Saudi Arabia is keen to encourage more private-sector investment in the education 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 Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Education Minister, in a speech at the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) held 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 to see 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 in 2012 to help connect the country’s schools in isolated places. “E-learning is a must for us,” said Prince Faisal. “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.”