Students in the College of Education’s Comparative and International Education (CIE) graduate program are trained to work as agents of change in American and international classrooms, schools and educational systems. They gain part of that preparation through exposure to international experts.
On March 25, CIE students heard a perspective on education from Naif H. Alromi, deputy minister for educational development and planning in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education.
Alromi visited the College of Education to give a lecture titled “A Confident Jump Toward Excellence: Educational Development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Alromi described a nation-wide project launched in 2007, called Tatweer, which aims to achieve comprehensive educational development in Saudi Arabia’s public schools.
“Our first priority is education,” said Alromi. “The government has put a lot of effort and money toward education in the last five years.”
More resources for a growing youth population
In Saudi Arabia, formal education for males began in 1930 and for females in 1960. But the country has experienced rapid growth in its youth population, with a third of the population under the age of 14. Today the nation has 30,000 schools with 4.6 million students and nearly 450,000 teachers.
As a result, Saudi Arabia is devoting more resources to K-12 education, targeting math and science development along with primary and secondary education, while undertaking a $6.5 billion school building project.
“The school building project will provide a good educational environment that helps students to learn. Curriculum and teacher training won’t be enough,” says Alromi.
Alromi says the Ministry of Education came up with the Tatweer model after visiting 14 countries, including the U.S., South Korea and Finland. Tatweer will be implemented over the next six years and will focus on curriculum development, teacher training, the learning environment and extracurricular activity. Extracurricular activities in Saudi Arabia have traditionally been relegated to sports and religion, but Tatweer will give students additional opportunities.
Tatweer has been implemented in 50 high schools known as Tatweer Smart Schools, which have been equipped with state-of-the-art technology systems. Nearly 26,000 students and 2,000 teachers use government-provided laptops. Alromi believes the laptops will also help educate the students’ families.
Some challenges remain, including the lack of a kindergarten program and minimal early childhood education. And, like America’s educational system, Saudi Arabia also faces financial and budgetary constraints.
“We read about theory in our program, but to hear from someone who works in government helps put everything we learn into context,” says Matt Kilbride, who is in his second semester in the CIE program. “There is sometimes a divide between academics and government and this is something that bridges that divide.”
Alex Wiseman, associate professor and CIE program coordinator, agreed.
“One of the hallmarks of a strong program is the connections it has to the larger field,” he said. “With a firm footing in the scholarly world, we can move into implementation and practice in the field.”