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Saudi International Education Conference Emphasises Distance Learning and Skills-Based Curricula

Delegates at a recent Saudi international education conference said science, mathematics, and digital and language skills were the capacities most needed in the 21st century.

They also praised Saudi Arabia’s own educational development, especially its Madrasati (My School) platform for e-learning, which helped the kingdom quickly pivot to distance education after schools were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Conference and Exhibition for Education (ICEE 2022), organized by the Saudi Ministry of Education, was held earlier this month in Riyadh. The theme of this year’s conference was “Education in the Face of Crises: Opportunities and Challenges.”

Ministers and education experts from more than 260 global and local bodies and representatives from 23 countries’ educational bodies attended.

In speeches, panel sessions and workshops, delegates discussed such challenges as the problems that arose during the coronavirus pandemic, and how to keep education systems going during any future pandemic.

Conference recommendations included reducing the number of theoretical programmes and specialisations that do not correspond to labour market needs.

They also discussed issues such as the globalisation of education, how to align educational innovation with the goals of sustainable development, and how to prepare students for the needs of a changing labour market.

Delegates agreed that pandemics meant distance education, whether online or through other means, such as dedicated television and YouTube channels.

Building distance-learning systems will require coordination among ministries of education, educational software and computer technology companies, and telecommunications companies, panel speakers said. Developing the digital skills of teaching staffs will also be essential to adapting to new circumstances and crises,they added.

Conference Recommendations

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education said the expertise and experiences exchanged in the conference demonstrated the kingdom’s desire to create a globally competitive education system that provided opportunities for local and international participation.

The conference included 137 workshops, and 89 agreements and memoranda of cooperation were signed between universities, ministries, international and local  institutions, and companies attending.

The conference made a set of recommendations, including focusing education systems on  students’ life skills at different educational stages, and emphasising the importance of developing critical, creative, positive and future thinking patterns for male and female students through creative programmes and teaching methods.

The recommendations also emphasised the importance of having  public, technical, and university education policies  in line with sustainable development goals and the global trend towards  blended education.

The participants recommended development programmes based on statistical data and teacher participation.

The conference also supported the international trend towards an ethical charter for the use of artificial intelligence systems in education.

They also noted the shift towards skills-based education and professional certificates, and the need to promote common values of coexistence and tolerance.

Delegates also called for private-sector support in educational development, and for modernizing curricula to keep pace with the needs of a rapidly changing labour market.

Addressing Saudi education, delegates recommended agile administrative structures, reducing the number of theoretical programmess and specialisations that do not  meet the labour market’s needs, and creating legislation to support online communication ethics and information security.

Code of Ethics for Artificial Intelligence

The conference also  supported the international trend towards an ethical charter for the use of artificial intelligence systems in education, investing in digital technologies to help teach people with disabilities, helping teachers to develop  e-learning programmes, and creating digital programmes for teachers’ own professional development.

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The recommendations included enhancing quality standards in educational institutions and training in the use of electronic measurement and evaluation in education.

They also called for building artificial intelligence partnerships between the public and private sectors in education, research, development and innovation, supporting entrepreneurship, and making applied research available to the economic and social sectors.

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