Education

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, education was not accessible to everyone and limited to individualized instruction at religious schools in mosques in urban areas.

These schools taught Islamic law and basic literacy skills. By the end of the century, Saudi Arabia had a nationwide educational system providing free training from preschool through university to all citizens.

The primary education system began in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. By 1945, King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, the country’s founder, had initiated an extensive program to establish schools in the Kingdom.

Six years later, in 1951, the country had 226 schools with 29,887 students. In 1954, the Ministry of Education was established, headed by then Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz as the first Minister of Education. The first university, now known as King Saud University, was founded in Riyadh in 1957.

Today, Saudi Arabia’s nationwide public educational system comprises twenty eight (28) universities, more than 24,000 schools, and a large number of colleges and other educational and training institutions. The system provides students with free education, books and health services and is open to every Saudi. Over 25 percent of the annual State budget is for education including vocational training.

The Kingdom has also worked on scholarship programs to send students overseas to the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and other nations. Currently thousands of students are being sent to higher-educations programs every year.

There is one university only in Mecca, the Umm Al Qura University which was founded in 1981.

The study of Islam remains at the core of the Saudi educational system. The Islamic aspect of the Saudi national curriculum is examined in a 2006 report by Freedom House.

The report found that in religious education classes (in any religious school), children are taught to deprecate other religions, in addition to other branches of Islam. The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world.

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