In a recent interview with Fox News, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outlined ambitious goals for Saudi Arabia, focusing mainly on economic growth, new projects, and logistics.
These goals have not been set in a void; they reflect broader national priorities, including elevating the educational system. As we consider these high-reaching objectives, it is natural to question how well aligned the Ministry of Education’s strategy is with these initiatives across various sectors. Are they dynamic and adaptable enough to keep pace?
The Education and Training Evaluation Commission recently announced the National School Evaluation Program, an ambitious initiative to evaluate school performance for the academic year 1445H — 2023.
The program aims to conduct self-evaluations for over 25,000 schools via a digital platform and undertake external evaluations for 10,000 governmental, private, and international schools. This naturally leads us to another important question: How prepared is the Ministry of Education to administer this expansive initiative, and how does it intend to synthesize the diverse range of feedback?
The quality of educational policies enacted by the Ministry of Education deserves critical scrutiny. Are these policies effectively bridging the technological divide among schools of varied preparedness? How well do these regulations align with Vision 2030’s ambitious goals for national development?
Examining policy effectiveness requires more than a quick review; it necessitates ongoing assessments and adjustments to meet the evolving needs of the educational sector.
Saudi Arabia has proactively adopted new technologies within its educational framework, inspired by globally recognized models. Advanced computer systems and high-speed internet are not mere amenities but essential tools for learning. As the nation advances in this digital age, the question of inclusivity becomes ever more critical: How is technology-driven education being distributed equitably across the diverse spectrum of schools, considering their varied levels of digital preparedness and connectivity?
Within the private education sector, there exists a diverse range of experiences. While a significant number of these institutions are committed to excellence and deploy cutting-edge technologies, it is important to note that this is not universally the case. The adoption of advanced tools in these schools raises concerns about the potential for a segmented educational landscape. Accordingly, one must question whether the new evaluation program adequately considers the varied technological readiness across different types of educational institutions, including private ones.
Learning from international experiences can offer valuable insights. The UK allows public schools the autonomy to select systems and software that best meet their unique needs. As Saudi Arabia navigates this complex educational landscape driven by technology, updated policies and revisions are being made to keep pace with rapid digitalization and AI adoption.
Local companies can offer the agility to develop tailored solutions. Collaborations between these companies and educational institutions can accelerate technology adoption, ensuring no school is left behind. Such partnerships can also facilitate innovative digital approaches beyond merely digitizing existing workflows.
Ensuring equal educational opportunities is a national concern, aligned closely with the objectives outlined in Vision 2030. A comprehensive dialogue involving all stakeholders can help formulate equitable and effective policies. It is crucial to balance the harnessing of technology’s potential while safeguarding the integrity and inclusivity of the educational system.
As Saudi Arabia continues its journey toward economic diversification and prosperity, the education system must be more than a witness; it must be an active participant in this national transformation. Strong governance practices are needed to oversee and guide these comprehensive changes effectively.
As we move ahead, it is evident that the challenges and opportunities presented by technology are central to achieving Vision 2030’s ambitious educational goals. Technology can accelerate learning and offer cost savings, but we must also navigate complex issues of equity and inclusivity. Achieving these goals necessitates a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents, and policymakers.
By working together, we can bridge the gap between our aspirations and the realities of our classrooms, setting a brighter course for the youth of Saudi Arabia.
• Ahoud Alshaikh, Ph.D., M.Sc., M.A., Harvard CSML, is an education expert specializing in edtech, educational assessment, public-private partnerships, and educational corporate governance.