Pearson welcomes Saudi Arabia's renewed commitment to education
Riyadh: The world's largest learning company, Pearson, has welcomed the Saudi Arabian government's five year plan to develop its education sector.
The plan, approved by King Abdullah will see more than $21.33 billion US dollars (SAR 80 billion) spent on improving education in the Kingdom. Included in the education overhaul is the training of approximately 25,000 teachers, as well as building the online capabilities of educational institutions to promote elearning. The funds are in addition to the already sizeable budget Saudi Arabia annually allocates to education.
Pearson has pledged its support for the new education initiative, considering it a way of improving the prospects of individuals throughout Saudi Arabia and securing the long-term economic viability of the country.
With around 58 per cent of the Kingdom's population under the age of 25, the country has one of the world's largest youth bulges, a result of an unprecedented population boom over the past 40 years that is yet to reach its peak. The growing population of young people in Saudi Arabia is a trend echoed throughout the Arab World, with the youth populations of the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) averaging between one third to one half of the overall population, making it one of the youngest regions in the world.
Saudi Arabia's youth bulge presents the country with significant challenges, but also unique opportunities, if managed in the right way. Tapping into the potential of Saudi's youthful demographic, and channelling its creative energy and productivity into a resourceful workforce will have enormous rewards for the future economic fortunes of the country, but education will be key to realising these possibilities.
At present, there is a significant gap between the needs of business and industry, and the skills and knowledge being provided by the country's education system. Young Saudis are finishing their education at higher levels than ever before, but are finding it increasingly difficult to find meaningful employment. At the same time, research shows that employers throughout the Kingdom, and across the GCC, cannot find enough appropriately skilled workers to fill their human resource requirements. Saudi Arabia, like its neighbours also suffers from a lack of workers trained for in-demand professions in the engineering, science and medical fields.
Pearson Country Manager for Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Asiri, believes the education commitments of the Kingdom's government will play a critical role in overcoming these challenges, equipping the country's young people with an education that can propel development and improve the lives of all Saudis. She says:
"The unique demographic make-up of Saudi Arabia is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the country. The large and growing number of young people entering the workforce can be a competitive advantage for the country's economy in the global marketplace, but only if there are jobs - and good jobs - available, and only if candidates for those jobs are suitably qualified to perform effectively in the workplace."
"The first step in making this happen is building a world-class education system that provides the types of skills needed by Saudi's employers in the public and private sectors, and in industries with the greatest demand. This means fostering capabilities in the areas of mathematics, science, technology and engineering. As English increases its dominance as the global language of business, this also means we need to embed English language training across our curriculums. English language is just one of many transferable 21st century skills that will be necessary for empowering a future generation of young Saudi workers. Others include innovation, team work, communication, digital savviness and leadership. By adopting an education system built on these principles we can help create a base of productive young Saudis, capable of accelerating the Kingdom's drive towards a diversified, knowledge-based economy and fostering sustainable, long-term growth."
Pearson has a significant presence in Saudi Arabia. The company is working closely with the Tatweer Company for Educational Development (T4EDU) to provide professional development programmes for the Kingdom's mathematics and science teachers. T4EDU has also awarded Pearson a contract to improve the English language skills of Saudi teachers in an effort to build the overall quality of English language instruction throughout the country. As part of the project, Pearson will monitor the quality of Saudi's English language providers against stringent international standards. Pearson is also working with Saudi universities and other educational institutions, such as the Colleges of Excellence, to deliver academic and vocational programmes and rollout digital learning initiatives.