Saudi Arabia prepares for a quantum leap in higher education

Saudi Arabia prepares for a quantum leap in higher education

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As Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 sets the tone for its massive national ambitions, a critical segment on everyone’s radar in the Kingdom is shaping higher education to keep growing children in the game. pace of scientific, engineering and technical innovation.

Vision 2030 aims to help the economy move from overreliance on oil revenues to a more balanced, investment-based model. To achieve this, the Kingdom will adopt a modern curriculum focused on rigorous standards in literacy, numeracy, skills and character development and will work closely with the private sector to ensure that higher education outcomes correspond to labor market requirements.

Competing forces shaping the 2030 plan have compelled universities to introduce new science programs to prepare graduates for the future workforce, as they will need these skills to enter the job market and kick-start their careers. On the other hand, some government universities are being transformed into independent non-profit institutes to give them complete freedom in achieving their goals and managing their affairs.

With NEOM Smart City becoming a reality over the next two decades and its CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr’s recent announcement that educational institutions will begin construction in 2023, the Kingdom’s education sector is receiving impetus necessary to cater to modern students and the young workforce. A knowledge economy is being created for this purpose, encompassing the learning experience of Saudi youth.

The Kingdom’s school population is almost three times that of the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to a recent education report on the country by Knight Frank.

The report asserts that this strong student base will require adequate, if not vigorous, vocational training and higher education options over the next two decades. Over the past two years, the education sector has accounted for the highest proportion of public spending in the Kingdom.

In fact, the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2022 report by the Global Competitiveness Center of the International Institute for Management Development indicates that the Kingdom has made progress in education, research and innovation indicators, which reflects the support of leaders for the sector. education at all levels. Its ranking moved up four positions in the education indicators to 37 from 41 last year.

Train one billion people by 2025

The Kingdom appears to be on track for mass adoption of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates in all areas of economics and development, emphasizing the need of the hour: quality and the impact of higher education options instantly and easily accessible for high-level students. school and university students.

Pundits have already said a lot through the GCC about Saudi Arabia’s education efforts during and after COVID-19 to keep home schooling to stay on par despite no access to physical schools during most of the two years.

The Kingdom’s digitization of quality education has set an example of how higher education is delivered in a world that has already welcomed the metaverse.

One of the biggest global trends among high school students is the obsession with learning through Roblox. In this immersive metaverse-ready virtual world, young children build entire ecosystems and cities in a realistic 3D environment with nothing but their wits and creativity. As the Kingdom’s school children prepare for the future, the impact on higher education and the demands for futuristic, STEM-led online and instant education options cannot be overstated.

The generation that will enter universities in the coming years is one that was born into a metaverse world, where entities like NEOM Smart City and The Line will be a reality waiting for them to join the labor market to solidify the commitment of the Kingdom to advance the lifestyle and comfort of its citizens.

Teaching additional skills to this generation requires programs that are available today, not in the future. In addition, the skills must prepare them for the exponential needs of the construction, logistics, engineering and tourism industries which are preparing for the economic demand of the Kingdom, which has already begun.

Empowering the education sector

The Kingdom’s Human Capital Development Vision Realization Program has ensured that the country’s educational outcomes are aligned with immediate and future market demands. These initiatives and projected manpower needs have driven government plans to develop the technical and vocational education sector.

Given how COVID-19 has changed the way we educate and raise our children in a hyper-connected, digitally native world, developing curricula and learning options that harness this world is critical and cannot be not be a second thought.

Companies are creating engaging content with innovative technologies and digital delivery, helping the next generation of teachers deliver effective education to their students in an accessible way.

The universal pandemic has forced educators to work in new ways, to teach online and to adapt in a strictly digital world. With higher internet penetration than most countries, teachers in the Kingdom are more engaged in communication technologies than in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. They are more likely to use these technologies for use in teaching and learning.

There is a unique opportunity to improve education available digitally. The pandemic has shown that students in the Kingdom are strongly motivated to learn and feel supported by the parents with whom the schools seek to nurture strong relationships.

This enthusiasm may have boosted the Education and Training Evaluation Commission’s strategic plan for 2023-2027 to improve some key drivers, with a focus on education sector development. and training to achieve a world-class Saudi model.

The program aims to improve the quality of production to meet the needs of the labor market and the human capacity development program of Vision 2030.

It ensures that the strategic plan addresses the students, trainees, learning outcomes, practitioners, institutions, programs, education and training system and internal capacities of ETEC.

The policy hopes to improve student learning outcomes and performance through modern program standards and assessments and to improve the excellence and quality of education and training professionals by setting higher standards, licensing and accelerating the pace of excellence in the field.

The National Transformation Program supports ETEC, which has set its goals in line with Vision 2030, including preparing a modern curriculum focused on rigorous standards in literacy, numeracy, skills and character development .

The NTP will work closely with the private sector to ensure that higher education outcomes are in line with labor market requirements, which will most certainly factor into the megaprojects described.

A key area it will focus on is paving the way for investors and the private sector to acquire and deliver education services currently provided by the public sector. In addition, they want to improve teacher recruitment, training and development as well as existing curricula and teaching methods to improve students’ basic skills.

There are enough economic and development indicators in the Kingdom to invest heavily in its higher education offerings, and now is the time to start.

• Majid Mneymneh is Vice President for Higher Education at Pearson Middle East.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

Norma A. Roth