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.


Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 10 August 2020

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

  • Jeddah destination provides a taste of Japan with anime, comics, desserts and films

JEDDAH: Japanese comic books, known as manga, have captured the hearts of some Saudis so much that a 31-year-old citizen decided to give the genre’s fans a specialist Jeddah cafe so that they can pursue their passion as well as meet others who share it.

Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer who spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
Manga cafes can be found in most cities across Japan. They are a place where people can spend hours reading manga, and they are also considered to be a cultural space where people can relax and have conversations about manga.
He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in the Kingdom. As an urban planner, he was able to grasp the Japanese concept and implement it in Saudi Arabia with a few tweaks and changes to suit the local audience.
“Manga cafés are all over Japan, albeit executed differently,” Baghlaf told Arab News. “They’re a little like internet cafés where people can spend the night. Of course, recreating that here doesn’t go along with our culture and traditions, so we recreated the concept in a way that accommodates that.”

Signature drinks
Akiba has only been open for a few months but, by the time Arab News visited the manga hotspot, people have already been flocking to the cafe to try out its signature drinks and read their favorite comics.

We have contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.

Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, Urban planning engineer

Friends and families can be seen relaxing together on the ground floor flicking through the pages of a comic book, or delving into a more accessible e-reading option as manga is still in short supply in Saudi Arabia.
Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales.
Akiba also airs popular anime and animated films throughout the day, uploading their schedule on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
Baghlaf is an avid gamer, but watching anime and reading manga is definitely on his list of favorite things to do. Keeping up with popular stories also helps him to figure out what manga volumes to acquire and which anime films to screen.
The urban planning engineer noticed the Kingdom’s approach in linking many objectives in the Vision 2030 reform plan to entertainment and, as cafes continue to draw large crowds in Saudi Arabia, he felt encouraged about going for Akiba.
“Specialty cafes are very popular here nowadays, so how am I going to be special? I went for a manga or anime cafe,” he said.
The cafe’s target audience are those who are interested in specialty coffee, manga and anime. For people with a sweet tooth there are Japanese desserts on offer, including cheesecake.

BACKGROUND

• Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer.

• He spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

• He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in Saudi Arabia.

• The name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers.

• It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.

• Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.

Baghlaf has to make frequent trips to Japan to discuss screening rights with creators in Tokyo. “We’ve contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.”
Due to the deals Baghlaf has made with distributors, he receives the episodes prior to their airing date to green-light them in terms of translation accuracy and censorship, in order not to air anything that goes against the Kingdom’s culture.
The same goes for manga. “I would bring in a story with 70-something volumes and, out of those, one book could end up with something inappropriate and I’d have to shelve the whole series.”


Baghlaf believes that the market for Japanese storytelling is massive in Saudi Arabia and continues to grow each day.
“It’s definitely popular and it’s why you see major events happening like Comic Con and Anime Expo, which I’ve been to myself with 200,000 others. It was so crowded,” he said.

Friendship
The Saudis have grown up with Japanese stories for decades, as well as slapstick US cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and the Loony Tunes that lack storytelling or arcs, according to Baghlaf. The Japanese stories have taught generations of Saudis about friendship, brotherhood, integrity and how to deal with others.
“There’s also a huge likeness between Japanese and Arabic culture. Within families, respecting those older than you whether through language, which has levels of formality where elders deserve the most respectable form when talked to and they have a lot of respect for familial bonds as well.”
The cafe owner revealed that the name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers. It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.
Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.