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Saudi Arabia Sets Agenda For Knowledge Society – OpEd


By Sulaiman A. Osho

The basic attribute that the Almighty God has used to enthrone man above other creatures including the angels and the brute animals is knowledge. This is because knowledge is light. Knowledge is power.

Knowledge is the basis of the universe. Knowledge is the foundation of the creation of the world. Knowledge is the oscillating pivot for humanity. Knowledge is the philosophical fountain of human development. Knowledge is the pathfinder for human adventure into nature. Knowledge is the basis of humanity.

Thus, intellectualism continues to be the catalyst with which man continues to conquer nature in order to make the world a better place to live. And education continues to be the bastion of human development through creativity in the arts, inventions in sciences, innovations in humanities, and discoveries in technology.

Perhaps, it was in the realization of these facts of human nature and history on knowledge that the government of Saudi Arabia has institutionalized annual International Exhibition and Forum on Education (IEFE) last year to stimulate educational development in the country, the Arab world, and the world as a whole for the achievement of knowledge society.

As the name implies, knowledge society is the new concept which forward looking countries aspire to achieve in order to attain high degree of development through brain power over any kind of political, economic or military powers. A country attains this position through the practical usage of its brainpower, and the capacity created by knowledge as the foundation upon which the future of any nation is built and lies upon. This is a follow-up to the attainment of industrial society and information society, whereby knowledge now serves as the basis of societal growth and development.

Hence, the second edition of the IEFE took place at the international exhibition center in Riyadh on Feb. 13-17, 2012. It actually projects Riyadh as the beaming light in global education.

With the theme of “Professional Development of Teachers in the 21st Century towards Society Knowledge,” Riyadh has taken the bull of education by the horn toward achieving excellence in education by the year 2022.

With the participation of about 200 publishing firms, corporate organizations, universities, and institutions from all the continents of the world at the international exhibition with the display of educational materials, equipment and facilities, Riyadh definitely sets agenda for global education at the world event on education.

With the presentation of papers on the theme and sub-themes by thirty-five scholars from United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Europe, Asia, Arab world, Africa, and Latin America, Riyadh no doubt sets pace for achieving knowledge society and rejuvenation of education in the globe.

With the fifteen scientific sessions, three sessions for exhaustive discussions, seventeen workshops, and with participants spanning different continents of the world, Riyadh bulk large at the IEFE, 2012 as intellectual resort to effect meaningful changes in the global education.

Beyond creating conducive atmosphere at the venue in the vast, large international exhibition center in Riyadh, the world summit on education actually used the state of the art facilities of information technology that now makes intellectual pursuit and delivery paperless without stress.

However, the quality of the papers presented by the world-class scholars, and the high level of intellectual debates on education, and cerebral interventions give fillip, to the adoption of the Riyadh Declaration on Education, as unique blueprint for achieving knowledge society.

And perhaps being guided by the sage thoughts of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “you educate a nation when you educate a woman,” the participation of Saudi women at the international conference gives further impetus about the determination of the Islamic country to fully democratize its education without jeopardizing the depravity of Islamic culture and tradition.

Wonderfully too, the intellectual contributions of the Saudi women from different parts of the country who are mostly teachers in primary/secondary schools and lecturers in universities; as well as educational experts in the ministries and government agencies were highly didactic, qualitative, rich, cerebral, and revealing. It readily gives one the feelings that what you have under the hijab, niqab or purdah of Saudi women is rich in Western and Islamic education which is the first school of children of any nation.

Indeed, knowledge is light. And it stands out as the basis for political, economic, and socio-cultural development in any country. And this is demonstrated by Saudi Arabia at Janadriyah, a tourism city that is 42 km northeast of Riyadh.

At Janadriyah, the Arab nation has exhibited the beauty of its poetry, Arabian prose, intellect, culture, arts, theater, heritage, history, and as the base of Islam. Janadriyah is a city of festivals, amusement parks, tourism, museums, games, inventions, discoveries, talent hunts, and many more which tells the story of Saudi Arabia in all ramifications. Though we male and female participants at the global educational forum spent about seven hours at Janadriyah on Thursday, Feb. 16, it will definitely require a whole week to be able to cover the beautiful city of festivals which has the presence of all ministries, parastatals, provinces, communities, and peoples of Saudi, and which was inaugurated by late King Fahd in 1985.

One striking thing that amazed me at the Janadriyah was the invention of soft wares by Saudi nationals at the Ministry of Education stand. These Saudis demonstrated to us from United Kingdom, Europe, Malaysia and United States their invented soft wares on how pupils can solve arithmetic equations and mathematical logics. They also demonstrated a software developed by them for the memorization of the Holy Qur’an. In fact a scholar from United States readily said that the western world will soon be coming to Saudi to learn as they are on the downward trend.

Generally, the Riyadh summit on education was unique in arrangement. It was great in organization. It was generous in care, package and hospitality. It was dynamic in information technology usage. The IEFE 2012 was truly international in attendance. It was rich in debate. It was marvelous in theme as it makes the teachers, the central theme who, serve as the engine to drive education to glory. It was interactive as it had sessions for discussions, apart from interventions and questions and answers. It was comprehensive enough as the major axis of the conference on education were covered which were: Preparation and qualification of the teachers for transition to knowledge society; selection of the teacher and transition to knowledge society; professional development of the teachers; and assessing teachers’ performance.

Truly, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Minister of Education Prince Faisal bin Abdullah have great vision for the educational development of Saudi Arabia, Arab world and the globe generally.

No wonder, Saudi Arabia now has 55 universities — 12 in Riyadh and 13 in Jeddah and 30 others spread in 24 towns in the country. No wonder, why the number of universities in Saudi increased sporadically from 12 in 1990 to over 50 in 2010. Also, no wonder why its premier King Saud University in Riyadh established in 1957 now ranks 186th in the world; top in the Arab world; and 19th among the Asian countries.

There is no doubt that the country will soon be a destination of knowledge society where all forms of scientific and technological inventions will come forth which the early Muslims manifested with discoveries in different fields of medicine, algebra, arithmetic, geometry, sociology, architecture, astrology, astronomy, chemistry, and other fields of arts and social sciences.

One must give kudos to the Saudi government on the Riyadh summit and spending the petro-dollar well. It has been a great investment on knowledge which is the best legacy for any country.

—Sulaiman A. Osho is a scholar and researcher at the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom and presented papers at the Riyadh conference.

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Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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