment in human beings and developing capabilities, which in turn helps build society according to people’s knowledge and capabilities. There is no better way [to do this] than through good education.

The King Abdullah Scholarship Program restores hope, as this project has sent nearly 100,000 male and female Saudi students to study at leading international universities from Australia and Japan in the Far East to the United States in the West. The importance of the project is that it is able to change the map of thinking and education and is able to move the country forward quickly instead of waiting for the slow train of development.

Because we know that development is based on humans and not on iron and cement, education is the key to development. If there is a remedy at the pharmacy that cures the problems of education quickly, then this remedy lies in foreign scholarships, as university and higher education is the best and quickest solution for the direct transfer [of information].

By sending this large number of youngsters who specialize in the required scientific fields a great deal of work is achieved and it deserves appreciation, despite the high costs involved and the political and administrative difficulties in arranging it. It is not easy in the current political climate to send these large numbers of Saudi youths to study in Western universities. The world is changing today and our students are no longer welcomed no matter how generous the government is with regards to spending on them. However, because of faith in the idea and political will, it [foreign scholarships] succeeded and the biggest number yet of students has been sent abroad to study at leading specialized universities. Time Magazine carried out an investigation in 2006 when it heard about groups of Saudi students arriving to study in universities in the United States, which was contradictory to the tense political climate at the time. And actually, the report began by indicating that the Saudis returned [to the US] after the scholarships dried out [during] a period of tension.

The truth is that King Abdullah made education one of his prime concerns, as he called for establishing a large number of universities and encouraged them to raise the standards amongst them and allocated the largest budget in the country’s history for their development. He completed the series by sending an army of Saudi students to study in prominent international universities. Last week he approved another new scholarship project to send a similar number within the next five years to guarantee the continuation of qualitative education.

Education today is an issue of quality not quantity. The yardstick for sending Saudi students abroad goes back to the required scientific specializations, and the necessary basics for establishing new local universities, and higher education degrees that are necessary for scholarship students. [By taking part in these scholarships] the student doesn’t only study sciences but lives life in all its aspects as he familiarizes himself with the climate and a more advanced scientific system in order to return to his country with more than just a university degree.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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