This report examines Saudi Arabia’s current dual approach to reforming the education system. On the one hand, Riyadh is working to weed out extremist narratives directly by encouraging the religious establishment to adopt and promote a moderate interpretation of Islamic rhetoric. On the other hand, the government is working to introduce modern content to the curricula, such as science, philosophy, music, and Chinese language that will help the Kingdom to build a modern economy led by the private sector.
Under Vision 2030, reform of the education system was presented as the means of implementing economic reforms; this deliberate path has had a measure of success, especially when combined with targeted purges of radical teachers who refused to implement the changes.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) approach to reforming education differs from those of his predecessors, in that their approaches focused entirely on the educational apparatus. MBS’s focus has shown that he is prepared to work with institutions beyond the education apparatus, such as religious institutions. Addressing the wider issue of religious institutions and the role they have played in education and society makes MBS’s novel approach more likely to succeed than past efforts.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies