RIYADH: During his televised interview last week to mark the 5th anniversary of the Vision 2030 program, one of the many subjects addressed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the Kingdom’s education system.
“With regard to higher education, currently we have five universities ranked among the 500 best universities worldwide according to various indicators. Our objective is to have three universities ranked among the best 200,” the crown prince said.
He said that his ambitions ran even higher. “We might be working toward a very ambitious objective… having one university ranked among the best 10 universities worldwide, which is King Saud University. But even if it ranked 20 or 30 that would be extremely good.”
A report released on Sunday by real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank said the Kingdom’s education sector is undergoing rapid transformation across all levels and “it creates a compelling case to invest in the education space of the Kingdom.”
In the five years to 2018, the total number of students in higher education in Saudi Arabia grew by 8.3 percent to 1.62 million. The Kingdom has 60 universities, 70 percent of which are public institutions. In terms of subject matter, there has been a 61 percent increase in the take-up of business management courses in public universities, while the natural sciences, mathematics and statistics sector recorded a 55.9 percent increase in the number of students enrolling.
One of the key goals of Vision 2030 is to increase the number of Saudi nationals in the labor force and to facilitate this there has been a surge in the number of technical and vocational training (TVT) facilities in the Kingdom. The Knight Frank report found that in the five years leading up to 2017 the number of TVT public sector facilities in the Kingdom rose by 60.4 percent to reach 223.
The biggest growth in the education sector has been in the primary and secondary levels. Between 2015 and 2019 the number of schools in the Kingdom grew 16.5 percent to a total of 38,150. Eighty percent of these are public facilities, but in the fee-paying private sector, the number of schools over the same time period has increased by 42.1 percent.
“As we continue to see an increase in female labor force participation rates, demand for affordable and quality pre-primary institutions is only likely to increase.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, estimates that 1,500 kindergartens are required across Saudi Arabia over the next decade alone,” the report said.
Shehzad Jamal, Head of Healthcare & Education at Knight Frank Middle East, said in a statement: “The Saudi Arabia government has recognized that improvements need to be made in the quality of its education system, which are to be addressed through its Human Capital Development Vision Realization Program of the Vision 2030. Significant reforms are under implementation to address challenges faced by the sector.”