UNESCO and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reinforce cooperation to drive education reform
Director-General Irina Bokova and the Minister of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Issa signed two agreements on 1 August 2016 to expand the number of UNESCO Chairs in Saudi universities and to establish within UNESCO a Junior Professional Officer Programme.
These agreements pave the way for reinforced cooperation in education, a priority for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “Education is a platform for change and development, and is central to the shift from an oil-based economy that is set out in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” said Minister Al-Issa. “We are looking at a big reform of the education system from pre-school to university level, including in our education philosophy, the role of teachers and teaching methods.” He said that teacher training is one of the biggest challenges, with the need to encourage more student-centered approaches and a focus on 21st Century skills. He also indicated that Saudi Arabia will participate in the 2018 edition of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The Director-General expressed UNESCO’s full commitment to expand cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and commended the Minister for the Government’s central focus on education quality, skills, and jobs, underscoring the key role of higher education in this ambition. “Both the agreements signed today are important and ambitious. UNESCO stands ready to reinforce support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its ambition to move towards a knowledge based economy that encourages innovation. This is the way of the future because education is the key to economic prosperity and social advancement,” she said.
The letter of agreement foresees strengthening the participation of Saudi universities in the UNITWIN programme that aims to foster international inter-university cooperation in building education and research networks, with a commitment to establish 13 UNESCO Chairs in six different institutions. The cooperation agreement on the establishment of a Junior Professional Officer Programme within UNESCO will provide the opportunity for young university graduates and junior qualified professionals to gain multilateral experience through exposure to UNESCO’s work at Headquarters, Field Offices and Institutes.
The Minister was accompanied by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to UNESCO Mr Ziad Aldrees; Dr Salem El Malek, Counselor and Supervisor of International Cooperation, Dr Mansour Al-Oseimi, Counselor for Education at the Permanent Delegation and Cultural Attaché Mr Abdul Mohsen El Khatib.
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