Saudi Arabia recruits Indiana University experts to help overhaul education system

  • Sept. 15, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- With help from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University’s School of Education, Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve its public education system.

Anticipating global change, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to transform its society to one that more fully uses a knowledge-based economy. In 2013, the government established the Public Education Evaluation Commission, a public organization with an independent corporate status, to be responsible for the evaluation of the Saudi education system, including private and public schools.

To help the Saudi Ministry of Education identify and manage necessary changes, the commission developed an international team of education experts from Finland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Poland, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Indiana University experts, to work on different projects.

CEEP’s work with the commission focuses on designing and conducting a variety of evaluation projects while also helping Saudi staff develop their own capacity to manage future evaluation activities.

“Education in general -- and public education in particular -- is the cornerstone of the renaissance for national progress,” said Naif al-Romi, governor of the Public Education Evaluation Commission. “It is the front face of civilization that reflects the extent of progress and the pursuit of economic transformation through a knowledge-based economy. It is also one of the most important foundations of the national development strategy.”

Al-Romi also said that beyond improving the education system to develop a young Saudi workforce, the Public Education Evaluation Commission “will be playing an important role in foiling extremist ideology, through highlighting moderate thoughts. We will work to keep education away from that ideology.”

CEEP has already completed an initial project with the commission. Launched in summer 2014, CEEP’s first joint effort, the Directorates of Education Evaluation Project, collected data that describe school district performance and how educational practices differ across districts. Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 regions and further into 45 public school districts of varying size. Over the course of a month, eight five-person teams conducted interviews and school observations in all 45 districts.

CEEP’s work focused on how district challenges like communication, funding and local leadership affect the implementation of Ministry of Education tasks. Working closely and collaboratively with the Public Education Evaluation Commission, researchers from CEEP developed a culturally relevant methodological design plan and data collection tools, helped to recruit the team of international experts, and organized data collection procedures. CEEP staff also led data analyses and report development.

Marcey A. Moss, CEEP senior research associate, and James A. Salzman, executive director of the Stevens Literacy Center at the Ohio University Patton College of Education, served as co-project managers. Working closely with Saudi commission staff, Moss and Salzman spent several weeks in Saudi Arabia throughout the summer and fall of 2014 developing project questions, designing data collection tools and leading day-to-day project work.

Though the Directorates of Education Evaluation Project was finalized in February 2015, CEEP will continue to work with the Public Education Evaluation Commission to develop culturally appropriate evaluation standards to guide future Saudi evaluation activities. The commission also expects to produce additional tools from their collaboration with CEEP, including policy briefs and comprehensive profiles of the education directorates.

"Developing an evaluation culture within the Saudi education system is our goal; so, principals, teachers and educational supervisors will conduct self-evaluation projects objectively and professionally," said Saleh al-Shumrani, the vice governor of the Public Education Evaluation Commission.

John H. Hitchcock, CEEP director and Indiana University associate professor of instructional systems technology, handles the overall portfolio of CEEP projects. Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy is one of the country's leading nonpartisan program evaluation and education policy research centers. CEEP promotes and supports rigorous evaluation and research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations and agencies.

CEEP’s experience includes numerous external evaluations of programs funded by National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences, as well as numerous contracts with state departments of education, foundations, school districts, and national and international nonprofit organizations.

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