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Latest revision as of 14:05, 1 October 2016

(This entry on Saudi Arabia incorporate the Re.ViCa/VISCED page on Saudi Arabia.)

Original Re.ViCa entry by Paul Bacsich; updated to VISCED level by Nikos Zygouritsas

The report on Open Educational Resources in Saudi Arabia, by Manal Al Marwani, is currently on a separate page - OER in Saudi Arabia - which updates and expands the pages below

>> full PDF version of that report (with pictures) is at Media:OER_in_Saudi_Arabia.pdf

Eventually, before the end of the project, there will be one unified country page.

Partners and experts in Saudi Arabia

The author of the companion report OER in Saudi Arabia is from this country.

Saudi Arabia in a nutshell

Saudi Arabia, in full the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA (Arabic: المملكة العربية السعودية‎, al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya), is an Arab country and the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Sea to its west. Its size is approximately 2,150,000 square km (830,000 square miles).

Its population is estimated at 29,195,895 and the capital is Riyadh.

The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of The Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation, and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter. Petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found harder to fund during periods of low oil prices.

The kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. A significant length of the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government's estimate is 2,217,949 km² (856,356 miles²). The kingdom is commonly listed as the world's 14th largest state.

Saudi Arabia's geography is varied. From the western coastal region (Tihamah), the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center. The southwestern 'Asir region has mountains as high as 3,000 m (9,840 ft) and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abha in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The geographically hostile Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") desert along the country's imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.

Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation's landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Less than two percent of the kingdom's total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofuf and Buraydah. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub' al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry is constructing a few planned communities there. Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for 2640 km (1640 miles) and, on the Red Sea side, offers world-class coral reefs, including those in the Gulf of Aqaba.

The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also states that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law).

There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. The king's powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also will wish to retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers. Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights.

Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 emirates (manatiq, - singular mintaqah). The emirates are further divided into governorates. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emirates_of_Saudi_Arabia for the details.

Further information

For further general information see Wikipedia:Saudi Arabia.

Education in Saudi Arabia

The education system in Saudi Arabia is primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training. Other authorities such as the Ministry of Defense and Aviation; the Presidency of the National Guard; and the Ministry of the Interior provide their affiliates and children with kindergarten, elementary, intermediate, secondary and adult education as well, following the educational ladder, study plans and curricula formulated by the Ministry of Education. The highest authority that supervises education in Saudi Arabia is the Supreme Committee for Educational Policy, established in 1963. According to the World Bank database, public spending on education is 6.8 percent of GDP, and public spending on education as percentage of government expenditure is 27.6 percent in 2004. (World Development Indicator/Edstats) Education spending as a proportion of overall spending tripled from 1970 to 2000 and neither economic growth nor the price of oil had much impact on this trend in Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Education developed “The Ministry of Education Ten – Year Plan 1425–1435 (2004–2014)” which set the following goals for that ten year period:

  1. The education of 4-6-year-old children and the consideration of kindergarten as an independent stage in terms of its buildings and syllabi from other education stage
  2. Accommodation of all age categories from 6–18 years-old at various stages of education
  3. Deepening the spirit of loyalty and proud of the country through intellectual awareness based on recognizing issues of the country
  4. To prepare students academically, and culturally at a local and international level to be able to achieve advanced posts internationally in the fields of mathematics and sciences for the various age categories, taking into account International tests’ standards
  5. To organize girls’ technical education
  6. To develop the educational system for students with special needs
  7. Development and growth of the Ministry’s personnel educational and administrative training
  8. Improvement of internal and external sufficiency for the educational system
  9. To develop syllabi based on Islamic values leading to the development of male and female students’ personality and to their integration in society as well as to the achievement of scientific and thinking skills and life characteristics resulting in self education and lifelong learning
  10. To improve the quality of male and female teachers and to increase the citizens’ rate in the education sector to achieve the full use of Saudi human resources
  11. To develop the educational structure and to update the school map to meet the expected quantitative and qualitative changes in the next stage
  12. To develop the infrastructure of information and communication technology and its employment in education and learning
  13. To develop male and female adults’ education and to eradicate illiteracy
  14. The Ministry’s comprehensive administrative development
  15. Expansion of social participation in education
  16. To establish integrated systems for accountability

For a general description of education in Saudi Arabia see Education:Saudi Arabia.

Schools in Saudi Arabia

Pre-primary education

In Saudi Arabia, children aged 3–5 years go to kindergarten. However, attendance of kindergartens is not a prerequisite for enrollment of first grade of primary education and kindergartens are not part of the official education ladder. Some private nurseries have been established with technical and financial aid from the government. According to government data, 100,714 children (51,364 male and 49,350 female) are in pre-primary education in 2007. According to gross enrollment ratio for boys is 11.1 percent and gross enrollment ratio for girls is 10.4 percent, and gross enrollment ratio for total is 10.8 percent in 2007.

Primary education

Primary education in Saudi Arabia lasts six years and children at the age of 6 entered the first grade of primary education. All national primary schools are day schools and are not co-educational. In order to move on to intermediate education, children have to pass the examination at the end of Grade 6 of primary school and obtain the Elementary Education Certificate. According to government data, 2,442,482 students (1,255,117 male and 1,187,365 female) are in primary education in 2007 and the number of teachers is total 217,555 (107,227 male and 110,328 female) in 2007. According to UNESCO, gross enrollment ratio for boys is 99.9 percent, gross enrollment ratio for girls is 96.3 percent, and gross enrollment ratio for total is 98.1 percent in 2007.

Intermediate education

Intermediate education in Saudi Arabia lasts three years. According to government data, 1,144,548 students (609,300 male and 535,248 female) are in intermediate education in 2007 and the number of teachers is total 108,065 (54,034 male and 54,031 female) in 2007. According to gross enrollment rate for total is 95.9 percent in 2007.

Secondary education

Secondary education in Saudi Arabia lasts three years and this is the final stage of general education. After the intermediate education, students have the opportunity for both general and specialized secondary education. Technical secondary institute which provide technical and vocational education and training programs lasts three years in the fields of industry, commerce and agriculture. According to government data, 1,013,074 students (541,849 male and 471,225 female) are in secondary education in 2007 and the number of teachers is total 87,823 (41,108 male and 46,715 female) in 2007. According to gross enrollment rate for total is 91.8 percent in 2007.

Private education

In Saudi Arabia, private education is to be considered one of the elements supporting governmental education at all education levels. The General Department for Private Education at the Ministry of Education supervises private schools for boys and private schools for girls and government provides private schools with free textbooks and an annual financial aid. Government also appoints and pays for a qualified director in every private school. According to UNESCO, in 2007, 48.9 percent of children enroll in pre-primary schools, 8.2 percent of children enroll in primary school. As for the intermediate education, 6.4 percent of students enrolled in general programs are in private schools and 70.3 percent of students enrolled in technical and vocational programs are in private schools. As for the secondary education, 13.4 percent of students enrolled in general programs are in private schools and 61.6 percent of students enrolled in technical and vocational programs are in private schools. According to the World Bank, in 2004, 7.4 percent of students in tertiary education enrolled in private schools.

Further and Higher education

Higher education in Saudi Arabia lasts four years in the field of humanities and social sciences and five to six years in the field of medicine, engineering and pharmacy. The establishment of the King Saud University in 1957 is a starting point of the modern higher education system in Saudi Arabia. This was also the first university in all the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

There are 24 government universities in Saudi Arabia, remarkably established in a short span of time. Among them, three universities, University of Taibba, University of Qasssim and University Taif were established under the Seventh Development Plan. The universities consists of colleges and departments that offer diplomas, and bachelor, master and Ph.D. degrees in various scientific and humanities specializations, and they provide community services as well. Some colleges and departments also provided distance learning. In higher education in Saudi Arabia, there also exist private colleges, community colleges affiliated to universities, and girls colleges, in addition to government agencies and institutions that provide specialist university level education.

According to the World Bank report, more than 70 percent of the students in Saudi Arabia are in the fields of humanities and social sciences like Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and West Bank and Gaza in the region. This ratio is higher than the averages of East Asia and Latin America. According to government data, a total of 636,245 (268,080 male and 368,165 female) students were enrolled in higher education in 2006. Among them, 528,146 students (187,489 male and 340,657 female) were in Bachelor programs, 9,768 students (5,551 male and 4,217 female) were in Master programs, and 2,410 students (1,293 male and 1,117 female) were in Ph.D. programs. Another 93,968 students (72,199 male and 21,769 female) were in Intermediate Diploma courses and 1,953 students (1,548 male and 405 female) were in Higher Diploma course. According to the World Bank, in 2006 the gross enrollment rate for females was 36.1 percent, the gross enrollment rate for males was 24.7 percent, and the total gross enrollment rate was 30.2 percent.

In 2005, King Abdullah implemented a government scholarship program to send young Saudi nationals to Western universities for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The program offers funds for tuition and living expenses for up to four years. An estimated 5,000 Saudi students received government scholarships to study abroad for the 2007/2008 academic year. Students mostly studied at universities in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, France and Germany. In the United Kingdom alone, more than 15,000 Saudi students (about 25 percent of that number are women) attend universities. The large number of students also includes Saudis paying their own tuition. The large influx of Saudi students to the United Kingdom prompted the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education in 2010 to close access to the country for further study.

Universities in Saudi Arabia

List of better-known universities

(sourced from http://www.mapsofworld.com/saudi-arabia/education/universities.html)

Some of the renowned universities in Saudi Arabia are:

  1. King Saud University
  2. Al-Imam Mohamed Ibn Saud Islamic University
  3. King Abdul Aziz University
  4. King Faisal University
  5. Umm Al-Qura University
  6. Islamic University Medinah
  7. King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals

King Saud University was set up in the year 1957 in Riyadh. It is the first university of Saudi Arabia. There are 19 colleges that function under this university. The number of students enrolled in this university is more than 32000.

King Abdul Aziz University is located in Jeddah city. There are more than 34,000 students in this university. The English Language Center, Energy Research Center, the Technological Studies Center and the Computer Center are all affiliated to this university.

Ummul Qura University in Makkah Al Mukarramah was set up in 1981. The Hajj Research Center is an important part of this university.

King Faisal University in Al Ahsa comprises 6 colleges along with a number of centers used for agriculture and veterinary training.

The Islamic University, Madinah is the second university in Saudi Arabia, set up 1961. There are five colleges affiliated to this university.

Polytechnics in Saudi Arabia

No analysis has been done yet.

Colleges in Saudi Arabia

No analysis has been done yet.

Education reform


King Abdullah Project for General Education Development

The King Abdullah Project for General Education Development is a SR9 billion project and it will be implemented over the next six years to guarantee the availability of a highly skilled and motivated work force in the future. A number of schools in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam have been selected for the implementation of this project. Crown Prince Sultan will head a ministerial committee to supervise the project, which will begin with creating a high-tech classroom environment in Saudi Arabia in six years. More than 400,000 teachers will be trained to handle classes in the high-tech style. In addition, this project will emphasize on extracurricular activities for the purpose of developing intellectual, creative and communicative skills of students.



The Bologna Process

This is not directly relevant to Saudi Arabia.

Administration and finance




Quality assurance, inspection and accreditation

Information society

Internet in Saudi Arabia

Educational internets in Saudi Arabia

Copyright law in Saudi Arabia

ICT in education initiatives in Saudi Arabia

Virtual initiatives in schools

OER initiatives in schools

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

Knowledge International University

Knowledge International University (KIU) was founded in 2007 in Saudi Arabia to improve access to higher education for nontraditional learners unable to enroll in conventional university programmes. Most courses are available in Arabic and focus on the study of Islam. Lectures comprise the bulk of learning materials for KIU courses, and are available both via live streaming and "prerecorded" for on-demand viewing. KIU has examination centres in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

The Knowledge International University web site is at http://www.kiu.com.sa/website/index.php

Arab Open University

The Arab Open University (AOU, in Arabic الجامعة العربية المفتوحة) is a non-profit private Pan-Arab university founded in 2002 in Kuwait, Jordan, and Lebanon. One year later it opened in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman. The AOU is affiliated with the UK Open University (UKOU). Agreements with the UKOU cover three major areas: licensing of materials, consultancies, accreditation, and validation.

OER initiatives in post-secondary education

Lessons learnt


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