Saudi Arabia’s road to profound changes, in the eyes of outsiders

All Saudi Arabian resources mixed with modern methods can really take the country somewhere, says resident. (SPA)
Updated 23 September 2018

Saudi Arabia’s road to profound changes, in the eyes of outsiders

  • The major changes that had a positive impact were cinemas opening and women driving, as these are things the community has been waiting for a long time

JEDDAH: As the National Day of Saudi Arabia approaches, the people of the Kingdom gear up in green to celebrate it. As excited as Saudi nationals are, expats living in the country also play their part in celebrating National Day.
Arab News made contact with some expats in Saudi Arabia to hear an outsider’s view on the transforming country.
A 66-year-old Yemeni expat living here for half a century, Salman has seen changes occur in front of his very eyes, “All the changes are moving toward a better Kingdom, for the perfect effect we will need to wait 10 or 15 more years.”
He added: “Saudi Arabia is a country rich in resources. All its resources mixed with modern methods can really take the country somewhere.”
Sarmad Hassan from Pakistan, who has lived in the Kingdom for 9 years, says, “The major changes that had a positive impact were cinemas opening and women driving, as these are things the community has been waiting for a long time.
“I had expected the changes for some time now because they were required to make a better country in the long run.
“Change is always good, it is usually hard to accept changes when they first happen but with time everything will get back to normal. To carry out the KSA’s ambitious welfare and development projects, changes which would add value to the economy are required.”
Amin-Al-Mrstani, a Syrian expat living in Saudi Arabia for 33 years, commented: “I never thought that the changes would happen, but they did happen and most of them are good.
“The further changes that I would like are to stop the shops closing during prayer time and better maintenance of the main roads and cities, which needs more attention.” Other than that, I personally enjoy the music events, cinemas and ladies driving the most.”
Salman Latif, a Pakistani for whom Saudi Arabia is a second home and who was born and brought up in the kingdom, commented: “I never really thought Saudi Arabia would become this flexible and change so much in favor of women. Personally, I am looking forward to more events here.”
Willy de Guzman, 65, from Philippines, says: “I have been here for 27 years, I hope the economy becomes better. In my opinion if that problem is tackled the Saudis have the best security so better things can be expected from the future of Saudi economy.”
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the expats living in Saudi Arabia are keen to see where the current unfolding of events is going to lead and are rooting for the best for the nation and themselves.


Saudi education provider passes pandemic challenges

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Saudi authorities moved swiftly to ensure continuity of education in the Kingdom by promoting online learning platforms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

Saudi education provider passes pandemic challenges

  • “We have invested significantly in our online platform MLG (Ma’arif Learning Gateway) which has proven a trusted platform by our teachers and students"

JEDDAH: Despite the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, students in Saudi Arabia’s public and private schools have been virtually receiving their education through online learning platforms made available by the Ministry of Education.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Arfaj, CEO of Ma’arif for Education and Training — one of the largest private school owners and operators in Saudi Arabia — said that the Education Ministry had carefully studied the current situation.
“At Ma’arif, we were proactive (in) early planning and preparation for e-learning, which paved (the) way to offer an advanced model of education delivery,” he told Arab News.
“This is based on two main principles to ensure the comprehensiveness and quality of e-learning — the adherence to a schedule that is very similar to the usual schedule adopted during normal face-to-face study, and to ensure that our students receive live classes that exceed 75 percent of the weekly schedule.”
 He added that they had provided over 71,000 live lectures to students via remote learning since the start of this academic year on Aug. 29, and succeeded in establishing new parameters in education delivery in the Kingdom. The Ma’arif CEO pointed out that e-learning had been embraced as a reliable model by governments and educational authorities.
“There was apprehension in the past but with the pandemic, we all addressed the challenge by leveraging the opportunity that e-learning presented. We are witnessing a remarkable transformation in the educational ecosystem,” he said.
Commenting on whether or not the available digital solutions would be enough for a good learning experience, Al-Arfaj said that building on their online learning experience, they had continued to strive for excellence in education provision.

There were apprehension in the past but with the pandemic, we all addressed the challenge by leveraging the opportunity that e-learning presented.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Arfaj CEO, Ma’arif for Education and Training

“We have invested significantly in our online platform MLG (Ma’arif Learning Gateway) which has proven a trusted platform by our teachers and students. Several remote educational services and applications have been added and the library has been uploaded with all the resources needed for asynchronous access. Our platform is designed to continue to deliver the curriculum as seamlessly as possible,” he added.
 He asserted that while nothing could beat the school experience “we must not be discouraged by the situation and must do all we can to ensure quality learning for our students.”
Al-Arfaj blamed some schools for not arranging or preparing for such a difficult situation beforehand.
“There should always be a backup where you leverage your resources based on the situation, and this is what some schools did not take into consideration. The challenges are everywhere and frequent, but we must be prepared to deal with them without impacting the quality of education,” he said.
The CEO said Ma’arif was building on its successful online and interactive learning experience from last year, as they “carefully designed a plan that blends online and offline lessons, taking into consideration the screen-time students are exposed to during online learning.”
He added that their e-learning schedule included synchronous and asynchronous learning, and that most of their lessons were delivered in a synchronous manner where teachers from inside the classrooms, and students at home, interacted in real-time.
“We organized a detailed online orientation session, including routines for online learning and schedules. We have also shared our e-learning policies and
guidelines with our parents and students before the start of the academic year.
“Once we go back to the schools’ premises, we intend to continuously employ the e-learning process to enhance and enrich our academic programs,” he added.
“We are first and foremost education providers, committed to ensuring the holistic development of our children. The values that our teachers share — providing the best quality education to students — are unwavering and that is our key strength,” he said.
Ma’arif is also assisting families with fee deferrals during the pandemic by offering waivers to those in direst need.