Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education

Education is one of the biggest priorities in Saudi Arabia’s new National Transformation Plan (2020). The Kingdom seeks to establish a distinct education system that builds a globally competitive knowledge-based community.

Background

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education made a commitment to transform the education system, with a view to strengthening the country’s position as an international economic powerhouse. The plan puts advancement and excellence in education as its core focus, no matter the students’ gender, geographic origin, income or ability.

The educational reforms build on the already significant academic achievements of the Saudis. Between 1951 and now, the number of schools across the country have increased from just 226 to 26,000. The aim of the plan is to further develop and strengthen the knowledge and skills of the next generation, to support the country’s economic diversification strategies.

As part of this vision the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education identified the need to invest in and upskill a number of their ‘best’ education professionals. This saw the introduction of the Building Leadership for Change through School Immersion program. The objective of this initiative is to increase the technical, interpersonal and leadership capacity of Saudi educators.

The basis for the program is to advance the educational capabilities of Saudi Arabian teachers, counsellors and principals, through structured immersion in high performing Anglophone K-12 school systems. These select educators will then serve as change agents and be tasked with driving improvements in the Saudi education system.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education collaborated with the University of Melbourne to establish suitable placements. Under the direction of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) a suite of primary and secondary schools were selected to host the Saudi educators.

The University of Melbourne collaborated with the Saudi Cultural Mission in Canberra to deliver the program.

Challenge

The Building Leadership for Change through School Immersion program was developed after the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education recognised that there was a skills and knowledge gap in its education system. To fulfil the country’s development agenda, which is to drive social and economic growth through education, the Kingdom required highly skilled leaders in education.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education partnered with the University to address its specific educational challenges, with a view to advancing the Saudi educational system and practices. Such requirements could not be met without the collaboration between the Saudi Cultural Mission in Canberra and the University which facilitated a needs-based program.

Solution

Four key program components were developed to gradually build the Saudi participant’s education and teaching skills throughout their immersion experience.

The educators were able to learn about the schooling system in Australia’s state of Victoria and develop best-practice teaching and leadership strategies. Participants visited selected schools which allowed them to gain an in-depth understanding of the curriculum in Victoria. It also gave them valuable insight into Victoria’s school and classroom culture, as well as learning contexts.

The program provided opportunities for the Saudi educators to interact with school leaders and teachers within the host schools. They were able to observe model practices and share their expertise about the key differences between schools and education systems. The participants were also able to make key observations about what works and what does not in an educational context.

The components of this program at the University of Melbourne provides an excellent and well drafted learning plan that fulfils the overall requirements and objectives of the Saudi Ministry of Education.

Dr. Gus Olwan, Saudi-Australian Research Cooperation Consultant & Director of BLCSI program at Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission

Outcome

Participants had the opportunity to develop technical knowledge and expertise in education policy and practice. This culminated in a detailed ‘Action Research Plan’ for leading educational change in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Gus Olwan states, "The key to success for the Saudi education professionals is not only to design a successful project by the end of their program, but also to implement such a project once they return back to Saudi Arabia and to be able to cascade the learning from this program as key change agents for change. Our role at Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) will be to monitor the progress of our participants and provide all what we can to ensure a great delivery of the program."

In addition, each participant completed competency-based assessment training and by the end of the program advanced to higher levels of listening, speaking, reading and writing in English. All participants returned to Saudi Arabia with a plan of implementing their new-found skills and teachings in their classrooms and schools.

In 2018, the program was extended to a 12-month immersion program.

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