What is your vision on the future of e-learning and how is this key to your portfolio at T4edu?
One of the core focuses of our strategy is digital content and we are the sole provider for the Ministry of Education in terms of blended content and digital content. We provide thousands of digital textbooks and learning and teaching resources consolidated in the iEN, National Education Portal that is customized and tailored toward the new generation of learners. We want to engage current and future generations in a way that stimulates them and captures their attention. In less than two years, we have managed to reach 1 million new active users and we have welcomed about 9 million visitors to the iEN Portal. We provide services to users both within Saudi Arabia and across the world as part of our digital education strategy. We work in partnership with our sister company, which owns and operates the LMS, and our content is embedded in their systems.
Are you a content developer or a delivery intermediary?
T4edu operates as both, as our content strategy is comprehensive. We develop our own content while also working with our partners to buy or collaboratively develop new content unique to the Kingdom. Our partners include the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest early childhood education organization in the world, the University of Oregon, and other major international institutions. We were recently tasked with creating the first sports education curriculum for girls in the country, and we are proud to be able to introduce this program in 2019. Furthermore, we work with Macmillan Education and McGraw-Hill Education and MM Publications to provide the entire English-language curricula materials for the Ministry of Education. Along with this, we provide professional development programs to support curricula enactment as well as work with international partners to provide teacher up-skilling programs for science and math teachers. Pearson is among our global partners to craft these programs. Educational initiatives are integrated with after-school programs and extra-curricular activities. Currently, we run 520 after-school community clubs for the Ministry of Education. We open schools from 4pm-9pm four days a week to provide students and the local communities with a place to gather and engage in useful and educational activities as we envision integrating cultural and artistic activities into these initiatives. By 2020, we aim to reach 2,000 schools. Our initial goal was 1,000; however, when we presented this goal to the government, it insisted on a more ambitious expansion plan, because wherever we open these programs, crime amongst youths drops significantly. This is part of the Kingdom's inclusivity approach, focusing on disadvantaged areas, rural areas, and inner city areas. T4edu also runs a large initiative for the government that aims to increase familial engagement with early childhood education. We have already opened 300 neighborhood learning centers, where we provide classes for families and children and organize conferences to engage the broader community. In addition, there are three science centers, and we plan on opening the fourth in September. This facility is being designed in partnership with industry leaders and it will be one of the largest in the Middle East.
Could you elaborate on your efforts to lift the language standards in the Kingdom?
To contribute to addressing English language proficiency in the Kingdom, T4edu recently partnered with National Geographic Learning and EF, which provided online professional development programs for teachers. We have had great responses from teachers all across the country. These initial programs have been completed and during the course of the programs we worked closely with many other international education curricula and professional up-skilling providers. Up-scaling the level of English proficiency among the general population is a massive and important endeavor, and we continue to focus on it a great deal.
How would you characterize your current portfolio of projects?
Currently, we have three portfolios. The first is the King Abdullah bin Abdulazizi project for Public Education Development, which includes afterschool programs and professional development. The second is our work with the National Transformation Program2020; here, we run some programs while also contracting others for the Ministry of Education; this is a large portfolio. The third portfolio comprises a number of universities and non-profit organizations. This includes early childhood education and STEM programs and we provide equipment, content, and training for the teachers. Most of our programs are blended programs that include a strong IT component. Our teams provide content for over 5 million students and 600,000 teachers.
What are your expectations of distance learning in the Saudi education landscape?
Our virtual schools provide virtual classrooms for nearly 100,000 students. We provide supporting classes online that are available an open platform for students anywhere in the world. The idea is to provide these classes in the evening so they do not conflict with the teaching schedules of our staff, allowing us to recruit the best people for this.
What are the organization's ambitions for the coming years?
We work with two mindsets; one is our own strategy while the other focuses on the requests, challenges, and challenges of our partners, such as the Ministry of Education encounter. The Minister of Education is the chairman of the board and there are important collaborative and supporting links between T4edu and the Ministry of Education. One of our main ambitions is to enrich the Saudi curriculum. There are certain limitations on the content in the curriculum. We may face some resistance; however, we are preparing a strategy to enrich this. The second part of our strategy is to enrich our digital content. We have been in talks with potential partners to enrich our content, and our team dedicated to this initiative is working every day to enrich our current offerings. In 2019, we will introduce a new component to the curriculum: philosophy for children. This will be about creativity and critical thinking and will be designed to allow children to understand complex concepts. We are working to develop a program focused on exploring the national literature of Saudi Arabia as well, and T4edu, along with King Saud University, has identified 150 historical poets whose work we will integrate into our curriculum.