Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia announces new strategy to counter extremist propaganda in education | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat-The Saudi Ministry of Education has drafted a new strategy to defeat militant fundamentalists ideas in teacher training institutes, in a bid to fight the dissemination of such beliefs in the Kingdom’s schools. The new strategy includes three practical solutions to fight the spread of extremist ideology in teaching colleges and their staff.

In response to a question by Asharq Al Awsat about attempts to encourage an environment of moderation in such institutes, Dr. Mohammed al Sayigh, an official in the Ministry of Education, revealed the authorities had already devised a strategy to that effect that included prevention, correction, and future planning. These plans will be implemented in all teaching colleges across the Kingdom.

In a news conference earlier this week, al Sayigh indicated that some graduating teachers might find it difficult to find suitable posts this year, adding that this is a matter of concern for the Ministry. However, graduates are no longer confined to working with the government; they can now teach in private schools.

Accordingly, teacher-training colleges were established for the unique purpose of preparing elementary school teachers. Currently, they provide 80% of teachers for the primary years and 20% for the middle and secondary years. Al Sayigh affirmed that teacher recruitment is conducted according to needs of the Ministry.

A total of 6865 students will begin their training next year in a variety of specializations. An English language unit, the official said, has been inaugurated in fourteen faculties to provide teachers for all three stages of education. Registration will begin next Sunday and last for a week, with a written exam to follow. Acceptance results will be announced on 17th July 2005 .

On the subject of the cancellation of certain specialization, al Sayigh revealed that the Ministry had no plans to do so, and, if the situation did arise, in the future, it would consult with all those affected by the decision. He said that a committee is currently examining whether teacher-training colleges should become under the authority of the Ministry for Higher Education and it publicize its recommendations in three weeks time. He reaffirmed that the authorities in the Kingdom were working for the public good, in accordance with the instructions of the Education Council.

In addition, al Sayigh confirmed that a number of requests had already been submitted to the Ministry calling for additional education facilities, with the last college inaugurated in 1989. He noted that all regions in Saudi Arabia have at least one teacher training college, which enables students to continue living at home during their studies.

Of course, the official admitted, some buildings require repair, especially those that are forty years or older. The current government budget for site maintenance and repair is over a million dollars US. Before ending his conference, al Sayigh said that the rate of admission will remain around 85% because training colleges are looking to attract distinguished students who will turn into the leading teachers of the future. This is made possible, he continued, by an arduous admissions process, which includes a written exam, an interview, and a general test.