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Reflections on Saudi education system

Saad Al-Dosar
Saad Al-Dosari

With the reopening of schools, students have embarked on a new journey of their lives. Is this journey going to be any different? Will the routine remain the same as before or will it change for the better? Going to school, attending lectures, doing homework and memorizing…will that be all?
Or will it be a new year offering opportunities for self-development? Will our children get the chances they deserve to equip themselves with the necessary skills required to compete and survive in this fast-changing world?
One cannot deny the fact that writing or speaking about the education system of the Kingdom has become a bit boring subject. And no matter how many times one tries to highlight its shortcomings, things remain the same. It is not to say that efforts are not being made to improve the system of education but the wheel of change appears to be moving at a very slow pace.
Apart from newly designed books and addition of some new chapters here and there, we are still waiting for something concrete to boast about our education system, which is not able to keep pace with the changing times.
I would love to see someone challenging my views with something concrete to defend his/her case.
Allow me to narrate a story of a friend who visited a school last week to complete the enrollment requirements of his younger son for first grade.
Once he reached the school, he decided to take a quick tour to assess the place. As he was roaming around the school, he happened to notice a group of young kids playing in one of the empty classrooms. They had apparently come with their fathers to get the enrollment process finalized.
They were running around, jumping on the tables and stuff like that. My friend went to the enrollment section. While he was waiting for his papers to be processed, he casually told one of the teachers about those kids. Fearing for their safety, he asked the teacher to send someone to that class.
The response was shocking: “Oh! You are one of those fathers, this is our school, if you do not like it you can take your file and find some other school.” My friend was taken aback by the surprising response. The discussion that followed was tense to the point that it required the involvement of the school’s principle. The principle apologized and insisted that they cared about the students and their wellbeing and that he would make sure the teacher understood that.
Moral of the story is that education is a system; all its components should work in harvmony in order for it to achieve the desired results. The best curriculums in the world won’t be sufficient without qualified teachers, exactly like the best teachers in the world won’t be able to make a difference when they do not have the tools and environment that enable them to be creative and drive change.
These days the hot issues being discussed everywhere in the Kingdom revolve around our economy like low oil prices, high government expenditure, diversifying income and enhancing the GDP. Mostly everybody end up these discussions by admitting that we depend on education to prepare us and our next generation so as to efficiently deal with the challenges of tomorrow.
What we need is a long-term strategy that rectifies and develops every part of the system – the curriculums, academic programs, teachers and the infrastructure. Most importantly, however, it should create a vision, what we want from the Saudis of tomorrow? What kind of tools we want to equip him and her with?
Finding answers to these questions is of paramount importance to ensure a stable and prosperous future.

 

By Saad Al-Dosari from ArabNews