Adapt or fall behind, Gulf education leaders warned

Saudi Arabia’s spending on education in its 2018 budget totalled SR192 billion. (AN photo)
Updated 22 February 2018

Adapt or fall behind, Gulf education leaders warned

JEDDAH: Education in Saudi Arabia must adapt to keep pace with “profound developments” in global technology, the 7th Gulf education conference was told.
Deputy of Private Education Saad Al-Fuhaidi said: “New formulas must be found to harmonize education with the competencies required in today’s generation and the future functions that it has in the realms of cybersecurity and biotechnology, as well as three-dimensional printing, supercomputing and other profound developments.”
Earlier, Matthias Mitman, US Counsul General in Jeddah, told the conference: “Education is one of our countries’ strongest ties, as it increases the mutual understanding and gives Americans a more accurate picture about Saudi society and culture.”
“Saudi students excel through many education fields in the United States,” he said. “Saudis who graduated from US universities are able to start businesses and work in Saudi Arabia, including doctors, engineers, teachers and scientists. The US welcomes tens of thousands of Saudi nationals to study, and Saudi Arabia currently has the fourth-highest number of national students in the US.”
Chairman of the University of Business and Technology, Abdullah Dahlan, told the conference: “The Saudi Arabia leadership has made education one of its top priorities. Education has been one of the most important fundamentals of the future vision ... a foundation for building the state.” 
The Kingdom’s campaign to eradicate illiteracy offers services to more than 957 students. The campaign’s executive director, Hassan Adnawi, said that 26 learning centers for male and female students had been opened since 2017, with 58 teachers providing courses in subjects associated with the campaign.
Education Director of Gulf Education David Lock said: “The Kingdom has set out in Vision 2030 very clearly what it wants to do, but for that to happen the education sector has to respond and it has to respond at all levels, not just for the benefit of Saudi Arabia in Saudi Arabia but also for the benefit of Saudi Arabia in the world. Consequently, basic education, dealing with illiteracy, and introducing more people to English and other languages are vital for the success of Vision 2030.”
Simon Collis, British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “There is a new understanding of where Saudi Arabia is standing in the world now and in the future. When we come to Vision 2030, you can see that the focus on education is at the heart of the program. It seems to me that every single challenge is a human resource development.”

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”