JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY
Published — Friday 19 July 2013
Last update 19 July 2013 6:31 am
According to a recent report by The Economist, education in Saudi schools fails to help students get a grip on mathematics and science.
However, the report published on July 13 did quote statistics showing that literacy in Saudi Arabia has grown rapidly from 10 percent in 1960 to 99 percent currently for children of school-leaving age.
The Economist report also states that the Kingdom “spends a greater share of its gross domestic product on education than most wealthy countries. Yet in a recent set of standardized global math tests, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), under half of Saudi 13-year-olds reached the lowest benchmark, compared with 99 percent in South Korea and 88 percent in England.”
“Barely 1 percent of the Saudi children tested gained an ‘advanced’ level, against 47 percent of South Korean and 8 percent of English ones.”
“This suggests that Saudi schools are not just of generally poor quality, but that they fail to encourage brighter students,” the report said.
Many students complain that due to heavy attention paid to subjects such as Arabic and Islamic studies, Saudi schools fall behind in covering science, technology and other areas.
“Apart from just academic instruction, there is no assistance or practice to prepare us for the labor market,” said Abdullah Rajab, a Saudi high school student.
Rajab wants to pursue his higher education in medical engineering and worries about the poor educational system in Saudi Arabia. He said that he is still deciding on a good institute abroad.
To deal with challenges in the education system, several Saudi organizations are in favor of hiring expatriates instead of Saudi nationals. However, the government is dealing with the situation by sending its students overseas for further studies.
Recently, Saudi Arabia signed a $1.1 billion contract with colleges in the United States, the UK, Canada and Spain to provide technical training to nationals.
Talal M. Alhammad, a Saudi studying a course in eastern languages and civilization at Harvard, had written in 2011 that Saudi Arabia had too uniform a system.
“One of the fundamental drawbacks of the Saudi academic system is its imposition of a national curriculum that does not vary across any public or private high school,” wrote Alhammad.
“The system requires that every student study identical academic material in the sciences, literature, and math regardless of where a student’s interest lies,” stated Alhammad. “Additionally, the material offered in many of these subjects is extremely lacking; history topics only cover the Islamic era, honors classes are nonexistent, and English classes are only available after the seventh grade at public high schools.”
Alhammad said that teachers encourage a method of unproductive memorization and an apparent understanding of facts for the sole purpose of passing a test. “This type of education extends far beyond high school to the college and university levels. Students are continuously taught ways to pass an exam rather than the proper approaches to learning.”