Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia hopes to spend an estimated 276.1 billion Riyals (equivalent to $ 73 billion) to strengthen its education sector, develop teaching skills and increase student services, as well as modernize its schools and curricula.
Despite remarkable achievements in the last few years, sources said, the public education sector in Saudi Arabia was still suffering from a number of problems that needed to be addressed. The government is aiming to apply compulsory education throughout elementary stages and increase student retention in the later stages. It also plans to eradicate illiteracy and improve student learning.
A rise in spending clearly demonstrated that Saudi Arabia was concerned about education, with 9.5% of the gross national product earmarked for the sector in 2002, compared to 3.5% in 1970, the source reported. The number of public and private schools, excluding nurseries, reached 23,500 around the Kingdom with 190,900 classes offered. In 2003, the total number of students in full-time education reached 4.3 million, increasing by an average of 1.4% in the past four years. Broken down, the rate was 1.8% for elementary school, 0.7% of middle school and 3.6% for secondary school.
During the same period, the number of registered students rose an average of 1.8%, with 0.9% for elementary school, 1.3% for middle school and 5% for secondary school.
The number of elementary school graduates increased from 337,100 in 1999 to 359,500 in 2003, with an annual growth of 1.6%. In middle schools, graduate numbers rose from 257,100 to 311,000 with an annual rate of 4.9%, while in secondary schools, 223,700 students graduated compared to 164,400 in 1999, growing by 8% every year. An estimate 900,000 students graduated from all three stages in this period.