Faisal Foundation, IBO sign accord

Updated 05 April 2014
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Faisal Foundation, IBO sign accord

The King Faisal Foundation (KFF) and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) signed Friday a partnership project that will bring holistic IB educational programs to the Kingdom through the “Developing Learners, Leaders and Teachers for the future of Saudi Arabia” project.
Prince Bandar bin Saud bin Khalid, secretary-general of KFF, said: “Our partnership with the IBO has existed since 2008 and this new phase is a five-year plan that will lay strong foundations for future leaders, innovators, and professionals who will be able to use their knowledge to enhance the quality of education and benefit the Kingdom’s economy.
“Our aim is to develop up to 40 primary and secondary schools in the Kingdom to become centers of excellence as IB World Schools including the provision of IB diploma program subjects in Arabic.”
Prince Bandar said: “We aim for over 1,500 teachers to be trained through an innovative professional development program and hundreds of practicing teachers and school leaders will acquire IB teaching and leadership certificates each year.
“In line with the KFF mission, and with an investment of more than SR1.65 million from the foundation, this initiative aims to gradually transform education in Saudi Arabia and the Arabic-speaking world to be the best.”
The new partnership between the IBO and KFF aims to increase the impact of education in Saudi Arabia and the Arabic-speaking world. KFF is one of the largest philanthropic foundations worldwide with well-defined goals and focus on education, research and philanthropy.
Siva Kumari, director general of IBO said: “The IB is already recognized for its rigorous standards and holistic educational offer in Saudi Arabia and this partnership with the KFF is a significant commitment that will allow many more Arabic-speaking students access to the IB.”
Speaking to Arab News, Kumari said IB looks forward to truly internationalize its community as it is the organization's mission to create intercultural understanding. "Our organizations are aligned in the vision to create a better world through education and we are confident that the benefits will be felt in the Kingdom and beyond.”
KFF and IBO shared beliefs that the education for young people provides the foundation for greater understanding, awareness and knowledge throughout later life.
The project will focus on the educational development of young people and adults by increasing access to the IB’s primary years, middle years and diploma programs which are to be delivered in Arabic. This includes increasing the number of authorized IB World Schools in the Kingdom, in addition to translation of the program’s materials.
It will also seek to augment the professional development of educational professionals within the state system in Saudi Arabia. This will include establishing IB certificates in teaching and learning, and in leadership practice, at higher educational institutions locally.
For more than 45 years, IB programs have gained a reputation for their high academic standards, for preparing students for life in a globalized 21st century, and for helping to develop citizens who will create a better, more peaceful world. Currently there are over 1 million IB students attending over 4,600 programs in more than 147 countries.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”