Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The recent project launched by Saudi Arabia for the development of public education will cost a total of SR11.8 billion (US$3.1 billion), which will be distributed over the next five years to implement four programs as part of the overall project to improve the quality of education.
The program to improve public education has received the highest budget, amounting to SR4.2 billion (US$1.12 billion). Another SR3.58 billion (US$954.6 million) has been allocated to extra-curricular activities whilst SR2.943 billion (US$784.8 million) was assigned to train male and female teachers. The curriculum development program has been given a sum of SR980 million (US$261.3 million). The concerned authorities will prepare an operational plan for the project that is expected to be completed shortly.
The project, that the Ministry of Education is preparing to implement, seeks to improve the overall quality of education – in turn producing generations of Saudis who would contribute to the development of the nation and society – by achieving a number of objectives including: the development of educational curricula to comply with modern scientific and technical developments and meet the value-based, knowledge, professional, psychological, physical, mental and lifestyle needs of male and female students and re-qualification of teachers and preparing them to carry out their educational duties. Among the goals of the project is improving the educational environment and preparing to utilize information and communication technology (ICT) in education to stimulate learning. This is in order to achieve a higher level of efficiency in acquiring information and training, as well as strengthening personal and creative capabilities, developing skills and hobbies, satisfying psychological needs of students, and strengthening ideas as well as national and social relations through extra-curricular activities of various kinds.
In addition to the national experience, the project will take into consideration international experiences through correspondence with- and benefiting from- international educational institutions.
The project has been met with great interest and consideration shown by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The king announced that a supreme committee would be established headed by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who occupies the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and Aviation, Inspector General and Chairman of the Education Committee. The committee is made up of various members such as the Minister of Labor, Dr. Ghazi al-Qusaibi, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ibrahim Al Assaf, Minister of Economy and Planning, Khalid al-Qusaibi, Minister of Education, Dr. Abdullah al-Obaid and Minister of State, Matlab al-Nafeesa.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also requested that members of the cabinet provide the committee with proposals related to the project in particular and education in general. The committee had formed a subcommittee to study the third and fourth points [of the project], another subcommittee to study the first point, and a final subcommittee to study the second issue and offer comprehensive insight regarding the mechanism for the implementation of programs and estimating costs for their implementation.
The Chairman of the Committee suggested that the committee should benefit from international experiences and expertise in the process of reforming and developing education by visiting and listening to information and opinions based on successful global experiences. Based on these directives, a number of committees were formed by representatives from the Ministry of Education and the committee, as well as the ministries of finance, economy, planning and labor. A number of visits have been organised to the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, France, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, China and Japan.
Saudi Arabia has set strategic plans to develop education like in other countries around the world. For example in December 2006, the United Kingdom issued a statement reflecting its vision for education until 2020. This vision stated that schools, which have their own private budgets, as well as departments of local and national education, must design educational services in accordance with achieving international standards.
It has been observed that the training of teachers is important to the aforementioned countries. Specialized authorities were created to supervise the process of preparing and training teachers before and after being appointed for the job. It was emphasized through visits to these countries that the training of teachers is divided into two stages: pre-teaching training conducted by universities and institutions specializing in preparing teachers and training whilst at work, which is carried out by the Ministry of Education.
King Abdullah’s project for the development of public education will target the four constituent elements. The development of curricula is a vital and continuous process that is required to meet the needs of communities in order to preserve values and traditions. In addition, it is important that these curricula keep up with the scientific and technological developments and present them using correct scientific methods through trained and qualified teachers. This is in addition to providing them with ongoing training even after appointment to ascertain their understanding of the latest experience and the best use of technical equipment through an integrated learning environment.