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Saudi Arabia to Significantly Reform Kingdom's Education System through its Human Capital Development Vision Realisation Program

Wednesday, May 5, 2021/ Editor -  


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Education sector offers an abundance of opportunities for operators, developers and equity investors alike.

05, May 2021, Dubai, UAE:  Knight Frank has released its Saudi Arabia 2021 Education report which focuses on the four key segments of education: Pre-primary education, Primary and secondary education, Tertiary education and Technical and vocational training.

The education sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing rapid transformation at all stages of education, especially as policies stemming from Saudi Vision 2030 are put into play. Incredibly, the Kingdom's schoolgoing population is almost three times that of the rest of the GCC and with the growing interest towards private education, as well as a higher acceptance of foreign curricula, it creates a compelling case to invest in the education space of the Kingdom. 
Shehzad Jamal, Partner, Head of Healthcare & Education at Knight Frank Middle East commented “The Saudi Arabia government has recognised that improvements need to be made in the quality of its education system, which are to be addressed through its Human Capital Development Vision Realisation Program of the Vision 2030. Significant reforms are under implementation to address challenges faced by the sector, which include 100% foreign ownership, Sector specific PPP regulations and greater access to financing. There are also planned reforms to improve educational results, that include improvements in teacher training and development”.

Pre-Primary Education Overview

Due to its largely non-compulsory status and availability of affordable and quality institutions, enrolment rates have been very low. As at 2019, only 21% of the applicable age groups were attending pre-primary education institutions, the lowest rate compared across our selected worldwide countries. Given the importance of early childhood education as a fundamental building block of future educational attainment, as part of Vision 2030, the Saudi Arabian government aims to increase the enrolment rate to 95% by 2030. As we continue to see an increase in female labour force participation rates, demand for affordable and quality pre-primary institutions is only likely to increase. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment in conjunction with the Ministry of Education estimate that 1,500 kindergartens are required across Saudi Arabia over the next decade alone. 

Primary & Secondary Education Overview

Over the four years to 2019, Saudi Arabia has seen a marked increase in the number of students and schools, up 16.5% from 2015. Of the total 38,150 of schools, 80.3% of these schools were public schools, 12.5% private and Foreign schools - schools that offer international curriculums such as American, British or Indian, accounted for 6.2% of schools. These fee-paying schools have grown in number by 42.1% since 2015.

As at 2019, schools in the Riyadh region accounted for 22.8% of all schools in the Kingdom, followed by the Makkah region, which accounted for 19.0% of all schools.  

The public and foreign school sectors have seen their respective student populations grow by 5.8% and 37.0% over this period, however, over the same period, the private school’s sector has seen its total student population decrease by 3.5%.  Foreign schools are seeing increased levels of demand from Saudi nationals as this segment of the population increasingly realises the benefits of their children obtaining international education. 

Tertiary Education Overview

In the five years to 2018, the total number of students in higher education has increased by 8.3% and currently stands at 1.62 million. In total, Saudi Arabia has 60 universities, with 70.0% of these being public universities and the proportion of students studying in public universities as at 2018 stands at 85.5%, compared to 4.8% studying at private universities and 9.6% of students choosing to undertake a technical and vocational course. 

The Kingdom’s Government has set out many strong initiatives to ensure education outcomes are in line with market requirements. These include applying more stringent eligibility criteria to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which will lead to increased demand for education within the country. They are also going to expand the technical and vocational education sector, reducing public school funding and privatising public universities.

Technical & Vocational Training Overview

The Technical and Vocational Training (TVT) sector is the corner stone of Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan, which is aiming to create five million employment opportunities in the next 20 years to 2030. Around 40% of these new jobs are expected to be vocational and technical in nature, ensuring an efficient and effective TVT sector will be crucial going forward.

In order for the TVT sector to be better recognised and to support the aims of Vision 2030, the Saudi Arabian Government has initiated a regulatory body called the Colleges of Excellence (CoE), which aims to facilitate partnerships and collaborations with foreign operators in order to bring internationally recognised expertise to the country.

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