Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Alsobeiy
International Studies & Testing Center
Ministry of Education

Overview of Education System

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that it is essential to prepare good and productive citizens who can meet the needs of this era and the future. To this end, the government considers investment in education and human resources to be a basic element in the comprehensive development of the country and the advancement of its policies and programs.1

Since the founding of the nation in 1932, the public education system in Saudi Arabia has accomplished the following:

  • Free education available to all throughout the country
  • Near complete (99 percent) enrollment of targeted children in primary education
  • Educational opportunities equally available to men and women
  • A radical decrease in illiteracy among men and women

In addition to these, other achievements related to developing curricula and adopting student evaluation policies have focused on satisfying basic needs, providing and developing the learning environment, and improving procedures for hiring and integrating teachers and for reviewing their employment status.

The Ministry of Education oversees the education system in Saudi Arabia and currently aims to achieve the following:

  • Differentiate teaching for all students, based on individual abilities, by placing students at the center of the education process
  • Plan and direct the learning process by developing standards and requirements and new systems of quality control and motivation
  • Avoid centralization in managing learning processes by granting independence to both educational directorates and schools
  • Provide facilities and equipment to schools, and focus school plans and programs on learning processes
  • Build capabilities, human and technical, to manage education; lead the process of developing schools and achieving quality performance; grant suitable administrative authority; define goals for students; and establish schools that can accomplish these goals

The Ministry oversees educational directorates and has refined their missions and processes to help schools concentrate on student learning and commit to nurturing personal development. This refinement also has put in place mechanisms to aid directorates and schools in meeting learning outcomes and organizing supervision. Currently, school and directorate competence are assessed according to administrative effectiveness, ability to implement education, and effective follow-up and monitoring. The Educational Department Council and its secretariat develop plans for courses of study and requisite educational infrastructure; approve plans and policies for educational development, training, educational research, computer projects, learning technology, and assessment; develop curricula; and prepare teacher education and professional development programs. The Ministry of Education supervises these plans via its educational directorates and offices in all parts of the country.

General education in Saudi Arabia is divided into public (government-funded) education, private education, special education (under the supervision of the Ministry), vocational education (related to the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation), and foreign education. There are also many specialized institutes under the supervision of different departments, such as the Ministry of Health and telecommunications and security departments. There are 30 universities (six of which are private) in addition to many colleges offering varied courses of study. Basic compulsory education in Saudi Arabia is for all children ages 6 to 18. Saudi Arabia’s public education system is organized according to the following structure:

  • Primary education—This level spans six years and covers Grades 1 to 6
  • Intermediate education—This level spans three years and covers Grades 7 to 9
  • Secondary education—This level spans three years and covers Grades 10 to 12

Languages of Instruction

The official language of the country and education is Arabic.