Reaching The Next Level Of Female Empowerment In Saudi Arabia

  • Category: Saudi Arabia
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Saudi WomanBy Rowaida Alerwi for The Huffington Post

Over time, Saudi Arabia has adopted a society that has maintained traditional and religious customs. However, some changes have taken place, and in comparison to the traditional norms of Saudi Arabian society, these changes have been drastic.

When Saudi Arabia first became a nation in 1932, education was limited to a few select schools. However, nowadays free access to education, from kindergarten to university, is every Saudi citizen's right. Although it was focused on males at the beginning, ever since the first school for females was built in 1956, female education has seen significant progress.

The creation of colleges and universities for women has become commonplace. Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University (PNU) was the first women's university in Saudi Arabia and the largest women-only university in the world. The increased education of females in Saudi also played an important role in the decision to allow women to vote in municipal elections for the first time in 2016.

Education affects both the Saudi and female labour force participation rates in many ways. In 2013, 60 per cent of graduates in Saudi Arabia were female, only 17 per cent of these women actually ended up in the job market. Many graduates end up unemployed, as the job market is still not very welcoming to women. Even though King Abdullah was viewed as a very cautious reformer of women's rights by changing the law to allow women to work in shops, progress remains slow since this 2011 change.

Nevertheless, there appears to be a coming together that is creating greater opportunities for female entrepreneurs in the country. Saudi Arabia stands out as a country where entrepreneurship is well-perceived and is seen as a worthy career choice for women. This type of advancements will not only be an important factor in the social advancement of women, but will more broadly result in potential economic development for the country. According to Saudi's goals announced on April 25th of this year, Saudi aims to increase women's participation in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.

An increasing number of women in Saudi Arabia have begun to achieve significant success in the entrepreneurial field, tackling big businesses and male-dominated industries to make their unique mark on the economy. In light of recent increases in female-friendly business opportunities, several female entrepreneurs have shown that they are both willing and able to step out of the box to find creative jobs that ignite their passions and challenge them.

Some examples include Yatooq, a young innovative coffee startup led by Lateefa Alwaalan, focuses on the most famous coffee in Saudi and the Arabian Gulf region, Arabic coffee. There's also Fyunka, a fashion brand of well-known Jeddah based designer, Alaa Balkhy, who gains her inspiration from contemporary pop-culture.

I was thrilled to be a part of G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China, which brought together 24 delegates from across the world and gives them the opportunity to gain leadership and communication skills. It is a great way to advocate young females in order to maximize their potential to eventually initiate their own ideas. After meeting this year's delegates, I'm sure some of the delegates will be the great entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

King Abdulaziz University among world’s best young universities

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ec03 1 640x411LONDON — Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University has risen six places on the list of world’s best young universities, according to an annual ranking released by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), global higher education think tank.

Every year QS releases a ranking of the world’s best universities under 50 years of age. It is designed to emphasize the potential and excellence of universities without decades or centuries of established reputation, and to identify which of them might disrupt, or indeed have already disrupted, the global elite.

This year’s ranking indicates that Asia and Australia are home to the world’s strongest recently-formed institutions. King Abdul Aziz University is ranked 23rd.

King Khalid University has also risen in QS’s ‘Next 50 Under 50’ ranking. It jumps from the 91-100 band to the 71-80 category this year.

Asian institutions take all of the top six places, while six of the top-10 places are taken by universities with a heavy STEM focus.

Australia is the most-featured nation on the ranking, with its young universities taking 10 of the 50 available places.

Sixteen of the 50 available places go to Asian institutions. Europe is the most-featured continent, with 18 universities.

QS’s Head of Research, Ben Sowter, said: “The rankings suggest that young universities focused on strong STEM-based research programs stand the best chance of disrupting any established global elite.”

Saudi Council Rejects Proposal for Female Sports Colleges

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SaudiWomanStudyingby Aya Batrawy, Associated Press

A proposal to establish sports education colleges for Saudi women failed to win enough votes in the kingdom’s top advisory body, a council member who drafted the plan said Wednesday.

The proposal needed 76 out of 150 votes in the Shura Council, but fell three votes short. It called for the establishment of colleges that would train Saudi women in how to teach fitness and well-being.

Lina Almaeena, who is one of three council members that submitted the proposal, said 57 members voted against the measure, with the rest abstaining.

Some of the kingdom’s ultraconservatives shun the concept of women’s exercise as “immodest” and say it blurs gender lines.

“Obviously there are people who have different schools of thoughts. I don’t know what the rationale exactly is,” Almaeena told The Associated Press a day after the proposal failed to pass.

She has long been an advocate for women’s access to sports and founded Jeddah United in 2006, the first sports club in Saudi Arabia to include women.

Physical education is still not on the curriculum for Saudi girls in public schools, though some private schools offer physical education classes and sports to female students. There are also plans to license dozens of female-only gyms.

The kingdom discourages unrelated men and women from mixing and women cannot openly exercise in public.

Despite lingering attitudes against women’s participation in sports, the kingdom sent women to participate in the Olympic Games twice, doubling its female contingency to four in the 2016 Rio games.

Almaeena said she expected the proposal to have greater backing by Shura Council members because it supports the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, which is a blueprint for a wide-reaching government overhaul to develop the society and the economy. It was introduced under King Salman by his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Vision 2030 specifically calls for encouraging the participation of all citizens in sports and athletic activities. It says currently 13 percent of the Saudi population exercises once a week. The government aims to bump that up to 40 percent and raise life expectancy from 74 years to 80 years.

Almaeena said that in order to improve women’s health and participation in sports, there have to be women who can teach young girls about fitness and well-being.

Saudi women who want to study sports medicine or physical education at the university level have to study abroad. The country’s General Sports Authority offers certificates in some courses.

Though the college proposal failed to garner enough votes in the Shura Council, Almaeena said strides have been made in recent years. Women were first appointed to the Shura Council in 2013 by the late King Abdullah as part of a wider effort to gradually improve women’s rights.

The Shura Council does not have authority to pass legislation, but its proposals can become law with the backing of the Cabinet and the monarch. Almaeena said the Ministry of Education can still choose to adopt the proposal.

“I’m very optimistic because there is a new vision … but of course I would have wished it would have passed,” she said.

There is good reason for the Saudi brain drain

  • Category: Saudi Arabia
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Saudi Arabia UniversityBy Theodore Karasik

The Saudi education system has many problems, some of them endemic. Whenever issues such as unemployment or terrorism are examined, Saudi education and its future becomes the focus for observers. And yet education is a key area of concern for the kingdom, even if we were only to go by the size of the ministry of education. With more than 500,000 teachers, it is the country’s third largest employer after the ministry of defence and the ministry of interior. It oversees a sprawling network of 25 public and 27 private universities and about 30,000 schools. Clearly, this ministry is central to the kingdom’s future. But its report card leaves much room for improvement.

The focus has long been on the curriculum, right from 1954, when the education ministry was established. There is a continuing debate about the emphasis on religion and languages at the expense of science and mathematics. Many Saudis see their education system as affected by political currents, with senior scholars fiercely shielding the curriculum from those who want to bring about change. There is a particular watchfulness towards a colloquial term “awakening” in reference to political Islam because this is seen as the cause of extremist tendencies. Unfortunately, this never-ending cycle of debate delays progress on the necessary curriculum changes. Until this matter is resolved, there will be discontent within the education system.

But the curriculum is not the only issue. Dilapidated school buildings, inadequate teachers’ salaries and long school holidays are problems too.

There is a perception that the lack of good teachers will result in students failing to get even a basic education, but who will still go on to university. This, many Saudis fear, will perpetuate the problem because these university students will get hired to work in the education sector and so the cycle will continue.

The education system is stagnating, producing graduates who do not meet international standards of excellence. This is why the kingdom’s teachers are required to take proficiency tests and complete training courses although there is no set schedule for these exercises. But it may take a generation at the very least to rectify the situation.

Another problem is the number of places in higher education, especially in the natural sciences. Students are usually poorly qualified on entry despite a high grade point average. They are competent up to a point but they are not used to questioning, show a preference for rote learning, take longer than they should to complete a task and can cope with specific numerical routines but not problem solving. These factors illustrate a gap between two cultures: the school versus university ethos.

Some factors that feed into this include studying in English, a lack of personal commitment to college education and inadequate study skills. The issue of studying in English is significant because physics, chemistry and biology traditionally use English as the basic language that directs approach, methodology and analysis. Although Saudi students may receive Arabic versions of the English text, some concepts do not translate well and the student can fall behind quite quickly.

Add to this the lack of commitment to a college education and it becomes clear that even the minimal time invested by a young person in their studies may go to waste. Often, this is because of the pull of traditional family values, which mean the student is obliged to put family before higher education.

The 2011 Nitaqat Law making Saudisation of the workplace mandatory is greatly affected by the human capital “output” from the kingdom’s education system. The fact that Nitaqat requirements need to be met means that employers will hire not who they need but those who will enable them to fill quotas to receive the maximum benefits allowed by the system. But for anything to change, it is Saudi employers who need to recognise that they are jeopardising the kingdom’s future by hiring employees who cannot do their job.

It seems that Saudi students are also frustrated by the current system. The common reasons cited by students who drop out of their first year in a Saudi university are the lack of information about what the degree programme involves, opportunities available for training in the relevant sector and typical employment opportunities.

Hundreds of thousands of Saudis have gone to universities in the United States and Europe to avoid the frustrations of the system in the kingdom. Abroad, they actually learn to analyse using rigorous methods and are able to play important parts in a knowledge-based society. However, overseas study may cause many of them to develop lives away from the kingdom, a phenomenon that the late King Abdullah referred to as “the Saudi brain drain”.

He called for their return to help fix the country’s troubles across many sectors of the economy but this did not produce many results.

Overall, the Saudi education system needs to be overhauled urgently. There are internal pressures and the urgent requirement to produce the best and brightest at home. Time is not on Saudi Arabia’s side.

Dr Theodore Karasik is an analyst on the Gulf, specifically the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is based in Dubai.  Article first appeared in the National

Princess Nourah University Wins Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education Award

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academic campus pnu3Saudi Arabia – Princess Nourah University (PNU) achieved a bronze medal in the Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education Award 2015 for its academic partnership with Dublin City University. The partnership excelled among 500 participating projects competing for the prize during a celebration at the Wharton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The Wharton prize is an international prize concerned with creative educational methods that promote learning. The prize was developed through a partnership between QS for university ranking and the Wharton Center at the University of Pennsylvania, to promote innovative projects in higher education. The partnership project between PNU and Dublin City University includes three academic programs: Marketing Technology and Innovation; International Finance; Master of Science in Business Administration.

The three programs with Dublin City University are directly under the supervision of the College of Business and Administration at Princess Nourah University. These successful programs are unique for their interactive and versatile teaching methodologies. They utilize traditional classroom instruction as well as online and distant learning with the help of faculty and staff from both universities. The Technology and Innovation as well as the International Finance programs are offered to highly quali ed undergraduate students who are very well capable of completing the programs. The Master of Science in Business Administration, one the rst graduate level programs at the university to be launched in partnership with an international university, exposes enrolled students to the best practices in the world of business with the help of faculty and staff from both Princess Nourah University and Dublin City University.

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