Saudis Plan Schools Revamp to Tackle Unemployment, Ideology
(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia said it plans to overhaul the kingdom’s flagging education system to better prepare citizens to find jobs and tackle intolerance.
The revamp will cover all levels of education, from early childhood to adult learning opportunities, according to a summary of the Human Capability Development Program announced by the official Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday.
It aims to better prepare Saudis to enter the labor market, as unemployment hovers at 11.7% and many companies prefer to hire cheaper foreign workers. Other objectives include fostering values like moderation, perseverance and a “hard-work culture,” the report said.
The overhaul is part of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” strategy to diversify the oil-dependent economy. It’s also a sign that he wants to soften the kingdom’s reputation as an ultra-conservative Islamic state and cradle for extremism. Human-rights groups have criticized its schooling as promoting intolerance of other religions and Islamic sects, and officials have already begun revising textbooks.
Saudi Arabia’s public schools have long been a bastion of the tenets preached by its religious establishment, such as strict gender segregation. Prince Mohammed has been loosening social restrictions and has called for citizens to follow a more “moderate” path of Islam, even as he cracks down on domestic critics.
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