Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
The PISA test will be the second time it will be conducted in the Kingdom after the initial launch in 2018.
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Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
  • The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years

RIYADH: Saudi students are preparing to take the PISA test, an international performance metric conducted by the OECD to measure educational levels in 15-year-olds around the world.

The test will be completed virtually by 600,000 students from 80 countries.

It is the second time that the test will be conducted in the Kingdom after the initial launch in 2018.

From May 29 to 30, the PISA will be offered electronically in general education classrooms, focusing on computing and linguistic abilities.

The PISA is a set of studies administered every three years to a random sample of students at the target age to assess their abilities in reading, science and mathematics.

The application of the PISA in the Kingdom falls within the framework of the efforts of the Ministry of Education to improve graduates in the educational process. The results of the test will provide useful indicators to improve the Kingdom’s education system.

Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development, said that the electronic professional development program for mathematics, science and reading for teachers will improve the skills of PISA students. The program allows educators to transfer their experience to students using more influential methods.

Al-Juhaimi told Arab News that one of the program’s most important features is its “great flexibility,” since teachers can attend the program at any time and from any location.




Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development. (Supplied)

He added that the program’s training modules are designed to help teachers acquire targeted skills in mathematics, reading, and natural sciences to improve their performance, which reflects on the level of students and contributes to supporting student learning outcomes.

The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years. The Saudi Ministry of Education will oversee the test.

Al-Juhaimi said that e-training is an opportunity for teachers in the targeted disciplines because it is self-motivated, not limited by place or time, and is available to any teacher of the three subjects.

Furthermore, teachers are provided three chances to do unit-related assessments and an overall review of the program based on their specialist sector to assist self-learning.

Al-Juhaimi said that the regulations of NIEPD, issued in November 2019, support the professionalization of public education and raise the level of educational practices in the Kingdom.

However, he said that there are numerous challenges confronting mathematics and science education. These include the need to modernize standards and identify the training needs of each specialty.

Al-Juhaimi added that one of the most important enablers for teacher development is the integration of training into the school curricula. Another enabler is linking the school curricula with teacher training programs within the school, and linking professional development with performance evaluation as well as promotions to ensure demand. Supporting electronic training, encouraging self-evaluation and strengthening professional learning communities for teachers is also important, he said.

He said that the institute’s projects for teacher development include establishing scientific forums, developing the workforce, training school leaders and launching programs for educational professional development practitioners.


Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Updated 9 sec ago

Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
  • Haya Al-Hejailan wants to open a clinic and to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research

RIYADH: Psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof once wrote that “psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

To many, this may sound like an outlandish claim, but now more than ever, it is proving to be true and may very well become a frontier in practicing medicine.

Saudi Arabia was enduring a mental health epidemic and the psychological strains of the pandemic exacerbated that. People are finding themselves desperate for ways to cope. One of the most recent psychotherapy methods in the region, albeit stigmatized, is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. A recent study published by Neuropsychopharmacology (Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/npp201784#citeas) showed that the substances were proven to achieve positive long-term mental health effects and their efficiency, safety and tolerability in treating major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain addictions.

I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet.

Haya Al-Hejailan, Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist

It is also associated with enhancing creativity and problem-solving, according to an article published by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02791072.2020.1761573) in 2019.

While the stigma around mind-altering substances, both in the region and globally, is unavoidable, researchers and scientists argue that if these drugs are regulated and used purely for medicinal reasons, what is the harm?

The term “psychedelics,” a class of hallucinogens, comes from the Greek words “psyche,” meaning the mind, and “delia,” meaning manifesting. The psychoactive substances are meant to alter the mind and create an alternative cognitive perception.

Psychedelics are classified into classical, which includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms), mescaline and others, and non-classical, such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) and ketamine.

“(They’re) really great tools for us being able to understand the brain and the study of consciousness better,” Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan told Arab News. Her work centers on psychedelic research and the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

This point may seem counterintuitive: How can addiction be treated with a substance that may cause another addiction? But psychedelics are, in fact, anti-addictive in nature.

“They have anti-addictive properties, meaning they don’t constitute physiological addiction, but one can become psychologically addicted to anything,” said Al-Hejailan, refererring to non-substance addictions such as coffee or mobile devices.

However, the use of psychedelics can pose certain dangers, making it crucial to undergo treatment strictly under professional medical supervision, which can only be accessible through clinics. Psychedelic therapists are trained to create a controlled environment for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy, with sessions prior to administering the treatment dose to identify any red flags or possible risks that would otherwise create a larger margin of error. Patients who self-dose could potentially be subject to health risks, retraumatization, depersonalization and dissociation.

“I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, ‘I'm sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet,’” Al-Hejailan said. “But I’m optimistic with highlighting the word ‘yet.’”

An article published by The Lancet (Link: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30585-2/fulltext) showed that most antidepressants are ineffective and can be harmful to adolescents and children.

In an attempt to fulfill that medical need, several research efforts and trials have been unertaken to evaluate alternative routes, such as psychedelic-assisted therapy.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428540/) found that small IV doses of ketamine can have positive, long-lasting antidepressant effects in patients. Although the scientific research regarding psychotherapeutic psychedelic use in the region is insufficient, Saudi Arabia has been easing its way into their use use for other purposes. Last year, the Saudi Journal of Emergency Medicine (link: https://sjemed.com/?mno=3435) published a paper describing a successful case of refractory status epilepsy, a life-threatening condition, in a child treated with a single dose of ketamine.

Despite its growing popularity in mainstream media, psychedelic science is one of the cutting-edge neurosciences, yielding insufficient research compared to other sciences. The 1950s saw the first English-language report published on LSD, and research continued into Richard Nixon’s US presidential term, ending in the 70s. However, research efforts were quickly banned under the justification of the war on drugs as a public enemy declared by the US president. However, it was supported by other factors, such as the lack of funding for psychedelic research and failed medical trials, according to an article published by the Cambridge University Press (Link: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/why-was-early-therapeutic-research-on-psychedelic-drugs-abandoned/59F93D11DE21F420465559BBEB99CC14).

That area of medicine was considered niche until recently. In 2017, MDMA was given “breakthrough therapy” designation by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning it was granted an expedited review process. In 2018, the FDA granted a group of psychiatrists researching psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression the same status.

In the same year, Michael Pollan’s book “How to Change Your Mind” created a public space for people to think differently about psychedelics and the consciousness expansion of the mind. Ketamine was granted the same status a year later. Arguably, that is when psychedelics hit the mainstream, although its resurgence into clinical research and trials resumed in the 1990s.

“(Before that) I was met with a lot of skepticism. People literally thought I was talking about something that’s crazy,” Al-Hejailan said in reference to discussing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy before 2018.

“There’s a lot of interest, enthusiasm and curiosity that I’m met with now when I talk about my work.”

With a master’s in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology from the University of East London, Al-Hejailan’s work also includes positive psychology integration and psychedelic education, providing training in psychedelic therapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. She also co-directed and co-produced a documentary titled “Psychedelic Renaissance,” centered on the reemergence of the psychedelic movement globally and its cultural significance.

Al-Hejailan said that raising awareness about psychedelic studies was the first step in creating a regional environment that allows for alternative psychotherapy methods.

“I think we need to, in general, focus more of our energy and attention on psychoeducation, educating the public about mental health and well-being. The more we do that, the more people are likely to continue becoming accepting and interested,” she said.

Future steps to normalize the use of psychoactive drugs include active training for clinicians and therapists on their uses and benefits and eventually establishing specialized clinics and research centers.

“My goal is to have presentations specifically on psychotherapy and to meet with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, and policymakers at some point. To show them what’s happening abroad, what the science shows and to discuss how we can replicate this here in a safe way that respects our culture and that respects our specific or unique needs,” Al-Hejailan said.

“I really want to open a clinic and research center here. Me and my colleagues would very much love to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research in the region, and maybe globally.”


Iraqi PM welcomed to Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince

Iraqi PM welcomed to Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince
Updated 2 min 49 sec ago

Iraqi PM welcomed to Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince

Iraqi PM welcomed to Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince

RIYADH: Iraqi PM welcomed to Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince.

More to follow...


Thrill-seekers visit Jeddah’s Horror Village for adrenaline rush

The village promises to transport visitors to a haunted world packed with frights and fun around every corner. (Supplied)
The village promises to transport visitors to a haunted world packed with frights and fun around every corner. (Supplied)
Updated 7 min 57 sec ago

Thrill-seekers visit Jeddah’s Horror Village for adrenaline rush

The village promises to transport visitors to a haunted world packed with frights and fun around every corner. (Supplied)
  • People can experience terror with all five senses by walking through a terrifying maze set in a spooky, dim hospital

JEDDAH: Ghouls, ghosts and other creepy creatures have been shocking visitors at Horror Village in Jeddah Season’s City Walk zone.

The village promises to transport visitors to a haunted world packed with frights and fun around every corner.

The guests are first treated to a spine-chilling experience with the night of the living dead escape room. There are three escape rooms that accommodate six people who are locked up to solve a series of horror-themed puzzles. The only way out is to piece together the intricate clues to escape before time expires.

But once they are freed, the thrills continue. Being admitted to the horror hospital will make your heart pound and send chills down your body, leaving some visitors shaking like a leaf.

People can experience terror with all five senses by walking through a terrifying maze set in a spooky, dim hospital. It can take up to 10 minutes to reach the end, but you will scramble for a faster finish while you are hunted down by bloody ghosts and surrounded by menacing screams.

Alaa Omar Bahattab, zone manager, said that the horror house receives around 1,500 people per day and during the weekend it is extremely crowded.

He said: “Overcoming fears, experiencing adrenaline rush make the haunted house attractive and makes people really come back for it. The village varies in scare intensity from the child-friendly mellowness to the 18-plus activities which are geared towards teenagers and young adults.”

For the kids, the village presents four different activities: a VR experience, a small maze with friendly ghosts hiding in it, a slime area and two theaters featuring child-friendly scary movies.

Bahattab mentioned that this area is specially designed for parents who want to have fun in the escape room and the horror hospital and can keep their kids entertained without any stress. The kids’ drop-off play area has well-trained staff who ensure the children are safe and smiling throughout.

In addition to the activities, the village features a haunted parade and a zombie flash mob that will leave guests with unforgettable memories.

There is also a horror-themed restaurant that offers a unique dining experience, where visitors can enjoy spooky entertainment with their meal.

Tuck into your zombie beef slider, zombie face cake, vampire blood juice, mojito zombie blood and other spooky treats.

The village is now gearing up to offer a frightening makeup stall to craft some of the creepy characters on the guests and another exciting scary zone.


Who’s Who: Mohammed Al-Rumaih, CEO of the Saudi Exchange

Mohammed Al-Rumaih
Mohammed Al-Rumaih
Updated 1 min 38 sec ago

Who’s Who: Mohammed Al-Rumaih, CEO of the Saudi Exchange

Mohammed Al-Rumaih

Mohammed Al-Rumaih has been CEO of the Saudi Exchange, an authorized entity acting as the securities exchange, since 2021.

Before his current role, he was chief of markets for three years, overseeing Saudi Exchange markets operations, including the main market, the Nomu-parallel market, sukuk and bonds.

Since joining the Saudi Exchange in 2009, Al-Rumaih has held various leadership positions, including head of primary market, and chief of sales and marketing between 2013 and 2018.

He has extensive experience in the financial services sector, and has led the exchange through a period of exponential growth and transformation, including the group’s first Saudi Capital Market Forum in 2022, where he announced a pipeline of initial public offerings and the largest bundle of market enhancements in the history of the Saudi capital market.
 
Al-Rumaih played key roles in the exchange’s adoption of new market enhancements and products to further cement its status as an advanced capital market and regional powerhouse.

His notable achievements include working toward Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Markets Index, FTSE Russell’s Emerging Index, and S&P Dow Jones Indices, the revamp of the Nomu-parallel market, the success of the Saudi Capital Market enhancement program, and facilitating the smooth public listing of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest IPO.

Since then, Al-Rumaih has been instrumental in preparing the Saudi Exchange to host more mega-listings, such as Nahdi Medical Co., the second-largest listing in Saudi Arabia since Aramco.

He has also been leading the development of the debt market, ETFs and closed-ended funds in the exchange, resulting in a higher number of listings and investor participation across the board.

With more than 70 IPOs in the pipeline as of March 2022 and increasing interest of foreign investors in the Saudi market, Al-Rumaih is leading the Saudi Exchange through a period of notable growth.

In 2004, Al-Rumaih graduated from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems, and in 2013 he earned an MBA from the Manchester Business School.


Muslim World League chief meets Cambodian leadership in Phnom Penh

Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Phnom Penh.
Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Phnom Penh.
Updated 46 sec ago

Muslim World League chief meets Cambodian leadership in Phnom Penh

Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Phnom Penh.
  • The MWL chief also met Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, after which he tweeted: “Very good meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, to whom I commended the harmony of the Cambodian people

PHNOM PENH: Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa recently visited Cambodia and met with the country’s leaders.

Al-Issa met Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in the capital, Phnom Penh. The king praised the MWL for strengthening alliances between diverse people and religions around the world.

In a tweet, Al-Issa said: “I commend King Norodom Sihamoni’s welcoming words and appreciation of the efforts of the MWL. I applaud the national harmony in Cambodia that has encompassed the Muslims, who enjoy their full religious freedom.”

The MWL chief also met Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, after which he tweeted: “Very good meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, to whom I commended the harmony of the Cambodian people, their respect for religious privacy, inclusion of Islam, participation in celebrations and promotion of Muslim empowerment and other national groups.”

Al-Issa also met with some of Cambodia’s deputy prime ministers, including Minister of National Defense Tia Banh, with whom he discussed several issues related to efforts to promote international peace, and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng. With the latter, Al-Issa discussed the role religious leaders can play in enhancing societal and national peace. Kheng praised the MWL and thanked the organization for its support of Cambodia during the pandemic.

Al-Issa met with the president of the Cambodian Senate, Say Chhum, and several senators. Chhum said his country is proud of its Muslim community.

He also hailed Al-Issa’s “internationally well-known achievements.”

The MWL secretary-general met the Grand Buddhist Patriarch of Cambodia, Tep Fong, and Patriarch Bor Kri. They called the visit by an Islamic leader of Al-Issa’s stature “historic” and “an important step in strengthening cooperation among religions.”

At the invitation of Islamic leaders in Cambodia, Al-Issa also gave a speech at the Al-Serkal Mosque in Phnom Penh, addressing major issues surrounding Islam and its role in the world.

At the Islamic Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodian Islamic leaders commended Al-Issa’s efforts to promote religious harmony in diverse societies, an undertaking that they said had helped Muslim minorities in Cambodia.