By Md. Muddassir Quamar,
Saudi Arabia’s training system has attracted worldwide scrutiny since 9/11 for fomenting radicalism and extremism within the Center East. Among the critics recognized the extreme emphasis on faith behind the issue. Partly, in response to those criticisms, King Abdullah (reign 2005-15) started a technique of reforming the training system. Underneath King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, the reform course of has been expanded and expedited.
Md. Muddassir Quamar, a researcher based mostly in New Delhi who has spent a number of years learning the society and training system in Saudi Arabia has printed a e-book on the modifications and reforms the Saudi training system has undergone over the twenty-first century. The e-book is the primary complete research in English on the training system in Saudi Arabia, putting the reforms and modifications it has undergone up to now twenty years within the context of the historic evolution of the training system and the socio-political evolution of the dominion. An excerpt from the e-book is being reproduced right here …
Due to its centrality within the Arab and Islamic world, its significance within the world oil market, and its significance in Center East geopolitics, Saudi Arabia stays below the worldwide highlight. The dominion’s distinctive historic evolution and the non secular revivalist motion that was the harbinger of the formation of the dominion, the Islamic legitimacy claimed by the Al-Saud monarchy, and the speedy modernization the society and financial system underwent convey extraordinary concentrate on the Saudi society, politics, tradition, and financial system. Apart from the reportage and protection of inside developments within the worldwide media, numerous points pertaining to the dominion are mentioned and debated frequently in academia. Regardless of the abiding curiosity within the inside affairs of the dominion, seldom does one discover the opinion emanating from a deeper and nuanced understanding of the society and its individuals. Barring a couple of notable exceptions, a majority of educational refrains are formed by superficial understandings based mostly on extensively held prejudices and presumptions based mostly on analysis carried out with an “orientalist” prism.
Inside Saudi Arabia, the reactions to such worldwide scrutiny and criticism have been different. However predominantly, the home discourse tends to color it within the binaries of West vs. Islam or Saudi vs. the world. Nonetheless, some have gone deeper into particular points to analysis, clarify, and mirror and this has led to higher debate and discussions on numerous socioeconomic points within the Saudi public sphere together with within the digital house. Globally, some new analysis has tried to shed the prejudiced lens to develop new and modern methods to analysis and perceive the finer nuances of the society and tradition within the kingdom with out essentially overlooking the issues going through it.
Among the many points which have attracted widespread home and worldwide consideration, particularly within the first twenty years of the twenty-first century, is Saudi Arabia’s training system. One of many key incidents that prompted the heightened scrutiny of the training system was the September 11, 2001, terror assaults in the USA. The concept that the training system was entrenched in radical educating gained floor and put elevated stress on the monarchy to result in reforms. The problems have since remained below the worldwide highlight. Some research carried out subsequently have famous the objectionable facets within the college curriculum, textbooks, and pedagogy. In addition they held the training system partly liable for the home-grown radicalism. It was famous that among the references to Jews, Christians, Shias, Sufis, and atheists had been extremely objectionable. Because the world debated the problem, the monarchy acknowledged the issue and started a technique of reforming the training system by way of in depth packages targeted on numerous facets of the varsity and college programs.
The training system of Saudi Arabia has come a good distance from what it was within the early days of the institution of the dominion. Via the method of reform and modifications knowledgeable by the aspirations of the altering society, catalyzed by the reform measures taken by the monarchy, and facilitated by way of the oil wealth, in 2020, the Saudi training system has modified past recognition not solely from the early years of the dominion but in addition from what it was towards the top of the 20 th century. Saudi Arabia now homes among the greatest universities within the Center East providing superior programs in science and expertise fields and producing cutting-edge analysis in a few of these fields. It additionally has probably the most elaborate networks of public faculties that provide common major training and training as much as greater secondary to just about 95 p.c of the youngsters. The reform course of has additionally addressed among the inherent and inbuilt weaknesses within the system, together with the heavy dose of spiritual curriculum, gender discrimination, in addition to poor high quality of training by way of the wants of the marketplace for educated and expert manpower. A various diploma of successes have been achieved towards totally different objectives.
The varsity training has witnessed a major transformation by way of a complete change within the curriculum, introduction of recent textbooks, enchancment within the classroom surroundings, and academics’ coaching packages which have made it extra inclusive and tolerant towards others. To a sure diploma, hate-filled references to ‘others’ have been faraway from textbooks. The academics’ coaching program has been initiated with the purpose of creating the educational course of efficient and bettering the standard of colleges. Applications comparable to Tatweer, Complete Evaluation, and monitoring of colleges have achieved a various diploma of success. Increased training has turn out to be extra accessible to the inhabitants and extra youths can enroll in vocational coaching and undergraduate and graduate programs of their selection. The variety of universities, faculties, and vocational coaching establishments has elevated considerably. Steps have been taken to enhance the standard of upper training and human useful resource to have the ability to successfully implement the labor market nationalization program. A higher variety of Saudi college students have gone overseas to enroll in greater training programs and a majority of them have availed authorities scholarships.
Reforms within the greater training system have made it accessible and on the identical time improved the standard of the packages supplied. The upper training goals to synchronize the financial requirement for diversification past the oil business and the rising aspiring younger inhabitants to assist develop a information financial system and a knowledge-based society. Resultantly, steps have been taken to scale back unemployment and develop skill-based programs. New universities have been opened, outdated universities are being expanded, and extra vocational faculties are being established to cater to the wants of the inhabitants. Funds allocation for training and human useful resource has seen a constant and appreciable improve. Efforts are ongoing to enhance the standard of science training by which the dominion had a poor file. However with elevated investments and constant efforts, some motion has been observed on this regard. Nonetheless, on condition that the dominion aspires to be acknowledged as a regional hub for training and information, it’s nonetheless within the early levels of evolution.
(The writer is Fellow at MP-IDSA, New Delhi. That is an excerpt of his e-book Schooling System in Saudi Arabia: Of Change and Reforms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). Views expressed are of the writer and don’t essentially mirror the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or of the Authorities of India or of Monetary Categorical On-line.)