Education and teaching till the late 19th century was restricted to writing, reading and the recitation of the Qur’an in all areas of what is now known as Saudi Arabia. The concept of Higher education in Islamic studies merely existed in the main cities only. The actual beginning of what is usually called nowadays “modern education” took place at the end of the 19th century. The modern education began in the Ottoman provinces of Al-Ahsa and Hijaz. Later on, in the early 1920s a few of the private sector schools started an initiative of offering non-religious courses and subjects in a few of the larger towns but officially the modern education was promoted by the state itself in 1930s. A vast network of schools was setup in the start of 1951. In the mid of year 1954 the ministry of education came into existence and its first minister was none other than Prince Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz. The education for girls on a public level began in 1964, though it was strongly opposed by the conservative circles but still the government pursued its project. The development plans introduced by the state in the 1970s and the 1980s played a pivotal part in establishing a strong and sound education system.
The literacy rate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was about 15% for men and about 2% for women but in 1990s this percentage saw a massive increase, for men it became 73% and for women it became 48% and later on in 2002 the percentage increased even more, 90.9% and 70.2%, respectively.
Whatever the facts may be, the thing worth mentioning here is that the Saudi government has made an exceptional effort in setting the standards of education quite high and that is clearly visible nowadays.
Some more Highlights of Saudi Education:
In Saudi Arabia, it is not compulsory to get education but still it is free for all and inclusive of health services and study course material. It means the stretch of education in is mainly dependent on the number of schools available in the various regions rather than the other factors. As of now, it seems that the state is working rigorously towards improving and increasing the rate of enrollment. According to some data:
In Year 1960 number of Students enrolled:
Boys: 22% and Girls: 2%
In Year 1981 number of Students enrolled:
Boys: 81% and Girls: 43%
In Year 1989 number of Students enrolled:
Boys: 1.4 million and Girls: 1.2 million
Nowadays, it is considered that the percentage of female students enrolled has exceeded the percentage of male students enrolled and this figure is for both schools and the universities. In the year 2001 and 2002 there were about 28000 public schools and colleges in Saudi Arabia, of which 16,600 schools and 73 colleges were for girls only. Whereas other educational and training institutions reached to a number of 214.
The current facts and figures reveal that about 1.19 million male and 1.64 female students are enrolled in schools in Saudi Arabia and another 1.5 million (both boys and girls) are registered in the private sector schools.