FIRST IN CLASS

Saudi Arabia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saud Ben Khudair, President & CEO of Tatweer Education Holding Company, on the Kingdom's education strategy and the role the company will play.

Saud Ben Khudair
BIOGRAPHY
As an entrepreneur, Saud Ben Khudair has worked in a variety of sectors, including IT and software, telecommunications, education, clothing, travel, and private equity investment. He obtained his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD in Information Systems Management from the US. He has been acting in top management positions since 1994. He has served on the board of close to 20 companies around the world, mainly in the US, the UK, the Middle East, and the Far East.

What role does Tatweer play in the Kingdom's ambitious education plans?

Tatweer Education Holding Company (THC) is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Its main role is to be the private sector's arm for the ministry of education and any other government department involved directly with serving education or the youth of Saudi Arabia. THC's major strategic role with the Ministry of Education (MoE) is to support it in its strategic organizational plan to free the ministry from any none core services or any other services that the ministry wishes to delegate to THC. Such services include student transportation, schools building, and books printing, for example. The MoE is keen on focusing on the development and improvement of student outcomes to produce the 21st century Saudi generation capable of leading the country in being one of the leading and influencial countries in the world. This focus requires time, effort, and delegation of many of its support functions. THC and its subsidiaries are positioned to take off the burden of the secondary functions to free the MoE to perform what only it could perform.

How does the merger between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education affect Tatweer?

The merger to me looks great. My market is becoming larger and a step further has been taken toward integration. A merger, as a concept, is well known for faster growth and client reach. The MoE and Ministry of Higher Education serve the same main single client, the “Saudi" or “student" with a single objective, which is to prepare them to serve this country and maintain not only its existence, but also to put it on the map as a super power. Therefore, merging the two will make it better focused on the student and their educational outcomes. The product of the K-12 eventually goes to university, then the graduates of universities go back to teach K-12. So the problem of the chicken or egg situation will be solved right there. MoE now will be responsible for the development of the Saudi man/women from KG until they finish their higher education. The one-stop shop.

What would you say are the main challenges or obstacles holding back the development of Saudi Arabia's education sector?

I believe there are two main considerations: the students' willingness to learn, and the teachers' willingness to teach. The curriculums are more or less the same worldwide, meaning the material is not the issue. One of the dreams of Prince Khalid, the former Minister of Education, is to somehow change the mindset of the student here to the point where they wake up wanting to go to school; it is Dr. Azzam's plan, too. Achievements start with the desire to achieve. But it's not just for the students; the same thing can be said for the teachers. They also need to desire to teach and make a difference. Today, we have many administrative issues; our teachers may not have the desire, experience, or the necessary tools. I would raise the requirements for teaching K-12. It is the most critical stage; it is the foundation. Our students from K-12 are the ones who eventually go on to our universities and then end up teaching the next generation of K-12, so you can see how it is all related. PhD holders and Master's degrees are an urgent necessity in K-12.