Educational technology in Saudi Arabia

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This article describes the history of using educational technology in Saudi Arabia. It highlights the history of using educational technology in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since the mid-1900s, the beginning, the improvements and the current status. It also describes the rapid increase in using technology in schools, institutes and universities, and presents the attitudes of Saudi people towards this global phenomenon.

Timeline of education and technology in Saudi Arabia[edit]

Education in Saudi Arabia has gone through diverse stages. Regarding the technology emergence in Education in Saudi Arabia, it is displayed below that technology has emerged just recently.

Emergence of education in Saudi Arabia[edit]

  1. In 1930s, formal primary education began in Saudi Arabia.[1]
  2. In 1945, King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, the country's founder, had initiated an extensive program to establish schools in the kingdom.[1]
  3. In 1954, the Ministry of Education was established.[1]

Emergence of technical education in Saudi Arabia[edit]

  1. In the early 1950s, technical education and vocational training in Saudi Arabia started and was integrated with general education.[2]
  2. In 1980, General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training (GOTEVOT) was formally established. It acknowledged the need for technological education at the college level to generate highly qualified national cadres.[2]

Pre-internet technology and education in Saudi Arabia[edit]

  1. In 1979, Saudi radio channels broadcast radio education programs with support from the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Education. Although not official distance-learning programs, these radio programs were designed to assist students in the traditional learning system.[3]
  2. In around 1980, correspondence education started when students participated in courses provided by international universities outside the kingdom.[4]
  3. In 1985, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries launched two communications satellites called ArabSat.…Their use in…education is limited only by the imagination and resources of the user.[5]

Post-internet technology and education in Saudi Arabia[edit]

  1. In 1993, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran becomes the first Saudi institution to connect to the internet.[6]
  2. In 1994, Internet was first introduced to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when state academic, medical and research institutions got access to it.[7]
  3. In 1997, public access to Internet was allowed.[8]
  4. In 1999, the Internet was provided for college and government use.[9] Then, Internet access begins the move from government and academic into the mainstream. Though the first few years did not notice much progress, but in following years, Internet subscription and use increased rapidly.[10]
  5. In 2000, Al-Sharhan suggested that a country like Saudi Arabia with a land area of over 2 million square kilometers and a population of 16 million should consider the adoption of the use of satellite technology in its educational system.[11] In addition, the general public was granted Internet access.[9]
  6. In the early 21st century, Saudi universities use Interactive Television Technology (ITT) transmitted via fiber optic lines- a technology that provides visual and auditory communication to students in remote area who are seeking an education.[12]
  7. In 2001, King Abdul Aziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) decided to fund a study that will explore the use of Internet along three major topics: …. Implications of the Internet technology for education ….[8] Also, Saudi Telecom Company (STC) introduced asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service for the kingdom, which significantly reduced the cost of the Internet service. ADSL made it possible for all the universities to implement more web-based instruction (WBI).[13]
  8. In 2002, Saudi Arabia's nationwide educational system consisted of 11 universities, over 24.000 schools, 48 women's colleges, and over 30 colleges…[14]

Emergence of e-learning[edit]

  1. In 2003, Aum Alqura University and King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals calibrated to establish e-learning center under the deanery of academic development to be the main task help academic population in university to benefit from learning technology to develop the process of education.[15] In addition, Ali, Sait and Al-Tawil stated that e-learning is still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia.[16]
  2. In 2004, King Abdulaziz University established the Deanship of e-Learning and Distance Education.[17]
  3. Starting from 2006, there is a significant development in E-learning in Saudi Arabia.[18]
  4. In 2007, National Center for E-learning and Distance Learning was established.[19] Also, Saudi television channels broadcast educational programs with assistance from the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Education. As with the use of radio offerings, those programs are not official distance learning, but they are presented to help students who are in the traditional learning system.[20] In addition, King Saud University established the Deanship of e-Learning and Distance Education.[21]
  5. In 2008, Al-Harbi (2011) stated that e-learning in Saudi Arabia is still in its infancy with a paucity of information on its use at the time of the study.[22] Saudi Arabia called for a national plan to adopt information technology across the country. The plan recommends implementation of e-learning and distance learning, and their prospective applications in higher education.[23]
  6. In 2009, the first international conference e-learning and distance learning was held and organized by the Ministry of Higher Education and National Center for E-learning and Distance Learning.[24] Also, University of Tabuk established Distance Education Unit.[25]
  7. In 2010, the list of distance education in higher education institutions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially published and ratified.[17]
  8. In 2011, The King Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, the Premier and the Chairman of Higher Education Council, has approved the Council's decision on the establishment of Saudi Electronic University.[18]
  9. In the school year 2011-2012, there were first distance education graduate students of King Abdulaziz University among Saudi universities.[17]

Education history in Saudi Arabia[edit]

The discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia in the late 1930s gave this large country, which covers most of the Arabian peninsula, impetus to start progressing towards further social development. Oil is the fundamental pillar of the national economy of Saudi Arabia. It represents 70% of the national production and 90% of the country's exports.

Saudi Arabia used much of its oil income to build modern schools, transportation systems, communication networks and to improve housing and provide electricity to remote rural areas. "Kuttab" was the only form of education known before the establishment of the Directorate General for Education in 1930, where teachers received their students in their homes or in the community mosques. Twenty years later education was very limited in both quantity and quality due to the large size of the country with insufficient funds, very high rate of illiteracy, inadequacies of facilities and almost no qualified native teachers. At that time the number of students never exceeded 30,000. After the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1953, the number of students almost doubled the following year.[26] The plans and efforts to spread education throughout the country has been successfully executed since 1960. Female education became one of the fastest growing areas of social development in Saudi Arabia.

Schools and students number in Saudi Arabia 1930-1985

The real start of education[edit]

The number of students and the numbers of schools increased drastically especially with the increase in the country's revenue. The annual rate of expenditure on education rose to 92.7% from 1959 to 1974.[27] Few years later, the total expenditure on education escalated to 29,957 Million SR*. in the year 1985.[28] The number of students rose from 52,839 in 1954 to 2,155,760 in the year 1985. Schools increased from 469 in 1954 to 15,079 in the year 1985.

Recent budget on education[edit]

More recently, the budget allocated to education was 23,540 million SR. or 11.8% of the total budget of expenditures in 1986. Also, 23,799 million SR. or 11.9% in 1987 and 23,181 million SR. in the year 1988. Table 1[29] shows the percentage of the money allocated to education related to the total budget of expenditure (Million SR.).

Saudi Arabia Budget on Education 1986-1988
Table 1
1986 1987 1988
Education Exp Total Bud  % Education Exp Total Bud  % Education Exp Total Bud  %
23,540 200,000 11 23,799 200,00 11 23,181 170,000 13

Education facilities and technology implementation[edit]

In spite of the generous fund and the rapid expansion of education facilities, education did not meet all expectations. The Saudi Third National Development Plan covering the years 1980 through 1985 had the following remarks about the previous plan: The Second Development Plan has witnessed a very considerable expansion of the physical facilities of education and training systems. There are problems in the location of facilities, their delivery, equipment, maintenance and design are often costly and illadapted to educational purpose".[30]

There are several attempts at reform which have been made but with marginal success.[31] Attempts to implement educational technology in the present condition within the educational network have been discussed in the Third National Development Plan as follows: "Present conditions thus reflect certain opportunities of improvement in qualitative programs, particularly in the implementation of major development projects such as; Educational technology Center, Educational Television, and multi-purpose class rooms[32]"

The true start of educational technology[edit]

The effort to implement Educational Technology in Saudi Arabia has always been a number one priority. Both the Second (1975–1980) and the Third (1980–1985) national plans have emphasized the importance of the introduction of new learning material. The fourth national plan (1985–1990) put major emphasis on quality in education outcome. The need for the teacher's belief in the importance of utilizing instructional media was expressed by Abdel-Wassie, former Deputy of the Ministry of Education in his book, Education in Saudi Arabia. What we are lacking is the teacher's belief and enthusiasm for the usefulness of audiovisual aids as an alternative means of instruction.

Prior to the establishment of a small audio-visual unit within the Ministry of Education in 1959, Educational Technology did not exist. Then in the same year there was a report by the International Yearbook of Education concerning the introduction of a small audio-visual production program.

Between the years 1964 and 1971 the major change which took place in Saudi education was the introduction of a graphic and illustrations unit for limited production of slides, filmstrips, photography, transparencies, and silk screen prints. To implement Educational Technology, Saudi Government sought foreign expert recommendations and cooperation. Such as; Wade Media Consultant, Inc. in 1973, and Indiana University in 1975.

The introduction and use of Educational Technology in Saudi education was introduced through several means. "In Saudi Arabia, Educational Technology has been introduced and utilized through teacher training programs and also through the developing and using new methods of instruction. In addition, designing and producing software materials and making them available to the public for broadcast via radio and television stations".[27]

Government determination to implement educational technology[edit]

In the year 1985, establishment of General Administration for Educational Technology within the new Educational Development Department, noted a big change in Saudi education system. The Educational Technology new administration consists of a design unit and a production unit.

The functions of their administration are:

  1. In-service training of the leaders in Educational Technology.
  2. Production of Instructional materials which serve many educational courses.
  3. Providing instructional films, equipment and the materials of science and mathematics laboratories.
  4. Supplying schools with personal computers and computer hardware and software.
  5. Establishing a unit far copying and recording instructional video and audio tapes.[33]

One can understand the determination of Saudi Government to implement Educational Technology in Saudi Arabia, by looking at the total spending of the Ministry of Education only on instructional media, materials and equipment which is 281,658,489 SR. during seven years from 1976 to 1982.[34]

Factors hindering full implementation of Educational Technology at Saudi Schools[edit]

Technology in education should not be considered as a replacement for face-to-face instructions but rather as a mean to attain the desired results. Along the same lines, Vikashkumar (2005) emphasizes that the use of ET would enhance the conditions in which students will be a pivotal integral element in teaching and learning processes, and this can take the form of:expanding access, promoting equality, improving the internal efficiency of educational systems, enhancing the quality of education, and preparing new and old generations for a technology-driven market place.[35] However, in Saudi Arabia, there are many obstacles to reach a full implementation of educational technology in Saudi Arabia. Definitely, funding wasnot, as a G-20 country, considered as one of the factors in this accounting. On the contrary, the Saudi government allocates almost one third of its annual budget for education. However, there are many other obstacles that impede the efforts to have full implementation of ET at Saudi Arabia's schools. These obstacles are found relevant and closely related to: infrastructure, policies and teachers.

Infrastructure shortage[edit]

Investment in education has become a top priority for the Saudi government. It allocates a lion's share, about one third, of the annual budget for education. Although, speaking of the massive budget for education doesn't justify the reality. In fact, there are many studies state explicitly that the use of educational technology in Saudi schools is still in its infancy stage. For instance, Al-Maini (2011) states that "There is lack of classroom computers, language laboratories or other means of integrating computers into subject teaching".[36] This is a persistent headache for all developing countries, as again Vikashkumar (2005) explains in this quotation that "developing countries usually tend to be at the undesirable end of the digital divide spectrum. However, they cannot afford to stay passive and be left behind in race for better social, economic and education prospects"[37] Though,despite all the previous facst, the policies would also has great impact upon the use of ET in Saudi schools which through understanding its vital role, we would expand our scope in term of having more comprehensive understanding of the issue in study.

Lack of appropriate policies[edit]

The policies of any governmental body are the authoritative gate for the coming developments. Therefore, the importance of policies is to legitimize initiatives and insights. Also, without the proper policies that conform to the Saudi context there will be no sound implementation of ET in schools. To contemplate this topic scientifically, a group of studies deal with this very topic will be reviewed here. First, Almutairi and et al. (2010) state that "there is no indication that students are encouraged to think about, design, or to evaluate products".[38] Accordingly, While this study talks solely about elementary level, it is also applicable for the other two levels. Secondly, some academics are technophobes (Alqurashi, 2009).[39] This can be considered as a barrier to come with sound policies. Therefore, the government needs to encourage students to use technology and to implement technology in education as fast as possible. More important, verbs like design, assemble and invent need to be adopted and to be as fast as possible part of the government's objectives in education. However, the role of teachers inside their classes would be the most important role among the three.

The emergence and development of learning resource centers in Saudi Arabia[edit]

Learning Resources Centre

Recently, the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia has started a project called Learning Resources Program that aims to establish Learning Resources Centers in schools. Learning resources centers aim to make a quantum leap in the school libraries from being repositories of information to a place to work, activity and aimed study, within the framework of a comprehensive system, integrated to achieve harmony between the educational goals and strategies, teaching methods, and information sources and tools. Learning resource centers seek to provide a learning environment able to accommodate technological developments, and integrate what happens inside the classroom. The center is a place where a student can learn on his own as fast as his level of perception. Learning Resource Centre is not a new concept. It has been known by the beginning of the transition from books as a limited source of information to other sources provide service to students and make it easier for the teacher and the learner to access information.[40]
Learning resource centers project was adopted by the ministry of Education in 1418 AH. The idea of Learning Resource Centers Project in Saudi Arabia came in line with the direction of the Ministry of Education to develop all aspects of the educational process. This project aims to activate and develop the school library to keep pace with the growing development in knowledge sources that are no longer confined to the printed book despite its importance. It also aims to give learners learning, thinking and research skills that open their horizons on learning and communication techniques, and that enable them to adapt the information age.[41]

Learning Resources Centre

The most important stages of the emergence of learning resource centers:

Pilot phase[edit]

It had been in the academic year 1420/1421 AH, and included six schools in the city of Riyadh. This stage aimed to achieve the start of the project, and to define it, and to test the appropriate methods to proceed it.

The most important achievements in this phase:

  1. Identifying the most common models of school buildings in the regions of the Kingdom, and studying the most appropriate possible modifications to provide the appropriate space for the centers.
  2. Determining the necessary proposed adjustments in the halls of learning resource centers for each common building models of schools.
  3. Putting initial conception to design centers and its components and its equipment, with continuous evaluation.
  4. Opening 6 typical learning resource centers in Riyadh.[41]

Preparatory phase[edit]

It had started in the academic year 1421/1422 AH, and aimed to implement the project in a limited number of schools in all education administrations. It included 70 centers. It also aimed to examine the appropriateness of the formula, which was adopted in the implementation of learning resource centers, to the reality in different regions. It aimed to prepare supervisory cadres to assume responsibility of implementation of the project in their administrations.

Learning Resources Centre

The most important achievements in this phase:

  1. Preparation of a detailed guide about learning resource centers, their levels, their equipment, their specifications and their designs, and circulating it to the administrations of education.
  2. Held a training workshop for 47 supervisors who observe the implementation of project.
  3. Creating a site for learning resource centers on the Internet.[41]

Circular phase[edit]

It had been in the fiscal year 1421/1422 AH. and it included about 4000 centers in the boys' education (the plan was amended later to include girls' education).

The most important achievements in this phase:

  1. Implementation of more than (1400) centers.
  2. The preparation and implementation of extensive training programs for the trustees of learning resource centers in all administrations of education.
  3. Held the second training workshop for supervisors of learning resource centers in this period which included about 45 trainees.
  4. Organizing a workshop on the comprehensive referential frame for learning resource centers in cooperation with the office of Education for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf under the auspices of the Minister of Education. About 17 professionals from Persian Gulf states and 24 participants from Saudi Arabia participated in the workshop.
  5. Issuance a Guide of Trustees of Learning Resource Centers: selection rules and tasks and Calendar" and circulating it to all administrations of education.
  6. Developing a database, characterized by the possibility of the introduction and updating data directly through the Internet throughout the year.
  7. Issuance Indicative and tariff publications about learning resource centers and learning technologies.
  • In the academic year 1422 / 1423, 411 centers had been implemented.
  • In the academic year 1423 / 1424, 500 centers had been implemented.
  • In the academic year 1424 / 1425, the implementation of learning resources centers had been started in girls' schools.[41]

Internet connection for everyone[edit]

It is noticeable that internet service in Saudi Arabia has made a huge shift in all life domains of the Saudi people throughout the last few years. It enabled them to cope with the global rapid developments and it became one of the most important needs for them in their daily life. Hence, the number of internet users in Saudi Arabia has been increasing significantly year by year.

Early stages of internet usage[edit]

Internet was first introduced to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1994 when state academic, medical, and research institutions got access to it. Internet was officially made available in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1997 by a ministerial decision and the public access finally debuted in 1999. When internet was first made available for the public in KSA at the end of 1990's, it was supervised by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Internet Service Unit (ISU) a department of KACST. ISU acted as a Saudi internet change point and worked in raising the public awareness with the internet. It also formulated the rules and regulations that govern the use of the internet in the country and took care of Saudi domain name system. The internet was provided to the public through many number of commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who were licensed by KACST.[42]

According to estimates reported by KACST, there were 275,000 internet subscribers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as of June 10, 2001.[43]

Internet dimensions of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, 2001

Steady growth in the number of internet users[edit]

It is estimated that the internet usage will keep on growing rapidly in the KSA. In addition to the new internet structure that can cut the prices of internet access, there are other reasons that can speed up the growth of internet usage in Saudi Arabia: the first reason is that 60% of the Saudi population comprises teenagers and young adults who are adapting to new technologies faster than expected. Another reason is that several universities and colleges in KSA are now adopting e-learning as a part of their curriculum. It is estimated that the Saudi Arabia's e-learning market will expand. As the usage of internet grows in all the Arabic countries, the amount of Arabic content on the internet will grow as well. This in turn will attract more and more Saudis to join the internet. As more banks and companies offer more of their services online, more customers are drawn to use these services.[42]

Recent statistics[edit]

Saudi Arabia Communications and Information Technology Commission, a government body that oversees the sector, has issued its report for the first half of 2011. The report says that there are 12.5 million internet users in Saudi Arabia representing 44% of the population a growth from 5% in 2001(Saudi Arabia's population is 27 million).[44] The number of the internet users grew from around million in 2001 to an estimated 13 million at the end of 9 M 2011.[45]

The number-(million) & the percentage of the population of internet users in Saudi Arabia (2001–2011)
  • Internet usage Statistics:

9,800,000 internet users as of June / 10, 38.1% of population, according to ITU.

  • Facebook users in Saudi Arabia:

2,575,740 as of August 31, 2010, according to Facebook.

  • Latest population estimate:

25,731,776 population for 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau

  • Internet Growth and Population Statistics:[46]
Year Users Population  % of pop. Usage source
2000 200,000 21,624,422 0.9% ITU
2003 1,500,000 21,771,609 6.9% ITU
2005 2,540,000 23,595,634 10.8% C+I+A
2007 4,700,000 24,069,943 19.5% ITU
2009 7,761,800 28,686,633 27.1% ITU
2010 9,800,000 25,731,776 38.1% ITU

Saudis attitudes towards educational technology[edit]

Our world is facing technological revolution in the field of information and mass communication. The objective of this article is to focus on the potential of this new technology in teaching and learning English, in Saudi Arabia, as foreign language and some insight into distance education. Also to look at the attitudes of ministry of Education, the teachers and the students.

The computer with its multimedia technology provides a lot of opportunities for successful collaborative learning and teamwork in small groups.[47] It also promotes interactive language at the highest level.[48] Based on an interpretive study carried out in Al- Qaseem area by Yousef Hamad Al-Mains. It concludes that technology can no longer be ignored. This is as a source of“ comprehensive input”.[49] New technologies have the power to stimulate the development of intellectual skills such as problem solving ability, learning how to learn and create[50]

Due to rapid development of technology, distance education has developed in two major directives “ the individual flexible teaching model and extended class room model”.[51] Internactive multimedia technologies facilitates “individualized “ and “ collaborative” learning thus, creating new environment for learning such as “ virtual communities”, interacting with the instructor and other students on electronic mail face to face according to their needs, also sharing information using computer networks.[52]

A research study conducted by Al Fahad (2007) [53] on the effectiveness of mobile learning with B.A and M.D students of King Saud University. The result indicates that it could be another method for improving retentive of B.A and M.D students by enhancing their teaching and learning. The biggest advantage of this technology is that it can be used anywhere and anytime with the aim of improving communication and enriching students learning experience in their open and distance learning.

The Ministry of Education[edit]

In the application of e-learning and Distance education, which is one of the leading and promising experiments in the Arab world, Saudi Arabian Government has announced officially the utilization of distance learning, and to achieve this objective leading towards the future, has launched initiatives to establish six infrustructures for higher education and distance education.[54] The ministry of higher education national center for e-learning have circulated an e-learning management system in harmony with needs of university education in Saudi Arabia developed the academic and administrative skills and management system, built electronic curriculum content and forms digital and print for a number of university courses and educational portal for e-learning and distance learning and awareness program for electronic education.


The student's response to the new technology increased their confidence in their abilities. This in part the spontaneously receptive attitude that a large number of them adopt toward any activity in which technology played a role. For instance, students like Yasir and Hamad expressed the view that it would be helpful to use the schools laboratory for English language ”It will help us to grasp the language more effectively” and that teachers can also guide them to other English language websites.[55]

The new technology offers an infinite opportunities for improving education and perception towards effective use of these technologies is far behind what ought to be. Thus, the Saudis have been unable to reap the optimal benefit at all levels of operation but the present level of use are encouraging and there is hope for improvement and brighter future.[53]

See also[edit]


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