Interview: Ahmed Aleissa

Body copy Given new budget constraints, how is the Ministry of Education (MoE) looking to use its resourcesmore efficiently and effectively?

AHMED ALEISSA: The MoE has been working on using its available resources efficiently and effectively in alignment with the recent Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Programme. We are also working on investing in education by building partnerships with the private sector to improve the efficiency and the quality of education. The MoE is focusing on investing in both public and higher education, where some of its projects in areas such as private schools, building operations, maintenance and school transport can be operated by the private sector. Other countries’ best practises were introduced and shared recently at Ta’leem 2016, where the theme for this year was “investment in education”. It highlighted the opportunities that exist for organisations with local and international experience in education for investment, development and capacity building. There is also a plan to establish a human resources company to support Saudis working in the education sector.

In what ways will the education sector fit into Vision 2030, and what goals do you hope to achieve?

ALEISSA: We are investing in training teachers, developing early childhood education and creating parent -school boards, as well as collaborating with both the private and non-profit sectors to offer innovative education solutions. Initiatives such as these will ultimately ensure a higher quality, multi-faceted education for our students. By 2030 we aim to have at least five Saudi universities among the top 200 universities in international rankings, in addition to helping our students achieve results above international averages in global education indicators.

Furthermore, we are planning to build a centralised student database, tracking students from early childhood through K-12 and beyond into tertiary education to improve education planning, monitoring, evaluation and outcomes. Our scholarship programme will support Saudi students attending prominent international universities in the fields that will serve Saudi Arabia’s priorities. Altogether, the education sector will play a major role in our economic growth, which will be shaped by Vision 2030.

How is the MoE preparing its graduates as the government seeks to shift the main source of employment from the public to private sectors?

ALEISSA: The MoE has been working hard to ensure that the outcomes of the Saudi education system are in line with labour market needs. For example, the MoE has introduced new eligibility requirements for the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme, which will make the allocation of these funds more efficient and results oriented. Saudi students applying for a scholarship to study in institutions abroad must be in one of the world’s top 50 academic programmes in their field or top 100 universities overall.

In addition, many programmes have been introduced to fill the gap in the labour market. For example, “Your Job and Scholarship” is a programme that targets higher education where students are guaranteed a job in a specific major that is in great demand by the labour market. Therefore, when they graduate from abroad they can return to an institution where they can help in their country’s development.

Another programme that aims to prepare students at an early stage for their eventual participation in the labour market is the “Learning and Work” programme. Through this initiative, high school students are introduced to the working environment early on, training in different institutions to gain marketable skills and experience. Such programmes will help our students make careful career decisions, while at the same time training and facilitating their transition between different educational pathways and sectors.