Interview: Ahmed Aleissa

How is the government engaging with strategic partners to build and operate schools?

AHMED ALEISSA: The Ministry of Education (MoE) is working with the private sector to provide modern facilities, which enhance the efficiency of education and learning. These measures will improve the maintenance of schools and help establish higher-quality educational buildings, facilitate access for smaller firms to build schools at affordable costs, use economical sources of financing and provide them with modern gym facilities.

The MoE organised a conference on funding educational facilities, in which it proposed options for investment and state support programmes through partnerships with the private sector. These partnerships for educational buildings and facilities could include opportunities for leasing and leasing back, as well as building, maintenance and transport.

What is being done to improve the number and quality of teachers in Saudi Arabia?

ALEISSA: We are coordinating with the Education Evaluation Commission to approve licences and test the aptitude of new teachers. We review teacher-training procedures and introduce new approaches, including fixed high criteria for selection nationwide.

Saudi universities have established partnerships with international universities to enhance their programmes and support performance, particularly teachers’ vocational training courses. We organise the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education, where international universities cooperate and sign agreements with Saudi universities, and speakers talk about successful experiences and policies in higher education.

We launched a programme in 2016 that sends public sector teachers and education leaders for training in universities abroad. They must complete a practical training programme on best practises in education and then share their experience with colleagues in the Kingdom. We will keep on adopting it for several years.

How is digitalisation being implemented across current and projected education facilities?

ALEISSA: The MoE is implementing a portal through an educational technology development company, which aims to digitise the educational process by delivering e-learning systems in public schools. With such systems, digital content is presented and communication is established electronically between the teacher and students, as well as between schools and guardians. Initiatives aiming to provide teachers with training via an electronic platform are under way to ensure teachers’ availability anywhere, anytime.

The MoE is looking to build a standard training platform for university students in order to present digital content and ensure the participation of all students and teaching staff in universities. We already offer most of our services online, including to students abroad via the Safeer portal and teachers via the Faris, iEN and Noor portals, in addition to a extensive variety of educational and school services.

What initiatives are being put in place to increase the employability of private sector graduates?

ALEISSA: Universities are required to review their programmes offered across various indicators, labour markets among them, and programmes that do not encourage high employability could be discarded in the future. We are looking to increase general skills in university degrees, so that graduates will be able to gain expertise that is attractive to private sector companies across many different industries.

This will allow graduates to enjoy flexibility and greater choice when entering the job market. Universities are cultivating partnerships with private sector facilities and working through cooperative training. For example, some programmes now include a period of mandatory training in the private sector that may last up to one full year. We find that initiatives with these types of training will often lead to direct recruitment.