- Nov 22, 2003
And the US is soooo excited!
Huge Hike in Number of Scholarships
Tuesday, 05 September 2006
King AbdullahKing Approves 15,000 Scholarships to US and 3,000 to Asia
The Saudi Gazette
KING Abdullah, who is also the chairman of the Higher Education Council, has approved a program to allocate 15,000 scholarships for study in the US and 3,000 in some Asian countries.
Announcing this here Monday, Minister of Higher Education Dr Khalid Al-Anqari said this is the largest scholarship program by the government so far.
The program will include doctorate, masters, fellowship and bachelor degrees, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report.
Huge Hike in Number of Scholarships The scholarships will be for science specializations required by the labor market, notably the specializations of medicine, engineering, computer science, mathematics and physics.
The King also approved a number of decisions taken by the Higher Education Council, which include the foundation of Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd Private University in Dammam. The Council also endorsed the criteria for opening new colleges.
Al-Anqari said that among the measures that will be considered for opening such colleges or institutes are the density of population in the area and the need of the labor market for specializations that will be taught in these colleges.
He pointed out that on the basis of these criteria the Council approved the foundation of applied medical science and engineering colleges in Kharj and a community college in Jubail besides a nursing college in King Khaled University and a community college at Al-Namass.
The Council also gave the go ahead for converting the economics and management section at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh into an independent college to be called Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences.
It also approved the restructuring of the community health section at King Faisal University and its conversion into an independent section to be called Health Information Technology and Health Education section.
Apart from this, the Council endorsed a number of appointments in different universities.
The Ministry of Education expects to receive more than 100,000 applications this year from Saudi high school graduates seeking to continue their university educations at foreign universities.
Abdullah Al-Mogel, undersecretary for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Higher Education, said that ministry has increased the number of study-abroad scholarships for high school graduates to 7,500 - meaning that fewer than one-in-ten applicants will be successful.
Al-Mogel said the ministry has included eight new countries in South Asia and East Asia to give students free hand in choosing their favorite destinations an effort to make sure Saudis can avoid those countries that have imposed immigration restrictions, making it tougher for Saudis to study.
Students who want to pursue their higher education abroad all have different motives. The number of Saudi students studying in the United States dropped from more than 4,000 in 2001 to a low of just 1,008 in 2004, based on a State Department count of new education visas.
The total number of Saudis visiting the United States fell from 46,636 to about 12,000 over the same period.
And the US is soooo excited!
Except the 'base' of the students education is not exactly open to 'diversity':U.S. Schools Compete for Saudi Students
By GARANCE BURKE : Associated Press Writer
Sep 9, 2006 : 2:29 am ET
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Thousands of students from Saudi Arabia are enrolling on college campuses across the United States this semester under a new educational exchange program brokered by President Bush and Saudi King Abdullah.
The program will quintuple the number of Saudi students and scholars here by the academic year's end. And big, public universities from Florida to the Kansas plains are in a fierce competition for their tuition dollars.
The kingdom's royal family -- which is paying full scholarships for most of the 15,000 students -- says the program will help stem unrest at home by schooling the country's brightest in the American tradition. The U.S. State Department sees the exchange as a way to build ties with future Saudi leaders and young scholars at a time of unsteady relations with the Muslim world. Because they are our 'friends' of course. Just like Pakistan.
Administrators at Kansas State University, an agricultural school surrounded by miles of prairie grass, say the scholarships are a bonanza for public education.
"The Saudi scholarship program has definitely heightened our interest in that part of the world," said Kenneth Holland, associate provost for international programs. "Not only are the students fully funded, but they're also paying out-of-state tuition."
Kansas State has boosted efforts to court Saudi officials in the last year, flying administrators and department heads to the Saudi embassy in Washington. It's paid off: last month about 150 Saudi students started classes there, each funded to the tune of about $31,000.
Saudi Embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir said 90 percent of the 10,229 Saudi students the U.S. State Department has registered for the fall semester will also get such scholarships.
By January, U.S. government officials say the program will expand to 15,000 students, which means Saudi Arabia will send more foreign students to the U.S. than Mexico or Turkey. As funding for the scholarship program expands, those numbers are likely to grow.
"This is a critically important bilateral relationship," said Tom Farrell, a deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the State Department. "It's an opportunity to increase understanding of Saudi Arabia for the United States and of the United States for Saudi Arabia."
College administrators say common misperceptions about the oil-rich nation make it crucial to create a tolerant environment for Arab and Muslim students, who have been singled out for scrutiny since the Sept. 11 attacks five years ago.
So, as Kansas State students enjoy a string of home football games this month, they also are preparing for the campus' first celebration of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
"We really want to make this special. We're going to truck in halal food from Kansas City," Holland said. "The Saudi government is trying to place the students in a variety of institutions across the country, but where you get the competitive advantage is how you treat the students when they get here."
Marwan Al-Kadi, who was active in the Muslim student association while he studied industrial engineering at Kansas State, said efforts to raise awareness about religious diversity have helped the new influx of students feel comfortable.
"Sometimes people ask me if I ride a camel to campus. They don't even realize how many cities we have in Saudi Arabia," said Al-Kadi, lounging in a cafe near campus, as his cell phone rang intermittently. "I want to use the education to go back and work for my father's company."
Elite Saudi families traditionally sent their children to schools in the United States, but their numbers fell sharply after Congress restricted visas following the discovery that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudi, said Rachel Bronson, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mohammed Al-Muzel, who grew up in the eastern Saudi city of Saihat and is joining Oregon State University's freshman class, is just the kind of student the scholarship program seeks to recruit.
His uncle studied in Portland in the 1980s, when Saudi-U.S. educational cooperation was at its peak. Almost three decades later, Al-Muzel will get his bachelor's degree in business an hour away, in Corvallis, Ore. Officials from both countries say multigenerational ties make it easier for them to navigate diplomatic conflicts, since leaders share a common educational background.
But some officials say efforts to fast-track educational diplomacy with Saudi Arabia could use additional scrutiny. Clark Kent Ervin, a former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, says the U.S. government has yet to ensure proper safeguards are in place to do effective background checks on all applicants.
Yet for Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education in New York, the new bilateral agreement is a "tremendously positive" step toward person-to-person diplomacy.
"These 15,000 students will really jump-start education and that will be a great addition to the Kingdom," said Goodman. "At its base, it's about mutual understanding."
Saudi schoolbooks still in dispute five years after 9/11
8 September 2006
RIYADH - The September 11 attacks in which 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers came from Saudi Arabia triggered a torrent of US accusations that the Muslim kingdoms education system was fostering Islamic extremism.
Five years on the debate continues. Saudi educators argue that the problem lies in misinterpretation of religious texts or their exploitation to justify intolerance.
The problem is not with the texts of religious curricula, which are largely based on the Koran and the Sunna (Prophet Mohammeds doings and sayings), said Hamad Al Majed, an education professor at Imam Mohammed bin Saud University.
But some religious texts are interpreted by extremists to back up their thinking, while other texts fuel extremism when taken out of context, said Majed, who has taken part in dialogues with Americans on religious freedom.
One example is a verse urging Muslim faithful to fight the infidels around you, and be tough with them.
The verse referred to a situation in which the prophet was under attack by enemies and amounted to a call for self-defense, not to go on the offensive, the professor told AFP.
Saudi officials, who started reviewing schoolbooks even before the 2001 attacks in the United States, should look at this matter without sensitivity and remove whatever could be misinterpreted from curricula, he said.
Changes have been introduced and continue to be made. Even the dose of religious studies fed to students is a subject of debate, he added.
Khaled Al Awwad, a member of the appointed Shura (consultative) Council and former education ministry undersecretary, said that since September 11, curricula have been reviewed by specialized committees which dropped some of the material that could be misunderstood or exploited to promote extremism.
Saudi curricula in general do not encourage intolerance of other faiths or extremism, he insisted.
Other factors are more liable to fuel extremism, such as the injustice inflicted on some Muslim peoples and US support for Israel, which creates hatred toward the United States, Awwad argued.
According to Aziza Al Mana, a US-educated professor of education at King Saud University, the flaw can be traced to the insertion of personal views of the authors in religious schoolbooks.
After a verse (from the Koran holy book) or a text from the Hadeeth (words of the prophet), the author adds his personal, fanatical views, she said.
Mana, who sits on a committee preparing the sixth round of a national dialogue on developing the Saudi education system, said it needed to be revamped to introduce more relevant sciences, change teaching methods and foster independent thinking.
If we can create a student who thinks freely, he will not be unduly influenced by personal opinions featuring in some books ... Our students now dont have a critical mind, Mana said.
Officials are also trying to curb the extremism of some teachers, she said.
Saudi schoolbooks have been accused of promoting intolerance of not just non-Muslims, but also of Islamic sects other than the purist Sunni Salafi school from which the Wahhabi doctrine dominant in Saudi Arabia is derived.
Books taught in schools and at universities are written by Salafis, some of whom put in their own explanations to incite (students) against any trend that differs from Salafi thought, Mana said.
Neither the Koran nor the Sunna say anything about sects, since the splits (between Muslims) occurred in the second generation. So anything said about sects (in books) is an interpretation by scholars, she added.
Saudi Arabia has a large minority of Shias and smaller communities of Ismailis, an offshoot of Shiism, and Sufis.
The beliefs of non-Sunni Muslims should be presented (in schoolbooks) in an academic way, as facts, not from a critical perspective, Majed said.
Hatoon Al Fassi, a historian and womens rights activist, said it was only three years ago when Al Qaeda militants struck at home that Saudis began to talk in public about other (non-Salafi) sects, whose existence was hitherto totally ignored.
The debate was sparked by triple suicide bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh in May 2003 that ushered in a wave of attacks in the oil-rich kingdom.
This was our own September 11. Before that, no one would believe that there is extremism or even that Saudis carried out the September 11 attacks. Saudis were in a state of denial, Fassi said.