Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Graduating from high school is considered a great achievement not only in Saudi Arabia but also across the world. It marks a big change in an individual’s behavior, as he started pondering over ways to become a productive part of the work force and to contribute to his or her respective society.
Saudis cherish the day their sons or daughters graduate from high schools. However, things are beginning to change now. Due to fast-changing socioeconomic scenarios, sometimes high school graduates are being seen as burden in the family no matter what their plans might be — either continue their higher studies or to become part of the work force.
Today, high school celebrations are usually followed by agony and stress on the youth and their families. We should not forget that university education in the Kingdom is free and every student receives a monthly stipend.
University students getting stipends in a free education system is something only seen in the Arab Gulf States. It is a good and generous gesture from their governments. Saudi Arabia has the highest university enrolment per capita among its high school graduates. There are many universities in the Kingdom but they can’t absorb all the graduates and the job market for high school graduates who are not willing to continue their higher education have both very limited and low-paying jobs available.
Saudi population now stands at about 30 million people with one-third of the total population are non-Saudis and the majority of the population are less than 20 years old. This means that not all high school graduates will be able to attend any university because of a lack of available spaces but many are asking about the choices they have in order for them to be part of the work force if they have no university degree. And this takes us to a totally different approach regarding the future of many young Saudis.
We should keep in mind that every country needs skilled workers to do different kinds of jobs.
It is like airplanes. They are designed by Ph.D. holders, flown by bachelor degree holders and maintained by high school trained personnel. A society doesn’t need all its members to be all college graduates but there has to be proper training and proper schooling for high school graduates who can’t or don’t want to attend university education.
Saudi Arabia has built state-of-the-art vocational institutions but the curriculum is not enough to prepare many of the Saudi youngsters for the job market. One very important thing is that the jobs offered to many of the graduates from these vocational institutions don’t have decent pay to offer. And this calls for introducing a minimum wage for graduates from vocational or industrial institutions.
Saudi Arabia is undergoing various socioeconomic reforms. In order to achieve great results we should also try to change our attitudes toward some of the jobs young Saudis shy away from such as electricians, plumbers, refrigerator technicians, carpenters and many other similar jobs. These jobs are in high demand and in constant need. These skills don’t require university education. These jobs only require respect from the society and if skills are used in the right way, they can be very good source of high income.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Dilemma of High School Grads reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.