Gains in female education in Saudi Arabia continue with new e-Learning initiatives

Sun Oct 20 08:15:00 UTC 2013

Twelve thousand new female university students in Saudi Arabia will have access to ground-breaking learning technology under a new agreement between the world’s largest female-only university and the global education solutions provider, Pearson.

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Riyadh’s Princess Noura University (PNU) has partnered with Pearson to provide its preparatory year students with IT course content for tablet devices as part of the university’s efforts to build a world-class digital learning environment for its students. The content will be delivered through Pearson’s MyLabs e-learning technology, an online homework and tutorial system that is used by tertiary institutions around the world. The agreement represents the rapid move towards digital learning in Saudi Arabia’s higher education sector, as the government continues to channel unprecedented funds into creating a world-class education system in the country.

As part of its wider education reforms, the Saudi Arabian government has invested heavily in female education, leading to a significant rise in the number of young women finishing school and entering university. Around 60 per cent of the country’s graduates are now female, with an increasing number of young Saudi women attaining both bachelor’s and post graduate degrees. Educational attainment has become a priority among many young women, and the Saudi government is working hard to ensure this demographic achieves its learning potential. Government allowances are provided to women so that they can complete their degrees, and government scholarships are being awarded to Saudi women – giving them the opportunity to study in some of the world’s leading universities.

While female participation in the workforce remains low by international standards, it is nevertheless improving – tripling between 1992 and 2010. Tapping into female productivity brings with it significant economic benefits for the country, including a reduction in unemployment figures and an increase in competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.

These gains are being built on by the digital learning initiatives being implemented in learning institutions across the country. The Saudi government has introduced a unified, national e-learning strategy which will help universities to make e-learning a focus of their activities, replacing their curricula with digital materials. The introduction of e-learning into Saudi Arabia’s universities is particularly beneficial for women, as flexible learning options allow them to overcome traditional barriers to higher education, such as distance, cost and social norms.

Pearson’s Saudi Arabia Country Manager, Mohammed Asiri says the establishment of Pearson’s MyLabs e-learning technology at PNU is expected to deliver consistent, measurable gains in student learning:

"MyLabs technology is used by over 11 million students around the world each year. Therefore, we have reliable data that shows the technology can have a positive impact on student outcomes, retention and subsequent course success. Not every student learns the same way and at the same rate, and programmes such as MyLabs recognise this. The technology allows instructors and students to personalise content – reinforcing course concepts in a way that targets the strengths and weaknesses of each student. This programme is an excellent example of how technology can be used to make a real difference in an individual’s life.”

Asiri says that mobilising Saudi Arabia’s female human resources will not only be beneficial to individual Saudi women, but to the country’s economy as a whole as it becomes an increasingly competitive, globalised economy. He says that providing young Saudi women with excellent digital and IT skills will play a significant role in this mobilisation:

“The introduction of some of the world’s best learning technology into Princess Noura University will help the university’s students achieve their learning goals, and equip them with the skills they need to thrive in Saudi’s increasingly digitally-reliant economy. The partnership between PNU and Pearson will help create female graduates that are extremely computer literate – helping guarantee the productiveness of Saudi’s future workforce.”

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