Saudi Arabia plans to encourage more investment in its education system from the private sector.

“We have no way to improve the quality of education except by partnering with the private sector and that is one of our main objectives,” said Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Saud in a speech at the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) in Riyadh on 22 January.

“One of the most important pillars is having a relationship with the private sector. We want sustainability and added value, but most importantly we want competitiveness and seeing the private sector participating,” said Prince Faisal.

Saudi Arabia has allocated SR170bn ($45bn) in this year’s budget for education and training.

In his speech, Prince Faisal highlighted the importance of education in developing a sustainable economy.

“Education is the innovative solution enabling, rehabilitating and equipping students with the in-depth knowledge needed to convert to a knowledge society. This means that we should support a quality culture, effectiveness of educational systems and invest in human capital,” he said.

There are currently 5 million students in Saudi Arabia and 500,000 teachers. The number of schools has doubled every 10 years over the past 40 years to reach more than 33,000 today.

Electronic-learning (E-learning) is one initiative that will be given priority this year to help connect the country’s schools in isolated places.

“E-learning is a must for us. We have lots of problems with small schools in many areas. Now every child has an iPad, it has become the language of our time,” said Prince Faisal.