Academics and intellectuals in Saudi Arabia have nothing but praise for the recently allocated grants worth SR210 billion to funding higher education.
10% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP is spent on education, making it the highest relative spender on the sector in the world, as 5% of GDP is spent on education in most European and North American countries. The government’s efforts in fostering career-building among Saudi youth were commended by academicians. They said that this move reflects Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s determination to develop such a vital education sector in a country where 50 percent of the population is below the age of 25. As Irfan Mohammed of Arab News reports, over the past five years, the education sector has consistently witnessed a surge in budget allocations every year.
According to World Bank statistics for 2009, the government’s budget for the education sector now comprises 25% of the total budget and the literacy rate is above 96.5%.
“The huge budget allocation for the education sector will indeed shape the future of the nation and create opportunities for development in many areas,” commented Professor Saleh Al-Amani from the Department of Political Sciences at King Saud University in Riyadh. “The budget for education indicates King Abdullah’s vision to transform the nation into a knowledge-based society.”
Khalid Al-Bassam from the economics department at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah said that the budget was not only important in terms of figure, but that it constitutes a serious effort to shape the future of Saudi youth. Additionally, he said that the increase in the amount allocated for the King Abdullah Scholarship for higher studies was only natural since it is the government’s duty to support its students abroad. He also hopes that new reforms and further development in the education sector would be brought about by the new Education Minister, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.
A professor in King Khalid University’s Bisha campus, Ali Ayed Shahrani, believes that the new budget would improve them further.
“The new budget will enable us to implement our plans to open up new medical and engineering colleges in Bisha. The budget has equipped the Kingdom to lead the country into the 21st century,” he said. “By investing in its human capital, the Kingdom ensures lasting growth and a knowledge-based economy backed by quality education.”
“This move reflects the efforts of the government to develop youth and build a strong nation based on knowledge,” said Professor Ihsan Abulhaiqa of King Abdulaziz University.
With reference to statistics issued by the Ministry of Education, there are currently 34,749 schools, with 276,400 classrooms being used to teach 5,187,498 students from the kindergarten (KG) to secondary level, including special education and adult education. In the Kingdom’s higher education sector, are 24 universities functioning with King Saud University in Riyadh amongst the oldest institutions, having been established in 1957. Additionally, with 132,094 students on its roll during the 2009 to 2010 academic year, Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University has the highest number of students in the Kingdom.