Saudi Arabia leads educational renaissance process in GCC: Saudi minister

Investors were urged Wednesday to stimulate economic change and work to enhance the labor market during the 6th Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition.

The Federation of GCC Chambers at the University of Business and Technology hosted the event to create a competitive atmosphere among more than 60 Gulf, Arab and European universities to support cooperation.

Ahmed Al-Isa, Saudi Arabia’s minister of education, said the Kingdom’s hosting of the event for the first time is a confirmation of its leading role in the process of renaissance and development in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

He also pointed out the need to “significantly seek to diversify income sources and reduce dependence on oil through the adoption of new high value-added activities.”

Abdul Rahim Hassan Al-Naqi, secretary general of the Federation of Chambers of the GCC, said, “the GCC states annually spend approximately $150 billion on education amid expectations of the growth of their total students at an annual cumulative rate of 1.8 percent to reach to 11.3 million students in 2020. Saudi Arabia has the largest share with 75 percent of the total number of students in the education sector in the GCC.”

He said studies have shown that the GCC countries will be in need of nearly 163,200 additional teachers by 2020.

Khalifa bin Said Al-Abri, assistant secretary-general for economic and development affairs of the GCC, stressed the need to expand the role of the private sector in the educational process. He said that this comes “at a time when the cost of the education market in the GCC countries amounts to $36 billion, as private education accounts for about 14 percent.”

Abdullah Sadiq Dahlan, chairman of the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah, stressed that reform of the education process should include the establishment of programs and institutions concerned with developing and promoting entrepreneurial values and providing the necessary skills.