Kingdom tops world in education spending

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Updated 04 January 2013

Kingdom tops world in education spending

Paucity of funds particularly in the sector of education is commonplace and is felt globally. This makes choice to pursue education limited for the students in several nations.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the situation is however quite different. The late King Abdul Aziz had a vision since he had founded the Kingdom focusing on the need of education as means to development.
His successive sons have well followed this tradition and pursued plans promoting education as key to the country’s development.
The SR 204 billion funds allocation to the education sector in the 2013 budget reflects Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s determination toward development of the education sector as well as his care for the Kingdom’s citizens. In a country where over 50 percent of the population is below 25 years, education is a vital and strategic area.
The Kingdom is truly committed toward building the nation and caring for its citizens, and education has been a top priority for the last five decades. By investing in its human capital, the Kingdom ensures lasting growth and a knowledge-based economy. The Education Ministry’s 10-year strategic plan (2004-2014) to overhaul the education system is a milestone in the sector and corresponds to King Abdullah’s vision. The amount of money allocated to the education sector has increased dramatically in the last four years. It grew from SR 105 billion in 2008, SR 122 billion in 2009, SR 137 billion in 2010, and SR 150 billion in 2011 to the highest amount ever of SR 204 billion in 2012.
According to a study by Saleh Abdul Kareem of King Saud University, the budget for education in 1970 amounted to SR 666 million, or 9.8 percent of the total budget, while the literacy rate was 15 percent for men. Currently, the spending for education occupies 25 percent of the total budget and the literacy rate is above 96.5 percent, as per Word Bank data of 2009.
The allocation of nearly 25 percent for the education sector is one of the visionary and bold steps taken by the government, given that the allocation of many nations – including advanced ones – on education does not exceed 10 percent of total expenditure or 5 percent of GDP. Most advanced nations in Europe and North America spend an average of 4-5 percent of their GDP on education, whereas Saudi Arabia is spending an average of 10 percent on it – the highest in the world.
The allocation of grants to the education sector is hailed by a cross section of the society. “The huge allocation indeed shapes the development of our nation,” commented Abdul Kareem.
“We need to focus more on higher education,” said Mohammed Luqman of King Saud University in Riyadh. There are enough Saudi students in under graduation courses, but the number in higher education has to be increased, he said, as many Saudi youth opt for studies abroad due to scholarships, or choose to work as a result of the job offers in the local market.
King Saud University in Riyadh, with SR 9.4 billion, will receive the highest share of the latest budget, while King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah is second with SR 5.7 billion. Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh will receive SR 3.8 billion, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dahran SR 1.3 billion.
An impressive amount will be spent on the development of infrastructure in all regions of the Kingdom. The huge spending on educational infrastructure projects will generate massive employment opportunities.
Apart from developing high standards in education, the Kingdom is encouraging its nationals to pursue studies abroad by providing scholarships.
For the scholarship program of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the government allocated more than SR 7 billion to support applicants to prestigious universities in countries such as the US, Britain, Germany, Canada, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, Malaysia, China, India, Singapore, and South Korea. The country has supported more than 18,000 students over the past few years, and over 7,500 students completed their course of studies under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.
Significant progress has also been achieved in the education for women. The country’s literacy rate among women was only 2 percent in 1970, while women are now competing with men. Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University for women in Riyadh was established in 2009 and has become an icon for women education in the Kingdom.
The Ministry of Education has initiated several reforms in the education system. It introduced a revision of the syllabus and curriculum for mathematics and science, and put emphasis on the English language.
The focus on current education is gradually shifting from quantitative education to qualitative knowledge, and strong emphasis is being laid on its implementation.
There are a total of 34,749 schools with 276,400 classrooms used to teach 5,187,498 students from KG to secondary level. This includes special and adult education, according to the latest statistics of the Education Ministry. The primary and secondary education system is considered the backbone of the country’s education.
There are currently 24 universities in the Kingdom. King Saud University in Riyadh, established in 1957, is among the oldest institutions. A total of 508 affiliated colleges and institutions are attached to these universities. Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University has the largest number of students in the Kingdom, with 132,094 students enrolled in the previous academic year, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Higher Education. In the last couple of years, King Abdullah established several universities in different regions of the Kingdom.


Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

Updated 08 December 2019

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

  • The attack, in which a Saudi gunman killed three Americans, is viewed as an act that does not represent Saudi people
  • The OIC has said the attacker did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people

From the king and top-level Saudi government officials to everyday Saudi citizens, all are united in condemning the attack on a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, calling it as “un-Islamic” and barbaric.

The shooting of three Americans by a Saudi gunman was an individual attack that does not represent the Kingdom’s people, it has been widely  stressed. 

For decades, many Saudis have lived in the US for work or attended universities across many states, becoming their own ambassadors. 

Nedda Akhonbay, a communications professional working in Jeddah, expressed her sadness when she heard the news.

“My condolences go out to the families of the victims as I hope they find peace in their lives after facing such a tragedy. As a Saudi-American and having spent many formative years in the US and made friends who became like family, I thought this attack was very close to home and I hope both people work together to get past it.”

“As a student who lived in the States, I never faced any problems for being a Muslim,” said Alaa Sendi, an American-Saudi lecturer working in Jeddah University.

Having obtained a PhD in electrical engineering, Dr. Nazih Al-Othmani lived between the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania for ten years in the late 1990s and was in the US during the 9/11 attacks. He recalled how Americans understood that such atrocious attacks never represented a community, and this one was no exception.

“The tragic event that took place yesterday does not represent us, this attack is unacceptable regardless of any reason and no sane person can ever accept it,” he said. “I lived in the States for many years, I was also there on 9/11, and made many American friends throughout my time there. They stood by us, they helped us, protected us and our relationship was very civil and courteous. We need to stand together to combat this dangerous tendency that can be found in every community.”

The attack at the US naval station in Pensacola, Florida, was the second incident at an American military base in this week, following another shooting at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Wednesday. (
Josh Brasted / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Many Saudis are angered over the actions of this one individual. Dr. Al-Othmani expressed his concerns about those who would take advantage of the situation and try to point a finger at Saudis.

“Though right-wingers will take advantage of the event and attack Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe many Americans will see it that way. Americans are aware enough to differentiate between the nationality of an individual and his actions,” he said.

Al-Othmani recommends that Saudi students communicate, cooperate and extend a hand of friendship to their respective communities.

In the decades of friendship and cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia, many Americans have come to work in the Kingdom and some have made it their home. 

Dr. Alia Mitchell, vice dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, is an American citizen who has been a Muslim for more than 30 years and has lived in the Kingdom for more than 20 years. She has chosen to live in the Kingdom as she sees the beauty of the religion interwoven into society, one that she believes is not represented by the shooter. 

“When something tragic that happens like this, it’s on the individual,” she said. “it doesn’t go back to the community or the society.

“I’m still sickened and mostly very, very saddened with this tragedy,” said Melanie H. “I’ve a son the same age as the shooter and can’t imagine what the pain and grief his actions would do to me as a parent. To learn that your son has caused so much hell… that he has taken others’ lives.”

She said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and I have experienced Saudi’s hospitality, warmth — nothing like what I imagined or expected before arriving. It isn’t perfect but then what country or nation is?” 

“Now that the country has opened its doors to the world, people really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover especially when criminals like this shooter make such a false, misleading cover.” 

Melanie H continued: “Do not judge a people by an individual — that’s what we Americans are all about. No judging.”


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“This crime does not represent us as Saudis,” said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, minister of Islamic Affairs, on his personal Twitter account. “We reject such criminal acts and we sympathize with the injured and the families of the victims. It is a horrible crime and a dishonest act.

“We condemn crimes anywhere and anytime, and we stress our complete rejection of such horrible criminal acts which Islam forbids.”

Saudi scholar and Imam of Quba Mosque in Madinah Saleh Al-Maghamsi shared the same notion. He said: “This incident should be stripped away from religion and from the country to which whoever committed this criminal act is affiliated. The Shariah does not approve of this act for it violates the texts of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet, which is based on the principle of no bloodshed. Logic also does not approve of this action.” 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the aggressor did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in tolerance, moderation and coexistence.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia also condemned the shooting incident in Florida and called it a heinous crime. 

Describing it as a crime against humanity, the senior scholars stressed that such actions were against the true teachings of Islam. They said that the Saudi people will continue to uphold their noble values and contribute to the progress and prosperity of the world and humanity.