Saudi Arabia 'needs a million new school places by 2020'

Research by PwC also says that the private sector is expected to supply 150,000 places over same period

Saudi Arabia is predicted to need over a million new school places by 2020 in grades 1-12, of which 150,000 are expected to come from the private sector, according to a new report.

Research by PwC Middle East’s Education practice showed that the number of private schools in the Gulf kingdom has only been growing at 3 percent per annum, with the strongest growth being seen at the primary level, where enrollment in public schools has declined.

It added that despite further growth expected in the private sector, market share for private schools is unlikely to grow from around 11 percent to the aspirational 25 percent unless significant changes are seen to encourage growth and investment.

Sally Jeffery, PwC partner, Middle East Education & Skills, said: “By 2020, Saudi Arabia is predicted to need over a million new school places for grades 1-12 and 125,000 seats in post-secondary.

"With an already high university enrolment rate, predominantly at public institutions, the kingdom is facing budgetary pressure and a shortage of good alternatives to public universities.

"In the coming years, it will be crucial for the government to help deliver more private sector education provision.”

The report also indicates that tightening restrictions on international visa and scholarship qualifications may cause a proportion of the estimated 190,000 Saudi students that study abroad each year to look for university places at home. 

PwC said finding places will be harder with added pressure on funding public provision in the kingdom meaning additional demand for private institutions, which will consequently need to enhance their capacity and offerings.

PwC added that Saudi Arabia faces tough policy choices in higher education with around 125,000 additional seats required in post-secondary education by 2020.

"Questions arise around how to encourage the private sector to increase capacity, and what alternatives can be offered which are attractive to young people leaving school and seeking success in a knowledge-based economy," the report noted, adding: "In the coming years, it will be crucial for the government to further enable the private sector to ensure adequate provision."

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