Saudi Arabia u-turns on closing private schools amid backlash
The new rules will allow schools to operate in their existing premises if they follow all safety and security procedures and have a plan to renovate and develop the rented buildings. (File photo)
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Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education has reportedly scrapped plans to close down private schools operating in rented buildings.
The ministry issued new rules about nine months ago requiring private schools to move to buildings more suitable for education within two academic years.
This meant some 3,000 small and medium private schools across the kingdom faced closure including almost half of the private schools in Jeddah.
However, a source told local publication Saudi Gazette that the backlash had caused the ministry to reevaluate and come up with a new programme ‘Tadaruj’.
The new rules will allow schools to operate in their existing premises if they follow all safety and security procedures and have a plan to renovate and develop the rented buildings.
“The ministry’s Private Education Agency and Buildings Affairs Agency will cooperate with the company running the programme soon to ensure that the rented school buildings are licensed from the municipality and the Civil Defence,” the source was quoted as saying.
The ministry met with private school owners on Sunday to announce the programme, which has a three-step process to approve school buildings and a points system.
Investor are required to submit detailed information on the building and if it achieves 75 points or more it is eligible to be operated as a school.
If it receives less then the investor is told where the building needs to be improved, according to the publication.
It was unclear how the rule change would affect a $1.3bn investment plan announced by a group of education, real estate and finance firms last month.
The group was planning to establish 100 international schools and save 500 of the small and medium schools that were facing closure in 2019.
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