Saudi-UNESCO partnership aims to bolster Mideast education
The goal of the quality aspect is to build a generation of learners who have the skills to learn independently
The recently-established UNESCO Regional Center for Quality and Excellence in Education (RCQE) aims to be a service provider, a standard-setter and a research center to help spreading awareness and promoting best practices and practical ideas in education quality and excellence.
The setting up of the center was envisaged in 2012 when the Saudi leadership realized the need for the qualitative growth of education in the Arab world. But it was only in October 2014 following the signing of the agreement between the UNESCO and then Minister of Education Prince Khaled Al-Faisal that the first steps were taken to institutionalize the commitment. The Saudi leadership ratified this agreement by a royal decree the same year.
Dr. Husam Abdulwahab Zaman, director general of the center, initiated its functioning in December with the help of staff holding diverse specializations ranging from educational research to business development and project management and a wide network of regional and international experts. A lot has been accomplished in a short period of activity.
By focusing on embedding quality in every aspect of the educational system — the curriculum, teacher and governance, the center hopes to develop the quality of the teaching and learning experience in the educational systems of all Arab countries.
The goal of the quality aspect is to build a generation of learners who have the skills to learn independently, are ready for university education or the workplace and who are creative enough to help sustainable social development in the 21st century.
More importantly, quality in education fosters cultural awareness in learners that helps promote peace and tolerance in the minds of men and women.
The center is finalizing its medium-term strategy in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group that will enable it to get ready to offer a number of services to policymakers and educational institutions in a few weeks.
The center hopes to provide services in developing high quality research programs; promoting and developing capacity building initiatives; and providing technical consultation for member states.
It also hopes to provide oversight and management of aid-related programs while facilitating and coordinating between related educational institutions and organizations.
It also proposes to hold knowledge dissemination activities such as workshops, conferences and seminars that promote the culture of quality education.
As part of the development strategy that is in the final stage now, the team at the center conducted a workshop in February that focused on the vision, mission and values of the center.
The strategy workshop also defined four key focus areas of services offered at the center. Theses areas are quality curriculum, technology to achieve educational quality, educators’ quality and professional development, and educational system and governance to promote quality.
With the help of a number of education experts and business consultants, the center has developed a vision to become a reference for quality and excellence in teaching and learning in Arab educational systems.
The mission bolstered the vision by focusing on the key services offered at the center to ensure delivery of the desired quality in education.
Two weeks later, another workshop was conducted to develop the strategy of the center with the help of educational experts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, in addition to officials from the Saudi delegation to UNESCO.
Progress is still being made at the center in efforts to fast-track education development. The chairman of the governing board of the center and Minister of Education Dr. Azzam Al-Dakhil sent letters to his counterparts in a number of Arab countries to introduce the center and invite them to be members of its governing board.
The center is also simultaneously working on a number of key research projects in partnership with different organizations on a number of contemporary issues in education in both Saudi Arabia and the world at large.