The second largest governmental spending in Saudi Arabia goes for education. Saudi Arabia spends 8.8 % of its gross domestic product on education, compared with the global average of 4.6%, which is nearly double the global average on education.

Huge success over the years

When Saudi Arabia formally became a nation in 1932, education was largely limited to instruction for a select few in Islamic schools. Today, public education—from primary education through college—is open to every Saudi citizen.

Saudi Arabia’s education system includes over fifty public & and private universities, with more planned; some 30,000 schools; and a large number of colleges and other institutions. The system is open to all citizens, and provides students with free education, books and health services.

While the study of Islam remains at its core, the modern Saudi educational system also provides quality instruction in diverse fields of arts and sciences. This diversity helps the Kingdom prepare its citizens for life and work in a global economy.

Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education seeks to put in place a exceptional educational system that builds a globally competitive knowledge-based community.

To provide education to all in an appropriate educational environment within the framework of the kingdom’s education policy.

It strives to:
Raise the quality of education outcomes.

Increase the effectiveness of scientific research.

Encourage creativity and innovation.

Develop community partnership.

Promote the skills and capabilities of students.

Beginning of General Education:

1925 – Establishment of the “Directorate of Knowledge” the cornerstone of the boys’ educational system
1927 – Establishment “Council for Knowledge” with an aim to develop an educational system to monitor education in the Hijaz region. Initially it started with four schools and the number of schools then increased to 323.

1951 – Ministry of Knowledge was established in the reign of King Saud Bin AbdulAziz Al Saud. Its functions was to plan and monitor boys’ government education in primary, preparatory and secondary schools. King Fahd Bin AbdulAziz Al Saud was the first Minister of Knowledge. 

1960 – General Presidency for Girls’ Education was established, in the reign of King Faisal Bin AbdulAziz Al Saud, with a budget of $ 4.4 million. Initially the presidency was responsible for 15 primary schools and one female teachers’ intermediate institute, it was chaired by Shaikh AbdulAziz Nasser Al Rashid.

2002 – A royal decree was issued in, to annex the General Presidency for Girls’ Education, under Ministry of Knowledge. Dr. Khedr Al Qurashi was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Knowledge for Girls’ Education.

2003 – Ministry of Knowledge was renamed as Ministry of Education. 

Beginning of Higher Education:

1975 – Ministry of Education (Higher Education) was established to execute the kingdom’s policy on higher education. 

Since very beginning higher education has received enormous governmental support new universities, scientific and applied colleges were opened and huge funds were allocated in budgets for higher education. The number of higher education institutions in KSA has registered 30 government universities, 10 private universities and 41 private colleges.

These universities and colleges have scientific and applied majors in different areas. Ministry of Education (Higher Education) also adopted modern approaches for scientific research and future planning. 

Merger of the Ministries (Education and Higher Education) :

 2015 – the Ministries of Education and Higher Education were merged into one entity, the Ministry of Education. Post merger, HE Dr. Azzam Mohammed Al Dakhil was appointed as the first Minister of Education. 


Top Universities in Saudi Arabia

Higher education has proceeded apace in most areas and the number of universities has registered 30 government universities with high absorptive capacity. These universities are geographically distributed to the different regions of KSA. All these universities are linked with the Ministry of Education but enjoy a great deal of administrative and academic autonomy.

Just to name a few:

King Saud University
Formerly known as the University of Riyadh, King Saud University is considered to be one of Asia’s best universities. Some other international rankings show it to be the best in the entire Arab World as well. This is a public university and comes with a large endowment fund of $2.7 Billion. KSU is the first university to be set up in the Kingdom, founded in the year 1957. The current student body consists of around 65,000 students.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
The public university is regularly featured in the list of top 3 universities in the Arab World. Based in Dhahran, the university was originally established as an educational institution to provide high-level education about petroleum and minerals, which are the most valuable natural resources of the Kingdom. Today, KFUPM’s engineering and science programs are renowned worldwide and its selection criteria is one of the toughest in the Kingdom.

King Abdulaziz University
It was originally established as a private university back in 1967 by a group of businessmen. However in 1974 it was converted into a public university and a substantial endowment was setup for it. KAU is part of the Port-City University League, which an international league of universities located port cities across the world. The university consistently features in the top 300 universities in the world list, scoring high marks on the International Outlook criteria.

 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Though it is the youngest on the list, established fairly recently in 2009, KAUST has managed to attract hordes of international students from over 60 different countries. With an endowment fund of $10 billion, it has one of the largest endowments in the world. It has consistently ascended in the world university rankings.

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