Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Education, Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh held a media briefing on Sunday about “the Education Continuity in Times of Crises” at the International Media Center in Riyadh.
“On behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Education, I extend warm regards to all Excellencies, scholars and distinguished guests. Welcome to the Saudi Presidency of the G20, which is the second time the summit is being hosted online,” the Saudi minister said during his speech.
Recently there has been much discussion surrounding stimulus packages, interest rates, and GDP growth. Today, we will turn the discussion in a different direction, something far more important: Education!
“I want to emphasize the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s belief in the collective and participatory approach as the most effective way to confront the global crises and the importance of international cooperation during the critical and sensitive times,”
I want to address four areas, including the Unprecedented Crisis, the G20 Education Priorities, the Saudi response to the crisis and the challenges and the lessons learned.
With regard to unprecedented crisis, Dr. Al Al-Sheikh said that “no one expected a global crisis of this magnitude. No one expected the unprecedented worldwide lockdowns. No one expected for 1.6 billion students to be out of school because of school closures.”
“The Ministry of Education’s priorities for the G20 Summit focus on three priorities that are of paramount importance. First is Early Childhood Education as a foundation for developing global competence and 21st century skills. Second is the internationalization in education. Third is ensuring continuity of education in the times of crisis,” the Minister of Education added.
He affirmed that the educational systems around the world were all caught off guard and were unprepared for this crisis. “To ensure continued engagement in the schools for students and teachers, the MOE delayed their announcement of plans until the end of the semester,” he said.
Regarding to the Saudi response to the crisis, Dr. Al Al-Sheikh said that distance learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not a new concept. In fact, more than 40 years ago, the government was using closed circuit TV. So, we had experience in this area.
“On March 8, three days before the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the Ministry of Education closed schools around the nation.
The next morning online all distance classrooms were in full session. Learning management systems were already in use in almost all higher education, though none had the capacity to accommodate a task of this magnitude,” he disclosed.
“For universities, it was only a matter of transitioning from an additional learning tool to a main mode of learning. In public schools, the MOE broadcast 12 educational TV channels that paralleled the K-12 curriculum. This semester, there are 24 channels.
Over the summer, MOE launched its national LMS Madrasiti in parallel with the 24 satellite broadcasting channels on Ein TV. The Learning Management Systems was centralized and flexible enough to cover all students, teachers, and schools,” he added.
The Minister of Education affirmed that the challenges present new opportunities, where family and community are more engaged. “This will change the economics of education.
Equal access and learning opportunities was guaranteed for all regardless of location,” he disclosed. “Now that education is available 24/7, students can accelerate their own learning, leading to the possibility for the concept of (k-12) to become obsolete.
The principle of 12-year education could change dramatically with E-learning. Internationalization of education is becoming a major part of the international cooperation through the virtual education mobility. Let me invite you to visit Madrasati tomorrow,” he concluded.