Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah on Sunday highlighted the Kingdom's comprehensive vision for a world-class 21st century education system in his keynote address to the Sixth Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh.
He also called for more private sector participation to develop the education system.
Plans are underway to set up business schools in the Kingdom, which would require such participation in this sector, he said.
“Education is the innovative solution enabling, rehabilitating and equipping students with the in-depth knowledge needed to convert to a knowledge society. This means that we should support a quality culture, effectiveness of educational systems and invest in human capital,” the minister said, speaking at the end of the session on the first day of the forum.
On behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah inaugurated the event in Riyadh on Saturday.
Prince Faisal said he is "immensely proud" of the development of general education in the Kingdom.
“The number of students, teachers and schools doubled each decade during the last 40 years. The total number of students stands at 5 million. The number of teachers, male and female, stands at half a million. Schools have increased to more than 33,000,” said the minister.
“The ministry realizes that each and every step is a cost or investment. Accordingly, our steps are carefully taken and in association with government roles, namely educational, research and academic.” He said SR170 billion had been allocated in this year’s budget for general and higher education and training.
The ministry is also encouraging and progressing the early childhood enrollment project, developing the curricula and teaching standards, he said.
He added: “Investing in human capital is beneficial and profitable for any society. Efforts are exerted to build a renewable flexible strong education system attaching great importance to the student who is the learner. It is for him we work. Today he is in school; tomorrow he will be a leader carrying the torch of growth and development.”
He pointed out that computer education has become the inevitable need of the community.
He recalled that he visited a school where the children of primary classes had a good knowledge in using computers.
“I came to know that every child in the class had a computer at home,” the prince said happily, indicating that it is a healthy sign of development in the classroom in keeping with the technological advances in the world. Encouraging physical culture, the minister said sports will also be part of the curriculum in schools for boys and girls.
“To build a healthy generation, we need our children to take part in recreational activities that would keep them mentally fit in their classrooms.”
He said the ministry understands the value of a knowledge-based society and programs are being tailored to those needs.
The ministry also concentrates on developing the skills of the teachers to improve their efficiency, he said.
Orientation and refresher courses will be conducted for teachers to keep pace with the latest methods of education according to international standards, the minister said.
Referring to students, he said: “I treat the 5 million students as my children and I want them to come up in their life. We as a government would provide them with a conducive environment to promote learning in all educational institutions in the Kingdom,” he said,adding that its aim is to make them useful citizens of society.
“The ministry is seeking to enhance the participation of women, paving the way to assume leading positions on equal footings with men.”
The government has appointed a woman as one of the deputy ministers of education in recognition of women's role in national development, he pointed out.
“We have some 45 women holding top positions in various educational provinces that come under the ministry of education."