Prominent British educationist and writer Tony Swainston spoke about developing a culture of growth mindsets and highlighted the possibilities of success in schools, during the Leaders Meet event organized by the British Council on Feb. 23 at the Mövenpick hotel in Jeddah. Preparing students for life beyond school was also the subject of discussion among over 100 school owners, principals, vice principals and board members of schools in Saudi Arabia who attended the event.
A panel discussion focused on three major areas: curriculum development, building skills for the job market and higher education advancement. The school principals and educational experts discussed strategies to revamp the structure and quality of the current educational system. They debated innovative solutions to spur academic excellence in schools and to reach the objective of creating contributing citizens.
The event was an excellent opportunity for many of the international school principals to share their concerns and highlight the challenges that they face in their schools.
Indeed, learning from the experience of experts in the field and adopting best practices from academic institutions can help our educationists raise the level of schools. Collaboration with international academic institutions can also help schools apply international standards and upgrade the level of academic qualifications of graduates.
Need for modernization
Reforming the educational system in Saudi Arabia continues to be a topic of hot debate. It is quite evident that we cannot continue to teach our students in the traditional way. Schools need to emphasize analytical and critical thinking and develop a curriculum that teaches children skills on many levels, building confidence and boosting the capabilities of students at a young age.
Experts in the field urge schools to adopt technology in classrooms to facilitate faculty-student interaction. Educational software companies today aim at promoting interactive educational experiences, and stress the urgency of adopting new methods of education to catch up with our children’s high-tech abilities. They are the Internet and Facebook generations, who have easy access to knowledge and immediate communication with the whole world. Educators will not be able to offer them the knowledge they need through traditional textbooks. Teachers need to enhance their teaching abilities by adopting the new technologies in their classrooms and by engaging in the interactive online educational environment.
It is quite evident that we cannot continue to teach our students in the traditional way. Schools need to emphasize analytical and critical thinking and develop a curriculum that teaches children skills on many levels, building confidence and boosting the capabilities of students at a young ageSamar Fatany
The educationists also stressed the importance of developing the language skills of students. Mastering the mother tongue can develop the intelligence of children at an early age. Therefore, they urge the need to enhance the language curriculum in elementary levels - something that is currently lacking in many schools. Students struggle to write any official document and lack eloquence when they speak their own language, making them inefficient at any job they take. It is time we take serious measures to advance languages and promote eloquence among our nation’s youth.
The English language is important. It is the window to the world and the global language of science, business and technology. Without language skills, graduates lack the proper qualifications for employment in today’s world. Schools are required to teach students to speak well, write well, read well and work well with numbers at an early age.
The passive approach to education in some schools deprives kids of the ability to be lifelong learners. Students should want to learn and have the curiosity to read and explore. Schools should instill in students the motivation and desire to learn and be creative.
Filling the market gaps
A new strategy to bridge the gap between the education output and the requirements of the labor market can ensure that students are making the right professional choices. Outlining suitable majors at an early age can give students the confidence to choose their career. There is an urgency to encourage students to major in specializations that are in demand for the labor market, engineering, health, agriculture and information technology specializations. It is the responsibility of schools, to provide students with the technical skills needed by the labor market.
Economists assert that most educational institutes need to work on modifying and developing their curricula and focus on creating technical workshops in order to produce graduates suitable for the industrial world. The reason behind the failure of industrial companies to recruit young graduates is their lack of adequate training that can prepare them to work as expert engineers, in the oil industry, technicians and pharmacists who can run factories that manufacture food products, pharmaceuticals, textiles, rubber and chemical products. There is an urgency to encourage our students to major in business, economics, finance and computer science as well as supporting an innovative environment and stimulating the spirit of entrepreneurship in order to realize the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and create a knowledge-based economy.
The British Council event inspired many Saudi and expatriate school principals and educationists to look into best practices and adopt new strategies to raise the level of education in our schools. A Saudi knowledge-based economy can only be realized if we succeed in upgrading our educational system.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on February 25, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”