Education is the seed, culture its fruit

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud

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When we plant the seed of education, we reap the fruits of a rich and vibrant culture. Therefore a strong partnership between the two is a sine qua non of true cultural revival, in line with the aspirations of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

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The strategy and directions of the Ministry of Culture have underscored the importance of education since day one. My colleagues and I believe it to be the cornerstone of any efforts to develop human capabilities, regardless of sector. In 2019, we ran a market study of cultural sectors, as we believe there are promising opportunities for the cultural sectors in the market following the succession of developments in our country, which is in a historical era of development and reform.

Indeed, the results of the 2019 study showed that there is an abundance of good opportunities in the cultural domain. Below are some of the key results of the study in numbers, as numbers are the preferred language of our inspiring leader, the Crown Prince.

The music, performing arts, and natural heritage sector abounds with marketable opportunities. However, the number of graduates of higher education institutions or the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation in the music sector was effectively zero, whereas the study expects the demand for music graduates to reach 29,117 by 2030. This means that if we do not act now, there will be a large gap between supply and demand. We see the same thing for the performing arts sector, for example, that boasts no graduates from higher and professional education - at the time of study - while the demand could reach over 2,000 graduates in nine years’ time!

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Next we moved on to implementing the recommendations formulated by local and global experts, including promoting cultural studies in education, creating a licensing system for cultural training institutions, and pursuing a lifelong learning approach for cultural disciplines.

The Ministry launched an effective and fruitful cooperation with our colleagues in the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, the Education & Training Evaluation Commission, as well as specialized institutions and the private and non-profit sectors, in view of raising awareness on the importance of the cultural specialties, a journey that begins with children all the way up to university students.

Strengthening the cultural sectors in public and higher education, with our partners in the MOE and other educational institutions, was not an indulgence or a formality, but rather an essential requirement of the culture strategy. The MOE has been an excellent partner in our journey towards inculcating culture and arts in our students’ journey, in the aims of achieving results that are befitting of the status, civilization, and history of the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, with the support of the wise leadership, has adopted the strategy of sending students on cultural scholarships abroad, to study a range of culture-related disciplines at top international universities. This will also help build cultural bridges and share Saudi culture, arts and values worldwide.

We have also, along with our colleagues in the concerned authorities, started issuing licenses for specialized institutes, the first of which are two music institutes in the Kingdom. Private and non-profit institutions will also be able to apply for licenses for training in cultural disciplines, through a specialized platform that will be launched soon. We are also working on establishing specialized institutes and art academies.

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Another endeavor we are developing is the “lifelong learning” path that aims to develop cultural capabilities, in cooperation with a number of stakeholders across various sectors. The cultural commissions will continue creating educational and training opportunities across disciplines, seeking to develop the rich talents in our country, and to provide high-quality options for our citizens.

Despite the exceptional circumstances of the past year worldwide, thanks to innovative solutions and leadership guidance and by the grace of God, we have been able to overcome many challenges.

Recently, we have seen promising academic programs incorporated at several universities, which are cultural and historical institutions that have contributed to the development process in the country since its inception.

Our work today is ongoing to achieve the aspirations of our wise leadership. We have much to do in the educational sphere to develop capabilities in cultural sectors, and by working towards a long-term strategy, we will ultimately reap the fruits of our labor in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Indeed, our country’s ambitious vision requires us to work collaboratively to create a vibrant cultural sector and stimulating ecosystem. The cultural revival we aim for will not only affect the Kingdom internally, but also serve as the ambassador for our people and civilizations in international forums and settings.

In conclusion, I would like to remind us all that this land, that gave birth to great culture and art with the simplest of infrastructures, is capable of producing creative talents that can carry their genius beyond our borders. It all begins with a strategy, which promotes culture and encourages creativity at a young age, focused on the strength of our people, which the Crown Prince likens to the formidable Mount Tuwaiq in the heart of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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