WINNING EDUCATION

Saudi Arabia 2017 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmed Al-Issa, Minister of Education, on promoting greater investment in education and its efforts to increase digitalization in schools.

Ahmed Al-Issa
BIOGRAPHY
Ahmed Al-Issa has a degree in history, a master’s in education, and a PhD in the philosophy of education, the latter two from Pennsylvania State University. He is currently the Minister of Education but also serves as Advisor to and Member of the Board of Directors at the Misk Foundation.

What initiatives have been undertaken by the Ministry of Education to encourage PPPs and promote other investments in the education sector?

The Ministry of Education aims to achieve eight strategic goals within its plan in the National Transformation Program 2020 through the implementation of 36 qualitative initiatives worth more than SAR28 billion. As a result, public and private education will jump towards the forefront in the next three years. The strategic objectives of the Ministry of Education are to provide educational opportunities for all segments of the society, to expand kindergarten and nursery programs, adult education, and special education because of its importance in completing the education system for all segments of the society. Following this, the ministry moves towards the teachers by improving the opportunities to attract them and develop their skills and abilities. In addition, a learning environment that stimulates creativity and innovation will be created, including the support of universities by providing opportunities for students and faculty members to present their thoughts and innovations, patenting their inventions, and nurturing the gifted and the talented amongst them.

How can the ministry contribute to achieving the goals of Vision 2030?

The Ministry of Education contributes greatly to providing an environment capable of enhancing students' personal skills and their abilities to adapt to the labor market and its requirements. A basic group of skills and competencies will be created and included in school activities and curricula, and at the same time we will improve teaching methods and evaluation of students and thus achieve the compatibility between education programs and labor market needs. We see to restructure the education sector, formulating a modern system of regulations, instructions, and executive rules governing the development of curricula and the enrollment of teachers in educational institutions, organizing the process of educational supervision, increasing the effectiveness of development and vocational training on an ongoing basis, raising the efficiency of the operational performance, reducing the cost of waste, and making maximum use of human potential, resources, equipment, and buildings.

How does the Ministry of Education support the use of technology and digitization of education?

We have signed an agreement with a specialized company in the field of technology worth of SAR1.6 billion to produce special devices for Saudi schools at competitive prices and specifications that correspond to the nature of the Saudi education system until 2020. The new educational system will be launched in 150 Saudi schools in mid of 2018 and the number of e-learning schools will be increasing to 1,500 at the end of that year. In 1996, Saudi Arabia launched the Comprehensive Curriculum Development Project to develop the educational process in all its dimensions and elements, reviewing and evaluating the curriculum and the extent of its relevance to the educational development in the world. We have been able to achieve three dimensions of the main shift to the digital world by creating an electronic platform containing the digital integrated content of all curricula, as well as reducing the use of paper books, providing computers for students as an educational tool, and training and qualifying teachers to use modern technical methods.

What are your expectations for the future of the education sector in Saudi Arabia in 2017?

We are working to achieve an ambitious national strategy and plan whose features are evident with the formation of the task teams in all governmental institutions to activate the initiatives of each authority according to a specific time plan. The future of education is directed to achieve the most important aspects of the educational side stipulated in Vision 2030, including involving 80% of families in school activities by 2020, providing training programs for teachers, and raise awareness of the importance of their participation, and cooperating with the private sector and the non-profit sector in providing more innovative programs and events to enhance and promote the educational partnership, among other goals.