Innovative learning techniques in focus

An international conference on higher education, featuring a range of collaborative and networking opportunities, opens its gates for visitors today.
The four-day event, entitled ‘International Exhibition & Conference on Higher Education 2014’ (IECHE) and focusing on the theme of innovations in higher education,is being organized under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Higher Education Minister Khaled M. Al-Anqari will deliver the welcome address at the conference.
The highlights of the conference include keynote addresses, case studies, cafe sessions, theory presentations, practical debate and above all some 75 educational workshops presented by leading experts from Saudi Arabia and abroad.
The event will be, in fact, a great opportunity to listen to — and interact with — some of the leading thinkers, visionaries and practitioners in workplace learning today.
During the four days of IECHE, the workshops will discuss subjects related to higher education and its advancement.
The workshops, symposium and lectures will provide the participants, as well as attendees, with new perspectives, innovation, and new approaches in the process of teaching and learning.
This is in addition to the university management, which will be discussed in order to follow the best practice on policy and strategy development for promoting the university role.
The question of quality enhancement in higher education will also be touched upon at the conference, while speakers will also examine how the planners and the decision makers can balance academic traditions with the new rhetoric of quality.
Another important issue to be discussed and debated will be the concept of globalization of higher education and its implications, which will be a more relevant topic in the case of Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the Kingdom is going through an educational revival unprecedented in its history. The landmark development taking place in the field of education in Saudi Arabia will see a sharp growth in facilities for higher education along with a qualitative improvement in education.
This is part of a construction boom comprising seven mega cities and several new portals of learning for male and female students.
King Abdullah announced a number of other education projects during the last four years.
The goal is to create world-class higher education infrastructure across the country and to boost higher education and research capacities in the process.
King Abdullah also laid the foundation stone for the second phase of the higher education project, under which several colleges worth some $21.7 billion are being founded in various regions of the Kingdom.
As Minister Al-Anqari has said: “This major step, backed by King Abdullah, will help to support higher education projects in the Kingdom which, in turn, will help to improve the teaching, learning and research environment.”
A total of 18 higher education cities and academies will be built or are currently being built separately for male and female students in regions including Jizan, Baha, Najran (near the northern borders), Tabuk, Jouf, Hail, Shaqra, Majmaah, Taibah, Qassim, Taif and Kharj.
In addition, the program includes the construction of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz City for Female Students at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, female hostels at King Saud University (Riyadh) and Umm Al-Qura University (Makkah).
There will also be efforts to maintain quality control and management of higher education institutions in the Kingdom.
The ministry will construct 167 new colleges for male students, 161 colleges for women, 11,000 housing units for academic and non-academic staff, and 100 hostels for students. All these facilities will cater to the needs of over 50,000 students at any given time. The new projects also include the building of 12 new university hospitals with a total capacity of 3,800 beds in regions across the Kingdom.
A new network will also be created among higher education institutions to facilitate the exchange of ideas among them.
The Kingdom has been investing heavily in the education and training sectors over the past few years.
This year’s national budget provides for a substantial allocation in education spending. Saudi Arabia has approved the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan.
A substantial part of the plan’s budget is earmarked for human resources development, with priority given to creating a knowledge-based society.
The national plan also envisages boosting the intake of universities.
An important element of the plan is to expand and diversify the post-graduate program, with a major emphasis on innovation in science and technology.
Other initiatives announced a few months ago include the establishment of 10 research centers, 15 technological innovation centers in association with King Abdullah City for Science and Technology (KACST), and at least eight technology incubators at KACST and other universities.
The government will also continue to promote collaboration between universities and international companies to enable Saudi students to pursue higher education abroad.

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