The Educational system in Saudi Arabia comprises of three separate and distinct administrative systems which are segregated by sex. The system consists of ‘general education for boys, traditional Islamic education for boys’ only and general education for girls. The responsibility of education for boys lies with the Ministry of Education which was established in 1952, and education for girls is looked after the General Presidency for Girls’ Education. However, the curriculum for both sexes is the same which includes annual examinations. Saudi boys receive religious education to become members of the religious clergy (Ulema).
The Religious Secondary Schools come under the administration of Imam Muhammad Bin Saudi Islamic University and the Islamic University of Medina. These schools are equivalent to the secular system of education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After the Second World War, the system of Western or Secular education was also established that was quite different from the long-established and conventional system of Islamic Education. Despite this a major part of the contemporary is still dedicated to religion, specifically memorizing the Quran, explanation and ‘Tafsir’ that is a complete understanding of the Quran.
Religious studies are compulsory for every student which is taught along with other subjects right up to the university level. There are two Islamic Universities that concentrate specifically on religious theology. Education is a top priority for the Saudi government, and it allocates 3.6 percent of the national budget for education. Education for Saudi boys and girls starts with primary education which takes about 6 years. Children aged 6 are admitted for primary education and they complete this phase of education by the age of 12. The curriculum that is taught consists of: art education, history, geography, home economics for girls, mathematics and physical education for boys.
Upon completing their primary education, students are given a “General Elementary School Certificate”. Intermediate School education is for a period of 3 years and students are usually between the ages of 12 to 15 years. This phase takes three years to complete and students are between 15 to 18 years of age. In the first year the curriculum for all students is the same, but in the final two years, the curriculum is divided between scientific and literary subjects. Students obtaining 60% or more marks have the option of choosing between scientific and literary subjects, but students who score less than 60% do not have the option of taking a scientific subject and must complete their studies in literary subjects only.