The ultra-modern metropolis NEOM, which will be erected in Saudi Arabia, promises to give the world a real technological miracle and a scientific breakthrough. This implies a high level of intellectual development and education for most of the Neomeans. Judging by the plans of the organizers of this project, NEOM will deliberately move away from that of a consumer society towards one which focuses on the spiritual and intellectual development of the individual, the formation of proper life values and a greater respect for the environment.
In the desert, people really understanding how important natural resources and their economical uses are. Despite all the luxury and splendor of the Arab world, in the NEOM metropolis, people will learn to live in harmony with nature.
It is currently difficult to judge the exact form in which the education system will be built. It can be unambiguously argued that it will be super modern, high-tech, and highly individualized. Most likely, the practice of distance learning and using interactive technologies will be widespread.
Pupils and students will be able to gain knowledge while at home, completing assignments in various chatbots and educational programs. At the same time, a personalized trajectory of development will be constructed for each individual student, which will consider the unique abilities and interests of each child, adolescent, or young man or woman.
In order to at least roughly understand the peculiarities of the Neomean education system, we will consider how things are in Saudi Arabia at the moment. The NEOM project will most likely take advantage of the world’s best practices, but we will talk about this a little later.
Education system in Saudi Arabia
Despite the fact that the Saudi society was closed to foreigners for a long time, the inhabitants of this country themselves willingly visited other states, among them were those who sought to obtain a quality education. For those who wish to pursue an education in Saudia Arabia, local government educational institutions, from elementary school to college, are available to every citizen. In this country, 8.8% of the gross domestic product is spent on the education system.
For comparison, the global average for these investments is 4.6%, which is about two times lower. The Saudis have long respected the opportunity to gain knowledge and the NEOM project will only improve this process, taking it to an even higher level.
In 2019, the country’s leadership emphasized that the study of Islam remains a priority, but the modern education system of Saudi Arabia is also aimed at high-quality training of specialists in the field of science and art. In the future, this trend will only intensify.
Let us examine the structure of the Saudis’ education in more detail. The state offers its assistance in raising children from the age of three. For these purposes, there is a developed network of kindergartens where children can attend until the age of 5. Children begin elementary school at the age of 6. A primary education certificate is issued in the sixth grade. After this comes the period of secondary education, which lasts three years. Once they have graduated from the school of secondary education, students have the option to further continue their education at a college or university.
Secondary technical education is also designed for three years and is implemented in the areas of trade, agriculture, or industry. Higher education institutions, as a rule, train specialists for four years in the humanities or social sciences, and up to six years in the field of medicine, pharmaceuticals, or engineering.
The founding of King Saud University in the middle of the last century was a huge achievement in the higher education system of Saudi Arabia. This educational institution became the first university in the entire Gulf region. Then, one by one, another 24 state universities appeared.
For the time being, residents of NEOM will be able to receive a higher education in one of these already established institutions; however, in the future, local universities will also be built, which will train specialists who are most suitable for Neomean society.
Similar to modern Saudi Arabia, higher education institutions in NEOM will be composed of colleges and departments that will be able to train students of bachelor, masters and PhD programs in a variety of specialties — including natural sciences, humanities and engineering.
Already, some of the country’s universities provide distance learning services, which will become more substantial as the year 2030 approaches and when the NEOM project must enter the period of maximum prosperity.
Despite the relatively high living standards of the Saudis, the government is making additional efforts to train highly qualified specialists. Since 2005, a scholarship program has been implemented for young Saudis who have decided to study at a Western universities.
This program involves the allocation of funds to study and live in another country for up to four years. In just a few years since the launch of the scholarships program, more than 5,000 students from Saudi Arabia have been able to go abroad to study at the expense of their state.
The main destinations have been the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. As a rule, the most prestigious universities are chosen, occupying high lines of international rankings.
King Saud University
As we mentioned earlier, the higher education institution, King Saud University, is of great importance for Saudi Arabia and the entire Persian Gulf. It is not surprising that it is this example of scientific and pedagogical potential that will form the basis of the Neomean education system. Let’s get to know this university in more detail. The decision to create the university was made by King Saud ibn Abdulaziz in the 1950s.
Initially, this institution was called the University of Riyadh, becoming the first university in Saudi Arabia. It got its current name in 1982 in honor of its creator. Almost 40,000 students study there annually, of which about 7% are foreigners. Despite Sharia law, local girls also have the right to study, and women teachers work here.
The main languages of instruction are Arabic and English, which are adjusted depending on the chosen specialty. Medical programs are especially popular in Arab universities.
The establishment of King Saud University was gradual. Beginning in 1957, the first students began their studies at the art college. More recently, the range of disciplines has expanded to include various sciences, business, and pharmaceuticals. In 1965, an agricultural college appeared, and engineering and pedagogical directions were introduced.
In 1961, the first local girls began their studies in arts and government. Then came the College of Medicine, which began accepting its first students in 1969. In addition to colleges, branches of this university also began to appear, opening up even more opportunities for training future specialists.
In addition to educational institutions, the Central Library of King Salman was established, which covers an area of 51.5 thousand square meters, with numerous collections of books, magazines, newspapers and dissertations. Together with the university, it has become a real center of knowledge for the entire Arabian Peninsula.
This powerful potential will certainly be used in the creation of the NEOM project, but the Saudis will not be limited to these resources alone. Let’s talk about modern education systems that will form the basis of the future metropolis.
Innovation in Education
The modern world is developing rapidly. Universal digitalization is leading to the emergence of new technologies that are flooding science, technology, and education. Increasingly, interactive teaching methods are being used, which allows to increase interest among students, helping them to better assimilate the material. The role of the teacher is being gradually reduced to service functions. In the NEOM project, which promises a huge number of robots, it is possible that they will become active participants in the educational process.
Neural networks that will help automate many processes will also be actively introduced, reducing the human factor to a minimum. Children will be able to take distance learning classes while at home or traveling around the country.
Considering the colossal size of the NEOM metropolis and Saudi Arabia as a whole, this approach will help to provide quality education for residents of remote regions and even citizens of other countries who are interested in such proposals.
Practical training will become the most important form of organizing the Neomean educational process. It provides an opportunity to gain experience and competencies necessary for further professional activity.
Students and schoolchildren from the NEOM metropolis will be able to consolidate the knowledge gained in the classroom in modern laboratories, as well as through interactive virtual reality technologies. Thanks to high-tech equipment, schools and universities of the future will become a real dream for active youth.
There are already examples of such innovative activities which are attracting attention from the international community. One of the main trends is associated with the transition from passive to active learning, in which the student himself or herself becomes the main actor.
The democratic foundations of a civilized society imply openness and friendliness of the education system. There is an opportunity to study at any convenient time, as well as the choice of studying the most interesting disciplines. The pedagogical process is rapidly making the switch to computer monitors and smartphone screens.
And with the advent of augmented reality technologies, it allows you to dive deeper into the subject of study. Now you are able to see in real time the most complex physical or chemical processes, witness the Big Bang, the formation of the solar system, the fission of atoms and many other wonders of the universe. And this is no longer the future, but a reality that has already been achieved thanks to the efforts of the greatest minds of humanity.
Another trend that will develop is gamification or the ability to interact with subjects that will lead to the actual transformation of learning into a game process.
For example, historical battles can be studied in the form of turn-based strategies, where real commanders-in-chief will become heroes, and the warring armies will go through all the stages of past strategies.
Virtual laboratories will help carry out the most daring chemical experiments — for example, studying the properties of substances and the habits of predatory animals — without the least threat and harm to students. Certainly, education at NEOM will be exciting and fun.
Literally in the next decade, a megapolis will appear on the world map, which should embody all the wildest expectations of science fiction writers. We will most likely see all this wonders to have effect on Neomean science, medicine and, of course, education. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world will come to NEOM, and many of them will want to connect their lives with this super-city.
Families who may consider moving here, can certainly expect that their children will receive a high-quality education.