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Saudization and the Education Sector - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Suddenly the phrase “recruitment” has turned into a controversial term in the world of Saudi economics.

An intensive campaign was launched to combat the recruitment of foreign labor and employees in favor of the ambitious Saudization program (the kingdom’s attempt to replace a greater share of foreign workers with Saudi workers). A level of suspicion has developed around the concept of “recruitment”, despite the urgent need for qualified individuals in critical fields.

Now a sense of relief has developed in the construction industry as now companies will be allowed to import foreign labor, after many of these labor-dependent businesses were unable to meet the annual Saudization quota.

But why just the construction industry?

This is a question that needs to be addressed seriously. Perhaps the sector that needs its foreign employees quota reassessed the most is the education sector, since it’s no secret that Saudi Arabia today faces its severest developmental challenges, specifically in the field of education.

Saudi Arabia is a country with one of the highest population growth rates in the entire world, where 60% of its demographic is under the age of twenty; subsequently education deserves the lion’s share when it comes to development concerns.

Demands for educational reform have gone through stages of controversy, and between states of denial and acceptance, yet the developmental outlook remained below the desired aspirations.

Moreover and in recent years, the focus has shifted to the human aspect of the education process and was directed towards quantitative and numerical aspects with regards human resources, namely teachers. But it seems clear that the aspired development plan for education needs to be provided with qualified and distinguished individuals who might be recruited from abroad.

Those employed should be highly qualified in order to raise the student’s academic standards and in turn fuel the spirit of the competition with our local teachers.

Hiring qualified teachers should not be different from the principle of recruiting neurosurgeons, cardiologists or specialized maintenance engineers from abroad.

Opening the door to attract talented people in various academic fields from abroad is one of the focal parts of educational reform, as well as an integral part in the restructuring of academic institutions.

What is needed in dealing with this issue is logic, wisdom and vision without igniting emotions and sentiments.

Academic challenges and the future of education do not accept arrogance or complacency. In fact, the technical benefits that could be obtained by such a decision could lead to positive results for generations of students. The biggest challenge will be to find the appropriate mechanism for recruitment and the development and training of staff that can achieve these goals. This kind of a challenge requires a qualitative leap in dealing with the educational sector and the teachers that make it up. Perhaps the problem that occurred two years ago with the recruitment of English language teachers from Sri Lanka, confirms that the philosophy that the cheaper, the better is not always the case and that is a price our students will end up paying for.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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