London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi government has worked diligently in the last five years to reform its education system, said Prince Turki al Faisal, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States .
He was responding to an article by Nina Shae, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, published in the Washington Post on Sunday. Shae claims that Saudi Arabia ’s textbooks continue to indoctrinate students and promote intolerance.
This, Prince Turki indicated, is simply not true. In a statement issued on Monday through the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C, Prince Turki said Riyadh had “overhauled the Saudi education system, including textbooks, teacher training and the introduction of new teaching methods. In order to ensure optimal results, the planning, implementation and assessment of these changes continue to be conducted with the assistance of governmental and non-governmental educational institutes, as well as consulting firms. This reform has taken place publicly, with debates and discussions taking place through the National Dialogue, the Consultative Council and the Ministry of Information. Freedom House neglected to mention this fact in the article.
Overhauling the education system is a massive undertaking. Hundreds of books are being revised in order to comply with the new requirement and the process is ongoing. The report submitted by the Saudi embassy to Congress earlier this year on textbook reform is by no means final and was never presented as such. Again, Freedom House does not mention this.
Moreover, the materials used in the Saudi education system and in the public domain and are provided to students free of charge. These texts can be obtained at schools and other institutions through Saudi Arabia ; they do not need to be “smuggled” or “slipped out” of the Kingdom. As with previous reports, Freedom House continues to exhibit a disregard for presenting an accurate picture of the reality that exists in Saudi Arabia .
The Saudi position on education reform has been clearly articulated by the Kingdom’s political and religious leaders. The objective of the education system is to fight intolerance and to provide the Saudi youth the skills and knowledge needed to compete in the global economy.”