The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Labour has signed a deal with edX allowing the country to use the online education platform and content, which will be translated to Arabic, and while still developing its own content and a massive open online course (MOOC) website.
The agreement is "designed to bridge the gap between education and employment in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab world," edX stated in a press release.
The courses, which are expected to begin this September, will be the start of a pilot program for Saudi women, youth and the disabled in rural areas. The program will make high-quality educational opportunities available to these people, which will help to "advance their careers", writes Mary Moore for Boston Business Journal. Each of these groups currently suffers low employment rates in the country.
"Through extending educational opportunity to the people of Saudi Arabia, the initiative will help provide the skills necessary for economic empowerment," said Anant Agarwal, CEO, edX, in a prepared statement.
While education levels in the country are high, workers lack the skills that employers are looking for. The introduction of the MOOC will help to fix this problem. Peter Coy for Bloomberg Businessweek writes that in 2012, 41.7% of Saudi students were majoring in education, while 14.8% majored in science and engineering. The edX deal is hoping to make a difference.
The agreement is the largest country relationship for edX, an online education company started by Harvard University and MIT.
"This initiative marks a significant turning point for the citizens of Saudi Arabia and the Arab world," said His Excellency Eng. Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih, Minister of Labour for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. "By providing accessible, relevant, high-quality education opportunities for our citizens, we will empower our communities and educate citizens to have the skills to succeed professionally."
The Ministry of Labour creates the labor laws and policies in Saudi Arabia. The Ministry organizes workforce employment and settles labor disputes. It also offers workforce training and recruitment to ensure a higher number of qualified Saudi workers.
Other countries to use the platform for their own MOOC websites include France, China, Jordan, and Mexico.