(MENAFN - Arab News) Minister of Higher Education Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari opened the International Exhibition and Conference for Higher Education at the Riyadh Exhibition Center yesterday. More than 450 international and Arab universities are represented at the event.
In his opening speech, Al-Anqari said the exhibition was designed for those concerned with higher education, including students, college staff, leaders and academics not only in the Kingdom only but also in neighboring countries.
The exhibition, he pointed out, aimed to promote cooperation and build partnerships between higher education institutes throughout the world, and enhancing a joint understanding of issues related to the field.
"University campuses in the Kingdom have transformed through accurate planning into comprehensive development centers to attract intellectuals and investments," he said.
He noted that evidence of this had started to reveal itself in the social environment.
The minister pointed out that the characteristics of the contemporary higher education strategy in the Kingdom were moving from short and middle-term plans to a clear 25-year plan.
The plan, the minister clarified, was based on three major elements, first providing higher education for the citizen wherever he resides; second the quality that is based on academic accreditation of the programs and educational institutions; and third the international partnerships between scientific, research and scholarship institutes.
CEO of Saudi Aramro Khalid Al-Falih announced a new program entitled "Ethraa Al Shabab" - enriching the youth - targeting 2 million young men in different parts of the Kingdom.
"As of June 2012, we will teach the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in addition to special skills for continual education designed to suit all age groups" said Al-Falih, adding the programs will present 500,000 hours of training during 2012.
Al-Falih said during the opening ceremony the Kingdom should be proud of the reduction of illiteracy. He observed that in 1970, literacy among men was not more than 15 percent and among women it was just 1 percent.
"This has changed, through willpower and determination of sincere men who were able to increase this percentage to 85 percent of the total population."
The Kingdom, Al-Falih said, faced extra challenges, as 80 percent of the population was under the age of 40 years old and 35 percent under 15, which meant if proper education was not provided, they would represent a burden.
"This also means that education alone is not sufficient, but providing job opportunities should come hand-in-hand".
The Kingdom, Al-Falih pointed out, invested largely in education and reform of educational institutes in general. Building new universities and financing scholarships worth billions, as well as building the infrastructure of the various educational sectors, Al Falih indicated, was in agreement with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah's vision aiming at building an informed society through quality, transparency and cooperation.
In five years, Al-Falih confirmed, 40 percent of manpower will be under the age of 40. Aramco was taking a two pronged approach; preparing the company to absorb those young men, and training them for available jobs in the company.