[Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt] – The following statement was issued today by Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal in response to an editorial by Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, published in The Washington Post on May 21, 2006:
The Saudi government has worked diligently during the last five years to overhaul its education system, which includes textbooks, teacher training, and the introduction of new teaching methods. To ensure optimal results, the planning, implementation and assessment of these changes are being conducted with assistance from consulting firms and national governmental and non-governmental educational institutes. All of this has been done in the public setting, with debate and open discourse taking place in National Dialogues, the Kingdom’s Consultative Council, and throughout the Ministry of Information. Freedom House neglects to mention these facts.
Overhauling an educational system is a massive undertaking. There are hundreds of books that are being revised to comply with the new requirements, and the process remains ongoing. The report submitted by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to Congress earlier this year on textbook revision is by no means a final report, and was never presented as such. Again, Freedom House does not mention this fact.
Moreover, the materials used in the Saudi education system are in the public domain, and are provided to students free of charge. These texts can be obtained at schools and other institutions throughout Saudi Arabia, and do need not be “smuggled” or “slipped out” of the Kingdom. As with previous reports, Freedom House continues to exhibit a disregard for presenting an accurate picture of the reality that exists in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi position on education reform has been clearly articulated by the Kingdom’s political and religious leaders. The objective of the educational system is to fight intolerance and to prepare Saudi youth with the skills and knowledge to compete in the global economy.