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Chapter 2. Improving school quality through better governance, leadership and support


This chapter looks at how Saudi Arabia manages its schools and supports them to improve. Historically, schools in Saudi Arabia have been overseen and supported by a large body of supervisors who use centrally produced rating tools to evaluate the effectiveness of schools. These procedures tend to focus on school compliance with regulations and do not always capture the extent to which schools help students learn. Supervisors themselves, who are often responsible for more schools than they can handle, are not always well positioned to help schools improve. These circumstances contribute to an environment in which the neediest schools are neither identified accurately nor supported adequately, which affects student learning across the country. To address these issues, Saudi Arabia is developing a modern and comprehensive school evaluation framework that relies on expert, external inspectors to evaluate schools. This chapter suggests that this framework become the country’s reference point for high-quality schooling and that supervisors adopt (and be trained in) a purely supportive role. While the school evaluation framework and supervisors will provide important guidance about school improvement, the most important actors in leading school improvement in Saudi Arabia are school leaders. Currently, however, school leaders are seen as administrators, not instructional leaders. They will need to be supported to become agents of change in order for Saudi Arabia to achieve its school reform goals.

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Main features of school accountability and improvement in Saudi Arabia

The school sector in Saudi Arabia is at a turning point. Achieving universal access to education for a large, geographically dispersed school-age population represents an important accomplishment. However, it has also severely stretched the capacity of educators and administrators to deliver and assure high-quality schooling. Principals are hired with little preparation to lead their schools, and structures that evaluate and support schooling increasingly struggle to meet the growing demands placed upon them.

The planned introduction of a new school evaluation framework provides an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to fundamentally review and revise how the school system is managed in order to improve the quality of schooling around the country. To this end, this chapter analyses and makes recommendations in three key areas of the education management system. The first area is school system governance. Currently, a multi-layered bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education, Directorates and Education Offices focuses strongly on overseeing schools and need to be reoriented to helping them improve. The second area is reforming school evaluation and quality assurance. While current plans are well aligned with good practice internationally, they need to be buttressed by a clear vision for the new Saudi Arabian school and core performance indicators. The third is school leadership. Principals and teacher leaders are central to school improvement but these functions are weakly developed and under-supported in Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia has a wide-ranging but unequal system, which creates implications for the allocation of school resources. A large number of principals have to be deployed across the country in order to operate small, remote schools. Similarly, a large number of administrative staff are needed to oversee the network at all levels of governance. These staffing needs create tremendous challenges related to capacity. There are often insufficient qualified persons to fill vacant posts, particularly in less attractive isolated areas, so selection requirements must be ignored in order to employ underprepared candidates. This applies not only to school principals, but also to supervisors who are responsible for helping them develop and improve their schools.

From the perspective of the central Ministry of Education (MoE), the size and fragmentation of the education system makes it very difficult to provide effective supports and assure quality. Currently, a large network of roughly 10 000 supervisors deployed across the country are responsible for evaluating schools and helping them improve. However, these supervisors are not always well prepared to assume their duties and cannot efficiently support all schools in the country, which results in the overall supervision system being more focused on bureaucratic compliance than school improvement.

School system governance

School system governance refers to the vision for schooling - why, where and how a country aspires to improve school outcomes - and how responsibilities for achieving this vision are allocated at different levels of government. Effective governance requires clear objectives to align the efforts of different actors and high-quality data to track and sustain progress.

How responsibilities for school improvement are allocated varies significantly across countries (OECD, 2016[1]). However, there is increasing evidence that, when combined with strong leadership capacity and clear accountability frameworks, decentralising decision-making to the school level, in particular decisions relating to pedagogy and the curriculum, is associated with better student outcomes (Burns, Filmer and Patrinos, 2011[2]).

MoE manages the education system through a system of Directorates and Education Offices

MoE oversees education in Saudi Arabia and is responsible for executing the aims of Vision 2030 and achieving the goals of the National Transformation Program (NTP), which measures Ministry-level progress towards achieving the goals of Vision 2030. MoE decentralises management responsibilities to 46 Directorates across the country and, depending upon the size of the Directorate, each Directorate might be further disaggregated into Education Offices, of which there are 240 in total. Each Directorate and Education Office is organised very similarly to the national MoE, with the same departments, sub-divisions and reporting hierarchies.

Although the management structure is decentralised, decision-making authority is very much centralised. MoE is responsible for almost all policy making in the country and its decisions are disseminated to lower levels of governance, which are expected to execute MoE’s directives. For example, school evaluation guidelines, teacher policies and learning expectations are all set at a national level and applied almost uniformly across the country.

Management reporting structures are top-down with little horizontal collaboration

Directorates and Education Offices have clear vertical leadership structures, which enables policy initiatives to flow consistently across the country. However, these top-down channels of communication also create challenges of co-ordination at the local level. For example, a teacher training department in an Education Office often reports directly to the training department in its corresponding Directorate, which then reports to the National Institute for Professional Educational Development (NIPED) via the general manager of the Directorate. Other departments and leadership from the Education Office or Directorate are often not included in this information exchange, even though their responsibilities - for example, for the delivery of the curriculum and assessments - cover areas central for teacher professional development. From the perspective of schools, this means that they do not interact with their Education Office through a single point of contact, but through different departments of the Education Office, such as supervisors, teacher allocation and student affairs. This structure creates several layers of bureaucracy, which reduces responsiveness, and isolates different departments within the same governing body from each other, which reduces co-ordination and increases the risk that efforts are duplicated.

Education system data is managed through the NOOR and FARES databases

Education data systems house and provide access to administrative data about students, teachers and schools. These systems are integral for facilitating oversight of an education system and tracking its performance. In Saudi Arabia, education data is managed primarily through NOOR. This database holds information related to demographics and performance at the student-, teacher-, school- and system-levels. An accompanying database, FARES, holds human resources data pertaining to the education system, such as salaries. Data in these two databases are accessed by all actors in the system, who use them for management and monitoring purposes. However, while these systems are comprehensive, there is little support provided to principals and teachers about how to use them for school improvement purposes.

School evaluation and quality

School evaluation refers to the ways in which education systems evaluate the quality of school practices and outcomes and ensure compliance with related rules and procedures. The OECD defines three major components to school evaluation:

  • External school evaluation or inspection, which is the structured review of the quality of school processes and outcomes as conducted by an external body in accordance with standards and procedures;

  • School self-evaluation, which is the process whereby school staff review the quality of their own processes and outcomes, usually in relation to external standards but with space for local adaptation;

  • School benchmarking, which is the comparison of schools according to different standardised measures of performance, such as national data on student learning outcomes (OECD, 2013[3]).

In Saudi Arabia, the Education Training and Evaluation Commission (ETEC), a national standards-setting, accreditation and assessment organisation, is presently creating a new school evaluation framework that will establish for the first time clear national standards for schooling and procedures for both school external and self-evaluation. To accompany the framework, ETEC is also examining new ways to benchmark school performance (see the section titled “Main policy initiatives underway”).

External evaluation is conducted primarily through a system of supervisors

The new school evaluation framework marks a significant departure from established practices of school quality assurance in Saudi Arabia. Currently, the main mechanism for evaluating the quality of school processes and outcomes in Saudi Arabia is the system of “supervision”. This system comprises two main bodies of supervisors, teacher supervisors and principal supervisors. They are managed at the Directorate or Education Office level but follow a set of supervision standards that are defined nationally by the Directorate General for Educational Supervision in the MoE. There are approximately 10 000 supervisors in service (most were teachers or principals), but, because they hold the same civil service status as current teachers and principals, it is difficult to determine how they are allocated across the country.

Teacher supervisors are responsible for evaluating teachers with the help of school principals (see Chapter 3). Principal supervisors are responsible for evaluating the principal him/herself. While neither supervisor is responsible for evaluating schools as a unit (only individual staff within schools), the data they collect as part of their activities form the basis for school quality reviews by Directorates and Education Offices. Both supervisors have an explicit support role to the school staff they supervise. Key aspects of this system are highlighted below.

Supervision is conducted according to strict central guidelines with standardised tools, but there are few means to help ensure that supervisors’ judgement is consistent

In addition to the supervision standards, the Directorate General for Educational Supervision also creates supervisory grids that must be completed by supervisors during their visits to schools. These grids are used by supervisors across the country and there is very limited scope for them to be adapted to regional or local needs. Teacher supervisor grids collect data about student achievement and teacher practices, while principal supervisor grids collect information about school management processes. To gather this information, supervisors test students directly, observe classrooms, look at documents and observe school functions. While supervisor tools and guidelines are created centrally, Directorates and Education Offices do not appear to have processes to help maintain consistency across supervisor judgements. Supervisors themselves receive little to no preparation for their role, beyond the various templates and guidelines that they use and follow.

Supervisor ratings do not accurately reflect the teaching and learning that is occurring within schools

Following their school visits, supervisors enter the data they collect into NOOR. Education Offices and Directorates create a report for each school and then rank the schools according to the data to identify schools that require support. Schools are classified at one of three levels, roughly equivalent to effective, average and needs improvement.

Teachers and principals are not confident that their schools’ ratings accurately reflect the work that they are doing. When asked by the OECD how they know if their school is a “good school,” they did not mention their supervisors’ ratings. Instead, they told the review team that they rely on word of mouth and social media. If, for example, parents say online that a specific school is good, that opinion is considered potentially more valid than the school’s rating by supervisors or ranking vis-à-vis other schools.

Part of the reason that school staff do not trust supervisor ratings is that supervisors only evaluate a limited range of teacher and principal activities. The centrally produced grids are inflexible, compliance driven and do not always focus on student learning. For example, the teacher supervisor grid asks supervisors to rate how much teachers progress through the curriculum (see Chapter 3), while the principal supervisor grid asks supervisors to rate how well school resources, such as chalkboards, are used. Another reason is that supervisors, while usually former teachers, do not have professional experience or formal training in evaluating the performance of school staff.

Interventions following external evaluation do not follow a systematic approach

Even though there are strict guidelines that govern how supervision is carried out, there are far fewer regulations around what happens after supervision is complete and schools receive their supervision reports. For example, Directorates are not required to review schools’ supervision reports to determine if their schools face common challenges. Similarly, Directorates are not required to develop a set of solutions in response to common issues.

Some Directorates have implemented ad hoc initiatives following receipt of their supervision reports, such as facilitating peer learning between schools that receive high ratings and those that receive low ratings. Reacting in this manner, however, was borne out of individual Directorate motivation and not in response to central directives to engage with supervision results.

Efforts have been made to introduce alternative evaluation models

There is general awareness of the limitations of the current supervision system. Concerns that schools lack strong reference points and support for quality improvement has led some Directorates to encourage its best performing schools to seek international accreditation. The government has also piloted a new national school model through Tatweer for Education (Tatweer), an executive arm of MoE that is responsible for executing Ministry projects and programmes. The Tatweer school model includes a set of modern school performance standards that focus centrally on student learning and emphasise the importance of building school capacity for instructional leadership. Tatweer has trained supervisors in Directorates and Education Offices in how to evaluate schools against the Tatweer quality framework.

Roughly one thousand schools across the country have adopted Tatweer’s school model and the original intention was to reach all schools (Meemar, 2014[4]). However, it appears that full expansion is no longer a priority and it is unclear whether the project will continue once the new school evaluation framework is rolled out. Interviews conducted by the OECD review team suggest that schools have found the Tatweer model to be a useful framework that was more improvement focused and less compliance-based than traditional school supervision. However, the OECD review team was told that schools that have adopted the Tatweer model continue to be subject to regular supervisions, in addition to the Tatweer specific evaluations, which represents an administrative burden and can result in contradictory advice.

Self-evaluation is not systematically performed except in Tatweer schools

Historically, schools in Saudi Arabia have not been required to undertake self-evaluation and MoE has not produced guidelines on school self-evaluation. However, schools that have adopted the Tatweer school model do perform self-evaluation and this is a central pillar of the Tatweer quality framework and external review procedures.

In these schools, the principal is expected to form a committee that is responsible for overseeing school quality and progress towards achieving learning outcomes. The principal and committee must complete a self-assessment study based on five sources of evidence: students’ assessments, quality feedback from the Directorate and surveys for parents, students and teachers. Based upon the results of the self-assessment study, the principal and committee create a school development plan with targets for improvement and propose initiatives to address the issues identified.

National benchmarking is difficult to perform because neither national assessments nor national examinations are administered in every school

One of Saudi Arabia’s most important national assessments of student learning is the National Assessment Programme (NAP) (see Main policy initiatives underway). This assessment was developed by ETEC and uses sophisticated methodology to produce nation wide results of student achievement in relation to national standards in several domains on a cyclical basis. Nevertheless, it is administered on a sample basis and does not produce school-level data.

The General Aptitude Test (GAT) and Scholastic Achievement Admission Test (SAAT) are examinations that students take in order to enter tertiary education institutions. Based upon students’ results on these exams, school results are produced and published on the ETEC/QIYAS website. While the GAT and SAAT are taken by all students who wish to enter university, their use in monitoring school achievement is limited. These tests only measure the performance of Grade 12 students and not every Grade 12 student takes these tests. Furthermore, for reliability and privacy reasons, results are published only for schools that have had at least 10 students take the tests in three consecutive years. There is no guarantee, however, that the students who voluntarily take the tests are representative of their schools.

Without nationally comparable data at the school level, schools are unable to compare themselves against relevant benchmarks and understand where their relative strengths and weaknesses lie. External evaluation also lacks objective metrics to inform subjective measures of performance.

Directorates use test data to compare schools, but the tests are not clearly linked to national standards

At the Directorate level, supervisors directly administer two types of tests to students. The first are tests that are used to inform teacher appraisal and the second are stage assessments that are meant to monitor student performance over time. The results of these tests contribute to the development of intra-Directorate school rankings.

Both tests use items that are developed within each Directorate, but these items are not clearly linked to national standards. This makes it difficult to interpret a school’s results. Further, although the items used to test different schools within the same Directorate might have some consistency, the administration of the test is not standardised and therefore the results are not reliable and comparisons are not trustworthy.

School leadership

International evidence highlights the importance of skilled and motivated school leadership (Greany, 2018[5]; Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe, 2008[6]). While principals are clearly important in this endeavour, they also rely on wider leadership teams to create and implement their vision for a successful school. Importantly, they also need to be empowered to make the changes necessary to improve their schools and receive continuous development to support their efforts.

Saudi Arabia has no principal standards and the limited selection criteria for principals are not always employed

In Saudi Arabia, there are currently no standards that govern the expectations of the principal profession. Without principal standards, Saudi Arabia also lacks criteria to use when selecting principals (Almudarra, 2017[7]). Currently, the only requirement to become a principal is passing a national exam administered by ETEC/QIYAS. However, the review team was told that this requirement is not always enforced.

In Saudi Arabia, principals and teachers occupy the same civil service status and payscale. As a result, there is little motivation for talented potential leaders to become principals. The decision of who will become principal is often reached in consensus with other teachers at the school. This means that there is only one candidate for the position, which prevents rigorous selection criteria from being applied.

Principals in Saudi Arabia undergo little training

In the NTP, increasing the number of hours that principals spend on professional development is a primary goal. The baseline measure is five hours annually, indicating that Saudi Arabian principals receive hardly any training. The target is 20 hours by the year 2020. In comparison, across Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) participating countries in 2013, principals that took part to professional networking, mentoring or research spent on average 19.6 days on those activities in the past 12 months, while principals who participated in courses, conferences or observation visits spent on average 11.5 days on this activity the 12 past months to the survey (the same indicator was not produced for TALIS 2018) (OECD, 2013[8]).

Local training centres are responsible for providing professional development to all school staff, including teachers and principals. These centres, however, are overstretched and cannot deliver all the training that is requested of them, which partly explains the low amount of training the principals receive in Saudi Arabia.

Principals have limited responsibility for teacher appraisal and development

Principals in Saudi Arabian schools contribute to teacher appraisal activities. They decide if teachers have successfully completed their probationary periods and work with teacher supervisors to regularly appraise teachers. As part of this latter process, they test students directly in order to form an opinion as to what extent teachers are helping their students learn. However, formal teacher appraisal responsibilities rest with the teacher supervisors, especially as concerns teacher practice. Teacher supervisors are also responsible for supporting teachers and helping them improve. Based upon the results of their appraisal, teacher supervisors will recommend specific training needs and provide resources to help teachers develop.

This reliance on external actors to provide regular feedback to teachers is not consistent with international research evidence, which suggests that school-level actors, such as principals or lead teachers, are best positioned to conduct formative teacher appraisals. These persons can observe more closely the quality of teaching practice and also connect individual staff development needs with overall school goals for instructional improvement (OECD, 2013[3]).

Schools in Saudi Arabia have principals and deputy principals, but no other formal leadership roles

Many school systems have worked to distribute leadership roles and responsibilities within schools. One mechanism for this is to formalise the roles and responsibilities of deputy heads, heads of department and other “teacher leaders” (Spillane, 2005[9]). These roles help create a shared culture of leadership within schools by expecting school principals to consult staff on key decisions and holding staff accountable for their actions.

In Saudi Arabia, formal school leadership positions exist for principals and deputy principals, who together form a school management team. This team is responsible for overseeing student, teacher and school affairs. Presently, there are not formal leadership positions for classroom teachers. Schools do not have, for instance, official heads of department. The review team was told that some schools have informally given their most experienced teachers leadership responsibilities, but that this is not documented or reflected in MoE systems.

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Main policy initiatives underway

A new national school evaluation framework is under development

ETEC is developing a new framework for school evaluation that proposes to replace all current school evaluation models. The OECD was unable to review the final version of the new evaluation framework, but was able to study a summary of it. Underpinning the model is a set of school standards that cover four areas-school environment, learning outcomes, teaching and learning and school leadership. ETEC is also developing a range of evaluation tools to support the self and external evaluation of schools against these standards. These tools will be made available on a digital platform that will be developed in co-operation with the Ministry.

ETEC evaluators will be responsible for school external evaluation

The framework proposes to remove school evaluation responsibilities from supervisors and place them in the hands of a new, independent body of evaluators, which will be hired and trained by ETEC. ETEC is developing external evaluation guidelines to regulate this process. While not finalised, procedures and tools are expected to include classroom observation, principal interviews, student interviews, teacher questionnaires, parent questionnaires and student questionnaires. Each external evaluation visit is expected to take two or three days.

To calibrate their instruments and rating system, ETEC will first test their external evaluation processes on a representative sample of schools and all schools will be rated on a scale of one to four, with one representing the lowest rating. The OECD was told that the data produced by this test will act as a baseline against which future external and self-evaluation (see below for the section about “School self-evaluation”) results will be compared and calibrated. After the instruments and procedures have been finalised, ETEC will implement a staggered roll out of its external evaluation model. Around 700 to 1 000 schools will be selected every two years. Some of these schools will be selected through representative sampling to provide a national picture of schooling and ensure instruments are relevant across different school contexts, while the rest will be chosen only among schools who rated themselves a three or a four during self-evaluation. After the external evaluation is complete, evaluators will deliver an evaluation report to the school with detailed findings and recommendations about how to improve.

School self-evaluation will feature prominently in the new school evaluation framework

The new school evaluation framework will require that all schools undertake self-evaluation, though it is unclear what the frequency will be. Using self-evaluation guidelines that will be developed by ETEC, schools will rate themselves against the school quality standards and produce a final rating on a scale of one to four. Schools that rate themselves as either one or two will be given additional support by supervisors to develop and implement an improvement plan. Schools that rate themselves as three or four will be eligible to receive an external evaluation by ETEC evaluators and can also apply for accreditation.

The best schools in the country can apply for accreditation from ETEC

Based upon the results of self-evaluation or external evaluation, schools can voluntarily apply for accreditation from ETEC. There is also discussion about making accreditation obligatory for private schools, while it would be voluntary for public schools. It is currently unclear whether there will be other consequences for schools that become accredited, beyond the public stamp of excellence it confers. In many OECD countries, schools that show strong capacity for self-directed improvement and internal quality assurance are given more autonomy in how they organise teaching and learning.

An online portal will provide a dashboard interface to monitor indicators and tools to help schools improve

Accompanying the new school evaluation framework are plans to create a dashboard interface that houses school evaluation results. Schools will be able to use the dashboard to compare the results of their evaluation to those of national- and regional-averages, and also to groups of like schools (e.g., with similar demographic characteristics). Policy makers will be able to use it to monitor performance trends around the country.

ETEC also plans to create a portal that will contain diagnostic tools, evaluation rubrics and materials that will help schools self-evaluate and improve. An important development that is being considered is making available a centrally created but locally administered test of student learning outcomes that is intended contribute to school self-evaluation and help schools prepare themselves for external evaluation. ETEC is also considering having evaluators administer the same instrument to students as part of a school’s external evaluation.

ETEC is developing principal standards

ETEC is also in the process of developing Saudi Arabia’s first principal standards. This document will explain the professional expectations of principals, which will help determine how they are selected, evaluated and developed. At present, these standards are expected to be introduced after the new Teacher Standards and Professional Pathways (see Chapter 3 for a discussion about the consequences of this sequencing).

A new national training organisation will provide greater professional development to principals

The professional development of principals has historically received little attention in Saudi Arabia. Local training centres offer some growth opportunities to principals, but have limited capacity and focus most of their resources on teachers. However, the planned principal standards, and increased recognition of the importance of principals in general, is creating pressure to develop competencies related to school leadership.

NIPED was established in 2016 to expand and enhance the provision of education professional development, including to principals. NIPED currently has 30 staff and manages the operations of all local training centres through the Education Offices and Directorates where they reside. NIPED also creates its own training initiatives. One program that is currently being developed is a national principal training programme that all principals must complete in order to be certified in their positions. This training is being created in collaboration with the National Professional Qualification in Headship in Manchester, England, and the General Teaching Council of Scotland. A final key responsibility of NIPED is accrediting training programs created by third parties. NIPED is in the process of creating accreditation standards and, once complete, these standards will support the expansion of high-quality training throughout Saudi Arabia for all educators.

The National Assessment Programme is producing nationally representative student achievement data in several domains

ETEC has created an ambitious programme for the national assessment of student learning outcomes, called the National Assessment Programme (NAP). NAP is planned to be administered annually in Grades 4 and 8 in mathematics, science, reading and writing, though the subjects tested will rotate every year. A representative sample of students from each grade tested will be selected to take the test.

The objectives of NAP are to monitor performance and strengthen accountability. ETEC intends to generate separate reports for different audiences (e.g., one for teachers and principals and another for the general public), each containing information relevant to their intended audiences.

NAP builds on previous national assessment experiences. An earlier assessment was eliminated in 2015-16 after funding for the programme was unexpectedly stopped. Such inconsistent funding is one reason that NAP is sample-based and rotates subjects during each administration as this design requires fewer resources.

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School system governance


Vision 2030 and NTP have aligned education actors around key objectives

Vision 2030 is a powerful national campaign and has inspired action from all parts of the education system and the ambitious goals of NTP are well understood by education stakeholders. In Directorates, Education Offices and schools visited by the OECD, staff were united around the aims of these two documents and were well aware of their targets and timeframes. National initiatives, such as Khebrat (see Chapter 3), have also been developed with explicit references to the aims of Vision 2030 and goals of NTP. These two resources have clearly communicated the need to provide quality education to Saudi Arabian students and have helped align decision-making, responsibilities and resources behind a national vision.

There is an independent institution (ETEC) that defines school standards and procedures for school evaluation

ETEC was created to provide technical leadership related to the definition and measurement of education quality. The organisation’s independence, expertise and remit enable it to develop many instruments that are important for improving the quality of schooling. In addition to the new framework for school evaluation, this includes standards for teachers and principals and for student learning, as well different resources to evaluate quality and train professional evaluators in relation to these standards. While ETEC’s sub-bodies that are responsible for developing these resources do not appear to be collaborating as closely as they might, there are clear opportunities for strong alignment. For example, how the quality of teaching in schools is evaluated can reflect new expectations for teachers and principal standards can reinforce the changing expectations for schools with respect to planning, evaluation and instructional leadership.

The national data infrastructure allows for the capture and analysis of data on school quality and performance

NOOR and FARES are sophisticated and well-designed data systems that hold a wealth of information. All entities (students, teachers, schools) are identified with unique identification numbers. In the case of individual persons, their government identification numbers are used, which allows data to be merged for research purposes (e.g., analysing the relationship between educational and labour market outcomes). Technical capacity around data management at the central-level is generally high and the NOOR system can be adapted to meet new needs, such as incorporating data points from new national assessments.

MoE has research capacity through a body dedicated to studying policy

Under MoE’s Agency for Development and Planning, the Education Policy Research Centre has an explicit research and evaluation role. This organisation not only helps monitor performance, but also studies education policy initiatives and reviews international best practices. The staff within the Centre are qualified and can be utilised to review extant programming and forecast the effects of intended reforms.


Saudi Arabia’s overarching reform agenda has yet to be translated into a clear vision of quality schooling

A vision of good schooling provides a common reference towards which different actors in the system can align their efforts to improve the quality of schooling. It serves as a helpful complement to a school evaluation framework by illustrating the larger purpose that schools are working towards and giving coherence to different elements of quality. This purpose is usually framed in terms of student outcomes and how a good school supports students’ cognitive, emotional and social development (OECD, 2013[10]).

In Saudi Arabia, the powerful overarching education aims of Vision 2030 have not yet been translated into a clear definition of quality schooling. The NTP sets national student achievement goals, but this does not help schools understand how they should act to help achieve the goals or, more fundamentally, what the underlying purpose of schooling should be in the context of Vision 2030 and NTP. Without this vision of schooling, Directorates and Education Offices lack a reference around which to prioritise their school-level activities and interventions. As a result, each Directorate sets its own priorities and uses its own criteria to determine the essential elements of good schooling. This runs the risks of core national priorities receiving inadequate or inconsistent attention.

The need to reinforce basic competencies and achieve more equitable outcomes does not appear to be receiving sufficient attention

Helping all students achieve basic minimum standards, in particular in core subjects such as literacy and numeracy, is a primary function of all education systems. In addition to overall achievement, education systems around the world are also concerned with achieving equitable educational outcomes. This does not mean that all students perform at the same level, but that all students, regardless of background, benefit from a good standard of schooling and have an equal opportunity to achieve minimum standards (OECD, 2013[3]). Consequently, countries have clear policies, and often specific targets, to narrow gaps in student outcomes and ensure that populations or regions at risk receive adequate support.

In Saudi Arabia, international assessment results (TIMSS, PIRLS, PISA) as well as national assessment data indicate that many students are performing poorly in literacy and numeracy. There are significant performance differences between geographic regions and by gender, with boys performing well below girls. Given the critical nature of these challenges, one would expect a strong policy focus on both improving core competencies and reducing equity gaps. While the former is in the NTP and there are national policies in this area, the review team noted that not all Directorates’ and Education Offices’ priorities mirrored this focus on improving basic numeracy and literacy. This is partly because overall learning expectations are not yet clearly expressed through a central curriculum (see Chapter 4). It is also because Saudi Arabia lacks census-based national assessments that can help Directorates and Education Offices benchmark the performance of their individual schools against others from around the country.

Regarding equity, there is a significant lack of attention dedicated to reducing learning disparities at the national policy level. NTP includes goals about overall learning, as measured by TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA, but not goals around improving the equity of these outcomes. Furthermore, there are few interventions specifically aimed at providing greater resources, in particular experienced and qualified teachers, to needier areas of the country. Instead, the current Jadarat teacher placement scheme actually exacerbates the situation by allowing the most experienced teachers to choose to be placed in the least challenging environments, leaving inexperienced teachers to be placed in the most demanding environments (see Chapter 3).

MoE and ETEC are not sufficiently aligned around a core set of priorities and ways of working that can secure impact

Reform goals in Saudi Arabia are ambitious and complex. Success will depend on different bodies of the system working together in a co-ordinated manner to achieve national aims. However, educational bodies in Saudi Arabia are not always co-ordinated in their actions, even at a national level. Different bodies are sometimes working in siloed and contradictory ways with a lack of agreement around new policies. Schools are then unsure about the direction of new policy, while policy-makers have limited understanding of how and which new policies will actually be implemented in schools.

For example, formal links between MoE and ETEC exist at board level and ETEC has engaged in some consultations with key MoE stakeholders on developing the new school evaluation framework. However, awareness about ETEC’s plans remain low, both within MoE and more widely. None of the local and school actors interviewed as part of this review seemed aware of plans for a new school evaluation framework. As a result, there is risk that the new framework will not align with new projects proposed by MoE, or conflict with the supervisory work of the Directorates and Education Offices. This lack of coherence between different parts of the system could undermine reform efforts. In fact, one of the reasons that past school reforms, such as the Tatweer school model, were not more successful was the fact that the supervisory model was not adapted accordingly and actually impeded schools from fully embracing the reforms. This could happen again with respect to the new school evaluation framework if MoE and ETEC do not align their efforts and co-ordinate supervision around the new framework.

Directorates and Education Offices view their roles more as helping MoE administer schools and less as helping schools improve

The role of middle tier bodies, such as school districts and local authorities, is evolving in many school systems around the world. Increasingly, they have a reduced role in compliance and a strengthened role in building the capacity of schools and in sharing knowledge and expertise across local systems ( (Munby and Fullan, 2016[11]; Hargreaves et al., 2018[12])). In Victoria (Australia), Singapore, Poland and Wales the roles of local and regional oversight bodies have been redefined in this way (Mourshed, Chijioke and Barber, 2010[13]; OECD, 2018[14]). In these systems, district-level bodies usually take on a strengthened role in providing professional development opportunities and facilitating learning networks that connect schools to each other in order to facilitate peer learning.

Saudi Arabia’s middle tier bodies are the Directorates and Education Offices. Their core purpose, however, is less to support schools than to oversee and evaluate them. Schools are managed by several layers of bureaucratic governance, but do not receive concentrated assistance. This is caused by the configuration of Directorates and Education Offices, which are designed to report upwards to different parts the national Ministry, but are less well organised to disseminate support to schools. Supervisors, for instance, are evaluated based on how many evaluations they complete, but not how effectively they provide support to schools. Several initiatives have tried to orient these bodies to focus more on development, such as the Tatweer school model, but these initiatives have not been able to fundamentally change how Directorates and Education Offices are viewed and view themselves.

There is limited focus on evaluating the effectiveness of different interventions or on communicating effective practices around the system

Modern school systems must focus on evaluating all aspects of their work in order to identify which school-level practices are most effective and should be considered for expansion, and which are ineffective and should be discontinued (Burns and Köster, 2016[15]; Greany and Maxwell, 2017[16]). In this context, good school system governance plays a critical role by establishing feedback loops between schools and central administrators such that good practice in one school becomes good policy that affects all schools and vice-versa.

At present, Saudi Arabia lacks a strong focus on evaluating education programming and making strategic decisions about this programmes based upon the results. While research capacity exists within MoE, it is not systematically directed towards evaluating programming and building a national knowledge base. Instead, staff in these bodies are often directed by leadership to work on ad hoc projects or identifying international practices.

This means that there are heavily funded national programmes that are operating but their impact has never been evaluated. The Khebrat programme, for instance, has already returned two cohorts of teachers but it is unclear what effect the programme has had on teacher quality or student learning. On the other hand, good practices might occur at the local level but are not communicated systematically to a wider audience. For example, many Directorates and Education Offices are being encouraged to develop and implement new practices through innovation and incentive schemes created by the Ministry. Several initiatives have emerged from this scheme, such as one Directorate pairing successful schools with struggling schools in order to facilitate peer learning. These practices, however, are neither evaluated nor reported, and therefore their impact and potential wider applicability is unknown.

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School evaluation and quality


Supervisors based in local offices have established relationships that can be redirected to complement the new ETEC model

There is an existing system for evaluating and supporting teachers and principals through teacher and principal supervisors. Their responsibilities, and the standards against which they evaluate school leaders and teachers, are governed by a centrally produced set of standards that has been continuously updated and is currently on version six. The central nature of these standards means that supervisors across the country use the same instruments, which helps to ensure consistency in their approach to evaluation.

Teachers and principals told the review team that they appreciate the supportive role that supervisors play. In particular, they find it useful that that supervisors connect schools to each other and facilitate shared learning. There are many instances of individual supervisors taking the initiative to help weaker teachers and schools learn from best practice in their locality. Many supervisors also use technology and social media, such as WhatsApp groups, to quickly communicate with schools and deliver information in a timely manner. These networks and relationships that supervisors have created can be harnessed to support school improvement after the new school evaluation framework is implemented.

ETEC’s new school evaluation framework provides a strong platform for improving schools

ETEC is developing a new school evaluation framework that was informed by studying international practices and through consultations with key national stakeholders, including several Directorates and Education Offices. This framework compares positively overall with mature systems for evaluation in OECD countries. It contains a set of standards and sub-standards that reflect the most important areas for school effectiveness and improvement. In particular, there is a strong focus on teaching and learning practices, with close alignment with the new teacher standards and the new curriculum framework. For example, schools are required to focus on how teachers are engaging in professional learning communities, joint planning and action research, and the learning environment emphasises developing 21st century skills. There is also a good balance between “enabler” criteria (leadership capacity, material resources) and “outcomes” (achievement).

While the indicators, descriptors and evaluation instruments that will support the framework are still being developed, ETEC seems aware of the range of resources that will be needed. Again, ETEC plans to balance qualitative information sources (e.g., surveys, classroom observations) with more objective data (e.g., student participation and learning outcomes). There are also plans to create accessible materials such as videos and written statements that illustrate what quality looks like across the different standards and performance spectrum. These developments represent a significant and positive change compared to the current supervision procedures and grids.

Likewise, in terms of the overall purpose of the new evaluation framework, ETEC orients its approach towards using school evaluation for school improvement, which is in line with international practice. This is reflected in the importance placed on investing first in building school understanding of the standards through self-evaluation, and in the consequences of evaluation results for schools. If, for instance, a school does not perform well on its self-evaluation or external evaluation, it is identified for targeted support, but not penalised. ETEC also plans for lower performing schools, as identified through the school evaluation framework, to receive enhanced support. This is good practice as research shows that allocating greater support to needier schools in disadvantaged contexts helps to improve overall educational equity (OECD, 2013[3]). To strengthen the evaluation process, the evaluation framework emphasises giving schools and evaluators tools, such as dashboards, that they can use to benchmark their school performance.

Another positive feature of the framework is the plan to develop a cadre of independent, trained, professional evaluators. This improves upon the current supervisors by selecting persons who are specifically prepared to evaluate and support schools and who are not affiliated with the schools they are evaluating so they can provide objective judgements.

The new school evaluation framework includes a strong focus on school self-evaluation with resources and training available to support schools through the process

Research shows that robust school self-evaluation that leads to focused actions aimed at enhancing practice can be a powerful driver of school improvement (Datnow and Park, 2014[17]).According to OECD data, lower secondary schools in the vast majority (34) of OECD and partner countries conduct self-evaluation regularly (OECD, 2015[18]).

ETEC plans to make self-evaluation mandatory for all schools as part of its new school evaluation framework. School leaders and staff will be expected to undertake this process annually, reflecting on their strengths and areas for improvement, and will then develop an improvement plan that they will share with their local Education Office for approval. ETEC will support schools throughout this process by developing an online platform that will include tools and resources for self-evaluation, including a centrally developed assessment of student learning that schools can use, and by providing training for school leaders on how to use the tools to perform self-evaluation.

Tatweer schools have undergone self-evaluation and their experiences can inform the development of ETEC’s new national approach

For most schools in Saudi Arabia, performing self-evaluation will be a new requirement. However, roughly 1 000 schools that have participated in Tatweer’s School Development Programme have already been required to perform self-evaluation and received quality materials and guidance on how to do this. Although there appears to be no plans to expand the Tatweer model, the experiences of these schools will serve as important examples for all schools as the new school evaluation framework is established. They demonstrate that self-evaluation is feasible and ETEC can learn from these schools’ experiences to refine the new school evaluation framework.


The current supervision system is ineffective at assuring quality schooling

Supervision is sometimes bureaucratic rather than developmental, and can prevent school principals from assuming a role as leaders of learning

While the stated purpose is developmental, the supervisory system is heavily bureaucratic and does not allow supervisors to move beyond box-ticking to fulfil their development responsibilities. Supervisors must adhere to hundreds of pages of standards and guidelines and their evaluations are confined to extensive grids that are not necessarily adapted to individual school contexts. Many teacher supervisors, particularly those in scientific fields, have far too many teachers to supervise for them to meaningfully assess and support. Principal supervisors are often tasked with supervising principals in schools that are too far apart geographically for them to visit consistently.

This model is a considerable distraction for schools and teachers. They must allocate a lot of time and resources to comply with the procedures and do not receive particularly useful feedback in return. More significantly, it serves to disempower school principals by limiting their role, which creates confusion about who wields authority at the school level.

Supervisors are not always equipped to evaluate schools or provide meaningful support to them

Despite their critical role in evaluating and supporting principals and teachers, supervisors are not always well prepared or motivated to assume their responsibilities. To become supervisors, candidates must have been either teachers (for teacher supervisors) or principals (for principal supervisors) for at least four years, must pass an examination developed by ETEC and pass an interview conducted by a committee in each Directorate. After their selection, the supervisors receive two weeks of training on average.

These requirements are inadequate to create a cadre of qualified supervisors. While it is positive that supervisors have school experience, evaluation requires additional knowledge and skills which require more than two weeks of training to develop. Certain structures of the education system also hinder the effectiveness of supervisors. Supervisors occupy the same professional status and payscale as teachers and principals (see Chapter 3 for further discussion). This system makes it easy to transfer between different roles, but makes it difficult to screen for qualifications that are suited for specific roles. Independence is also a concern. In smaller communities, supervisors might have pre-established relationships with schools and cannot be expected to evaluate objectively their staff. These factors create inconsistency in supervisors’ judgements, which greatly impacts how meaningful their final evaluations are.

The capacity of supervisors to support school improvement is currently weak

In Saudi Arabia, after the implementation of the new school evaluation framework, most schools will not have direct interaction with ETEC evaluators. Instead, they will be expected to work with supervisors to improve their performance based on the results of their self-evaluation. Currently, there is already a great amount of concern about the role and capacity of supervisors. It is unclear how the current group of supervisors could help improve school performance in the future without significant changes in how they are recruited, prepared and supported. While stopping certain functions, notably teacher appraisal, would free up capacity, it would not resolve the more fundamental concern that the majority of existing supervisors have been neither selected, trained nor evaluated based on their ability to coach schools to improve. Supervisors are also not currently deployed in a way that concentrates assistance where it is needed most.

Given this situation, it is not surprising that schools do not necessarily regard supervisors as sources of development expertise. As mentioned before, some schools appreciate that supervisors put them in contact with other schools, but they do not necessarily look to supervisors to improve their teaching and learning practices. Instead, when asked where they turn to develop their competencies, school staff told the review team that they ask more experienced colleagues or self-develop through online resources and social media communities. Without significant investment in developing the skills of supervisors and managing their deployment across schools, the new evaluation framework will not trigger the type of school-led improvement that is intended and required.

While the standards and sub-standards in the new school evaluation framework are well developed, there could be minor improvement

The summary of the new school evaluation framework that the OECD examined showed that the framework is modern and focused on improving student learning. Nevertheless, there are some areas that are slightly misaligned with international norms, especially in the school evaluation standards. First, there appears to be a lack of attention given to student well-being. The school environment area focuses on facilities and the school leadership area mentions safe and supportive learning environments. While important, none of these sub-standards explicitly addresses the extent to which students are happy and feel secure. The latter sub-standard could be referring to well-being, but it can also be interpreted to refer to infrastructural features and pedagogical engagement in the classroom. A focus on well-being could include these factors, but would also include broader issues such as protecting students from bullying and promoting their health, such as through physical activity or nutrition programmes. In the Scottish inspection framework, “Ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion” is an explicit area of focus, and student well-being is referenced in all three overarching themes of the framework (Education Scotland, 2015[19]).

Second, the teaching and learning area focuses on in-class instruction, but neither it nor the other areas explicitly focus on out-of-class educational activities. As students’ time in school is not entirely spent in the classroom, schools need to be expected to provide sufficient educational opportunities during out-of-class time. These could include extracurricular activities and remedial instruction. The Netherlands’ inspection framework, for example, has a standard called “additional support” in its educational process quality area. This standard refers to providing additional teaching and supervision to students who need extra assistance (The Netherlands Inspectorate of Education, 2017[20]).

The roll-out of new school evaluation framework lacks clarity in some areas and might exacerbate inequity

There is agreement in principle that supervisors will have a supportive role after roll-out of the new evaluation framework, but the details of this configuration are not clear

The implementation of the new evaluation framework will necessitate a change in the current supervisory model. With ETEC evaluators being responsible for evaluating schools (and a new body of assessors appraising teachers), there is general agreement that supervisors will be responsible only for supporting school improvement and teacher professional development, particularly in weaker schools. The exact parameters of this arrangement, however, have not been documented explicitly.

Without clear and precise guidelines about what the roles of supervisors will be, there is considerable risk that they will continue assuming their previous functions. Principals will continue to be appraised by principal supervisors using criteria that focus on compliance, which runs contrary to the aims of the new evaluation framework, which focus on instructional leadership. Teachers would continue looking to the teacher supervisors for summative judgement because they have been long conditioned to do so. They would ignore their self-evaluation results because they would not influence the summation delivered by the teacher supervisors. Thus, in the vast majority of schools that do not undergo external evaluation, the new evaluation framework would be undermined and the schooling landscape would not look very different from how it does today. Those schools that do undergo an external evaluation would then receive conflicting advice, likewise undermining the potential of the new framework to take hold, as the previous Tatweer school model experience showed.

Plans to implement ETEC’s school evaluation model lack a sufficient focus on supporting the weakest schools

A primary purpose of school evaluation is to help lower preforming schools identify their needs and provide them with targeted support to develop their capacities (Faubert, 2009[21]). Several OECD countries, such as Denmark, England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden in Europe, and Ontario in Canada, rely on a risk-based approach to school evaluation (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[22]). In these countries, schools that have been identified as under-performing are more intensively evaluated than schools that are performing well (Nusche et al., 2014[23]; Eurydice, 2018[24]).

As ETEC will not have the capacity to evaluate all schools at once, a key issue in Saudi Arabia is how the 700 to 1 000 schools should be selected for the bi-annual external evaluations. Presently, its plan is to select from both a representative sample of schools and a sample of schools that were rated either a three or four (out of four) on self-evaluation. Schools that were rated one or two would work with the current teacher supervisors to improve themselves before undergoing external evaluation.

The OECD is supportive of the decision to evaluate a representative sample of schools as this will help evaluators understand the full range of school performance in Saudi Arabia. However, the strategy beyond that to focus only on schools that were rated highly in their self-evaluations is contrary to international practices as it prioritises high-performing schools for external evaluation. This approach prevents the neediest schools from having access to qualified evaluators who could help them improve. Instead, these schools will be relying upon the same supervisors who were unable to help them improve in the first place. Such a strategy has the potential to exacerbate the inequities that were discussed previously.

The success of the new school evaluation framework will depend on significant evaluator, principal and teacher capacity, but there are few plans to build that capacity

Plans for developing a qualified cadre of school evaluators remain unclear

Selecting high-quality school inspectors is critical for building the legitimacy and credibility of the external school evaluation process (OECD, 2013[3]). In a majority of OECD countries, prospective inspectors are generally expected to hold a relevant tertiary education degree, have experience in education or teaching, have received specialised training, have completed a probationary period and have passed a competitive examination (Faubert, 2009[21]; OECD, 2013[3]).

For the new school evaluation framework to be successful, it is imperative that ETEC recruit a team of high calibre evaluators who can provide robust but fair judgements on school quality. It is unclear, however, how ETEC plans on recruiting enough evaluators without suffering a significant trade off in their quality. ETEC’s search for qualified teacher assessors is already proving challenging, and their search for qualified evaluators is likely to encounter similar limitations.

Most principals and teachers are unfamiliar with self-evaluation and might lack the capacity to assess their own performance

While school self-evaluation can be an effective tool for school improvement, it can be challenging for schools to examine the quality of their own practices. Many schools in OECD countries struggle with how to select and use evidence and form an objective perspective on the quality of their work. A related challenge is for schools to evaluate themselves as a community, rather than a few individuals doing the evaluation for the entire school (OECD, 2013[3]). In many countries, self-evaluation is regarded by schools as an external compliance exercise and not an activity to be used to improve their practices. Those systems, such as Scotland, that are recognised for having established a genuine culture of collective self-evaluation have invested intensively in building school evaluation capacity over several decades.

Saudi Arabia’s goal is for all schools to undertake self-evaluation as part of the new school evaluation framework. Aside from staff at Tatweer schools, however, principals and teachers around the country have likely never conducted an internal quality review. They will likely not fully understand the purpose of such an exercise, nor have the capabilities to analyse evidence and form valid and reliable judgements of quality based on that evidence. Therefore, the ratings they give themselves will not be a sound basis for internal school planning and even less for providing a national picture of school quality, as ETEC intends. Furthermore, the current supervisors, who are expected to provide support to schools as they undertake a self-evaluation, have no experience with such a process.

Using data to inform school evaluation will be difficult because the data lack consistency and the capacity to use data is weak

In order for schools to improve through self-evaluation they need to have a clear, shared understanding of their current areas of strength and weakness (MacBeath, 2005[25]). Schools with high capacity and longstanding experience of quality review might be able to form such judgements on the basis of their own data. However, the majority of schools need external benchmarks to calibrate their own views. This is one function of external school evaluation, but it is also a reason why many systems provide standardised data and other resources to help schools and teachers form reliable judgements. They also provide training and support for school-based teams on how to analyse and use data, for example on how to relate national standardised data on student learning outcomes with school assessment data to form a picture of student progress and attainment (Schildkamp and Poortman, 2018[26]).

While Saudi Arabia has sophisticated data systems, there remains a notable gap with regards to having reliable data on student learning outcomes. There are several national assessments, though none are offered consistently on a census basis. The voluntary assessments that ETEC is creating to accompany the new evaluation framework is a positive development, but still do not allow schools to benchmark their results against others’. Without this information, schools lack reliable reference points for evaluating the quality of their student learning and outcomes. This situation makes the self-evaluation exercise less meaningful and limits external evaluators’ ability to compare outcomes across schools and monitor improvement over time.

If census-based assessments are implemented (as recommended in Chapter 4), there is a further concern about whether school and local officials have the capacity to use the information to direct school improvement. Although NOOR can store the information, NOOR users must be able to interpret the information. Currently, principals and supervisors rely upon a battery of locally designed assessments that not referenced to criterion standards. Results are typically reported as how many questions a student answered correctly. Standardised assessments would report results differently. They would likely be presented as a scaled score as well as percentile benchmarks for an Education Office, Directorate and the country. Principals and supervisors are not used to seeing these types of results and thus might not use them at all for school improvement purposes, or use them incorrectly.

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School leadership


Many schools have committed principals who are interested in school improvement

Research shows that school leadership is essential for driving school quality and improving student learning (NASSP and NAESP, 2013[27]). The importance of principals is particularly acute in countries like Saudi Arabia where the education system has undergone rapid expansion and strong accountability measures are not yet well established (Mbiti, 2016[28]). Without adequate quality assurance systems, it is crucial that principals be qualified and motivated to improve student learning at their schools.

In Saudi Arabia, almost all principals were former teachers and most are appointed because they have volunteered for the role, suggesting that they have intrinsic motivation to lead their schools. In the schools visited by the OECD principals were very resourceful in trying to help teachers deliver the curriculum, even in difficult environments with few resources available (according to TIMSS 2013, principals of Grade 4 students in Saudi Arabia were almost four times more likely to respond that instruction was affected by a shortage of materials) (IEA, 2015[29]). Many principals were making use what information was at their disposal, such as teacher ratings and supervisor tests, to identify their school’s strengths and areas for improvement. Others were actively communicating with their supervisors via social media to bring more resources and support to their teachers.

Structures exist for developing and supporting school leadership, in particular through the principal supervisors and NIPED

Principal supervisors based in Directorates and Education Offices are primarily responsible for supporting principals. Although there are challenges associated with this model, such as lack of preparation for the supervisors, it is important to recognise that principals appreciate that a structure to support them is in place. While not all support is determined to be useful, principals liked the opportunities they had to meet with other principals, or for new principals to shadow their more experienced peers.

In addition to principal supervisors, local training centres provide professional development opportunities to principals, such as courses in leading change and transformational change. The plans of NIPED to oversee the quality of local training offerings, develop more professional development resources and accredit private training programmes have the potential to significantly expand both the relevance and reach of professional development for principals.

The new Teacher Standards and Professional Pathways have the potential to create meaningful incentives for teachers to become leaders in their schools

Currently, Saudi Arabian schools do not have formal leadership aside from principals and deputy principals. Except in Tatweer schools, there are no heads of department or other teacher-leader positions. The Teacher Standards and Professional Pathways have the potential to create more meaningful incentives and opportunities for experienced teachers to become leaders in their school. For instance, the Expert and Advanced teachers identified through the teacher standards will be asked to help their peers learn and improve. These teachers could be encouraged to take on more formal leadership roles within schools, such as leading a department or taking responsibility for coaching and mentoring other teachers.


Saudi Arabia has not prioritised recruiting and selecting high-quality school principals

Research demonstrates that principals improve teaching and learning most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment, teaching practices and through developing teachers’ capacities for leadership’ (Leithwood et al., 2006[30]; Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe, 2008[6]). Informed by this evidence, high-performing school systems place a priority on developing and empowering high quality principals (Breakspear et al., 2017[31]; Jensen, Downing and Clark, 2017[32]). Box 2.1 describes how principals are selected and supported in Singapore.

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Box 2.1. Selecting and supporting principals in Singapore

In Singapore, a tightly coupled set of Ministry of Education human resource policies and practices shape who becomes a principal and how they operate. Seven approaches work in concert to achieve “an extraordinary level of coherence and alignment – in leadership and system-wide policy innovation”. They include:

  • the creation of a leadership track as one of three career paths;

  • an appraisal system that consistently rewards leaders for achieving according to certain criteria;

  • leadership preparation and development provided by the National Institute of Education;

  • the rotation of senior school leaders, especially principals.

Source: Dimmock and Tan (2013[33]), Educational leadership in Singapore: Tight coupling, sustainability, scalability, and succession. Journal of Educational Administration.

While principals have a nominal leadership role in Saudi Arabia, ensuring that school principals are highly qualified and competent has not been a high-level priority. There is no central set of expectations for what principals should do and no criteria to use when recruiting and selecting principals. Although there are plans to develop such standards, there is no timeframe for their completion or implementation.

On paper, the status of principal is the same as that of teacher, and it is not uncommon for teachers to move back-and-forth between a school leadership and teaching role. This has implications for both the authority and professionalisation of the principal position. Furthermore, this means that there are no financial incentives for persons to become principals. Pay for principals is the same as for teachers, which is very different from differentiated salary structures in OECD countries. In Scotland and Australia, teachers’ payscales and principals’ payscales are different, with those of principals offering greater overall remuneration (EIS, 2019[34]; NSWTF, 2017[35]). The absence of such differentiation in Saudi Arabia limits the attractiveness of the position and sends a signal that the function does not require highly skilled applicants. While reliable data is lacking, interviews suggest that this often leads to shortages and/or under qualified candidates. Consequently, the only selection mechanism in place, an examination, is sometimes ignored because otherwise there would be no principals in some contexts. Instead of a strong commitment to leadership, motivation for becoming principals is often to move to a more attractive location in the country or to stop teaching.

Supervision undermines principals’ authority and their motivation to provide instructional leadership

Over the past few decades, many school systems around the world have worked to increase the degree of autonomy afforded to schools (Suggett, 2015[36]; Vernez, Karam and Marshall, 2012[37]). This approach reflects evidence that, when coupled with high levels of leadership capacity, greater school autonomy, in particular over the curriculum, pedagogy and teacher appraisal, is associated with improved student outcomes (Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2012[38]).

At present, school principals in Saudi Arabia have very little influence over the instruction that occurs in their schools. Their role is very administrative and not educational. They cannot make any meaningful decisions around staffing, curriculum, pedagogy or resources and they do not have well-defined leadership teams that can help them embed change at the classroom level.

A common school situation encountered by the review team is recognition of an issue but a lack of agency to address it. For example, one principal said that finding time for staff training was challenging. However, the principal also noted that there were around five weeks each year when the school was not busy, when it would be possible to provide learning opportunities for staff, but it was not done because they have not been asked to do so by the supervisors. This situation indicates that school leaders see their role as executing instructions and waiting to be told what to do; they do not feel empowered to take decisions that will improve the quality of their schools, in particular with respect to teaching and learning.

A large part of the reason why principals do make decisions regarding education at their school is the presence of the supervisors. As supervisors are responsible for the summative appraisal of principals and teachers, decisions that are made at the school-level are incentivised to align with what would produce positive ratings. As mentioned before, however, supervisors evaluate principals using standardised grids that focus on compliance with central regulations instead of instructional leadership. Principals thus have limited encouragement to engage in activities that might improve teaching and learning. Even if they do, their authority and space to do so is stymied by teacher supervisors, who are regarded by teachers to be their main appraiser and whose primary focus during evaluation is to check for curriculum compliance. For example, if a principal suggests to a teacher that extra time should be given to covering material that students have not mastered, the teacher would hesitate to spend classroom time in this way because he/she would cover less of the overall curriculum and risk a negative evaluation.

In-service principals have had limited opportunities to develop the qualities they need to engage in meaningful school self-evaluation or to lead school improvement with their staff.

High performing school systems provide on-going opportunities for serving school principals to engage in professional development and learning throughout their career. This capacity building support is usually buttressed with tools and resources that help leaders to engage in rigorous school self-evaluation and continuous improvement. Box 2.2 describes how professional development is provided to principals in Scotland.

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Box 2.2. Providing professional development to in-service principals in Scotland

There are various professional development programmes for in-service principals in Scotland, such as the programmes offered in partnership with or by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL).

In Headship” is a post-graduate programme for newly appointed principals that is offered by four universities in partnership with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL). It is the final component of the Specialist Qualification for Headship and aims at providing support to principals at the beginning of their careers to become effective, strategic leaders. This programme draws on a school self-evaluation framework – How good is our school? - which takes prospective and serving principals through a structured process of reflection on their school’s strengths and areas for development. It includes three elements: (1) Shaping professional identity and practice: critical reflection in the transition to headship; (2a) Pursuing equity and excellence; (2b) Building capacity in self and others.

The “Excellence in Headship programme” that is offered by SCEL provides various leadership professional learning opportunities that evolve every year. It is aimed at principals with two years of work experience or more in their post. There are different formats of professional learning opportunities, such as coaching and mentoring, collaborative learning and engagement with online learning. The programme starts with a two-day induction session on leadership and critical self-awareness, following which principals can select professional learning opportunities among the five Excellence in Headship themes (leadership of learning, values based leadership, people and partners, leading systems change and organisational effectiveness) based on their professional development needs.

Besides these two programmes, the SCEL has also developed the SCEL framework for educational leadership - an online tool to support principals’ professional development. It provides principals with access to various online learning activities and support materials and allows them to browse through existing educational leadership development programmes in Scotland.

Source: Education Scotland & SCEL (2019[39]), In Headship.

Education Scotland & SCEL (2019[40]), Excellence in Headship.

In Saudi Arabia, some principal supervisors appear to be proactive in helping principals communicate and network, for example by pairing new principals with experienced ones. However, these promising practices occur largely on an individual, ad hoc basis, rather than through common policy across Directorates. Additionally, the supervisors who manage such mentorship arrangements have received little training on how to do so effectively.

Beyond supervisors, there is very limited support available to principals. While principals can access some training in training centres, the review team was told that the courses tend to focus on new policy initiatives, rather than on how to exercise their administrative and instructional functions within the school. A training catalogue that the OECD reviewed showed that only two out of 36 offerings were focused on developing principals. The fact that the NTP baseline indicator for principal professional development is an average of five hours per year signals the limited extent of current supply, and potentially demand.

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School system governance

Clarify the mandates and responsibilities of key actors across the system and position the new school evaluation framework as the only model for evaluating school quality

In Saudi Arabia, the roles and responsibilities of different educational organisations is not always clear. This is particularly true with respect to ETEC. Although it is nominally responsible for setting standards and evaluating school quality, most schools do not interface directly with ETEC, instead interacting mainly with their supervisors who operate according to a different set of standards. Once the new school evaluation framework is introduced, it will be critical that it is considered the only model for evaluating school quality. However, given the current lack of clarity around mandates, it is doubtful if schools will understand the remit of ETEC and the role of the new school evaluation framework.

The OECD recommends that MoE undertake a root and branch review of the remit of Directorates and Education Offices and the ways in which they relate to MoE, ETEC and, in some cases, the programmes run by Tatweer. The purpose of this review is to understand what the formal remits of these organisations are, what they perceive their mandates to be and how schools interface with them. A key issue to examine is how schools are evaluated, by whom and to whom they turn to for support.

A joint commission should be set up under the authority of the Minister of Education to undertake the review, with members representing both the MoE and ETEC. The results of the review should inform the articulation and roll-out of the new school evaluation framework and help position it as the only model once it is implemented. For instance, if the review discovers that current evaluation systems are unexpectedly overlapping in some schools, the text of new school evaluation framework can specifically mention that these other systems should be discontinued once the new framework is implemented. It will be the responsibility of MoE, through Directorates and Education Offices, to help communicate this message.

Internationally, Poland is an example of a rapidly improving system that had to review and reconfigure roles around governance. As part of a national restructuring, the country’s political regions were consolidated from 49 to 16. The newly created regions needed to know what their responsibilities were with respect to education, and national- and local-level bodies needed to know what their expectations were vis-à-vis the new regions. To accomplish this, the government specified “critical decision rights” for each level of education and inspected organisations from each level to verify that the regulations were being followed (Mourshed, Chijioke and Barber, 2010[13]).

Create a new delivery unit within MoE that is responsible for driving and aligning efforts to reform the school system, tracking progress and reporting on impact

Research shows that even well-conceived educational reforms can often fail to achieve their intended impact (Hall, 2013[41]). This occurs when reforms are not sequenced and/or are introduced too quickly, when schools and teachers lack the capacity to execute the reforms and when communications with schools during the implementation process is not strong (Schlechty, 2009[42]; Levin, 2008[43]). As noted previously, reforms in Saudi Arabia are not always well aligned and communication across MoE can be improved. There is a need to strengthen monitoring of reforms and align educational initiatives with each other in order to reduce overlaps, increase efficiency and enhance impact.

To this end, it is recommended that MoE create a “delivery unit” within MoE. This unit should have a remit to monitor the progress and performance of key policies and agencies and to report to the Minister. It should also make progress across the system more transparent by publishing regular reports comparing the performance of all regions and districts. Saudi Arabia can consider integrating the unit into its existing governance structure, such as by establishing it as a general Directorate. Box 2.3 describes how a similar unit was developed in Pakistan to help see through reforms.

A core task of the unit should be strengthening programme and project management disciplines across MoE and its agencies. This unit would have oversight of all MoE initiatives and should be able to stop or pause projects that duplicate each other or that do not contribute to the core objectives. As such, it would be responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of policy and monitoring progress towards strategic goals. For the delivery unit to achieve its objectives, it must be prominently situated within MoE. Therefore, the OECD recommends that it report directly to the Minister and being involved in regular meetings with MoE leadership to remain aware of key developments.

An initial task for the delivery unit should be to review the different evaluation and assessment practices operating in the school system. The OECD identified considerable overlaps, misalignments as well as gaps in how the quality of different dimensions of schooling are being evaluated at present. For example, students are taking potentially 100 hours of tests per year, but this is not tracked as the tests themselves are delivered by different individuals and organisations. Many of these tests will need to be stopped and others redesigned if teachers and schools are to be able monitor student learning in relations to national standards in a meaningful way.

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Box 2.3. Embedding reforms in Pakistan

The Punjab province in Pakistan established a focused delivery “roadmap” that set out the key reforms it would prioritise in order to improve the quality of its schools (Barber, 2013[44]). The goals of the roadmap itself were to enrol children in school, reduce dropouts and ensure that they develop basic competencies. To achieve these goals, Pakistan created the Programme Monitoring and Implementation Unit (PMIU) as the “lynchpin of the entire Roadmap”. This unit was established to capture and analyse data on key measures of progress on a monthly basis. Data comparing the progress of each school and district were fed back to ministers and shared with district officials each month. This monitoring and transparency was combined with a disciplined approach to project management within the Ministry itself, helping to maintain positive progress.

Develop targets for improving basic competencies and monitor progress towards these targets to inform policy making

There is an overall lack of attention given to the urgent need for Saudi Arabia to develop students’ basic competencies in an equitable manner. The OECD recommends that MoE address this need by establishing ambitious but achievable targets for improvement in key areas, such as literacy and numeracy in lower primary grades, boys’ achievement and student performance in rural regions of the country.

When setting these goals, it will be important that they be realistic. A good starting point for Saudi Arabia would be to consider results from the NAP field study and set targets based upon them. A target might then be that a certain percentage of Grade 4 students (slightly higher than the baseline gathered through the field study) demonstrate proficiency in mathematics. Further analysis could inform the development of equity indicators as well, such as creating separate targets for different regions of the country.

The information generated by this process can then be used to steer policy-making. If, for example, the gap between boys and girls achievement grows, then national-level discussions can focus on addressing this issue. Policy makers might consider how to attract more qualified men to become teachers and if the initial teacher preparation that they receive needs to be adjusted to address issues that disproportionately affect boys in school. Internationally, Norway has begun studying its dropout gap between boys and girls in order to develop future interventions (Borgonovi, Ferrara and Maghnouj, 2018[45]).

Improve the ways in which information and evidence are communicated and applied across the system, including through regular briefings for schools on policy developments and an online research clearing house

Previous recommendations have focused on co-ordinating the education system around key issues and creating indicators to monitor the extent to which those issues are being addressed. Once the core aims of the system have been established, it will be necessary to communicate these aims to schools and provide resources to help them achieve them.

Internationally, several countries have created repositories of research-based approaches to help schools identify useful practices that are aligned with new policies. For example, the Education Endowment Foundation in England has created the Teaching and Learning Toolkit (Education Endowment Foundation, 2019[46]). In the United States, the National Institute of Education Sciences has developed the What Works Clearinghouse (IES, n.d.[47]). Other countries have invested more in lateral networks that bring school leaders and teachers together to reflect on evidence and effective practices, sometimes facilitated by experts from universities. Examples of this approach include the Spirals of Enquiry networks from British Columbia (Stoll and Temperley, 2016[48]) and the Research Learning Communities programme in England (Brown and Greany, 2017[49]).

MoE could adapt these strategies by publishing a termly practice-focused journal or newsletter that would be sent to all schools and would explain new policy developments and identify research-based articles that focus on the aspects of teaching, curriculum and school improvement that are relevant to the new policies. MoE could also create a research clearinghouse that encourages schools to use practices that have been verified by research to be potentially effective. This clearinghouse could be hosted by Tatweer on their existing iEN online portal. Finally, MoE could also regularly hold conferences that would bring school leaders together to hear about and discuss new initiatives and to develop peer networks. Participation at these conferences could be organised according to geographic region or schools identified as having similar needs. Importantly, teachers and principals need to be given time to develop themselves in these ways and the time they spend should be considered as working hours.

Orient central research capacity towards systematically evaluating education programming

While MoE has considerable research capacity to conduct research, presently they are not systematically studying the diverse array of education programmes that are occurring in Directorates and Education Offices. To direct MoE research efforts towards programme evaluation, feedback loops should be established between Directorates and Education Offices and the Education Policy Research Centre so the Centre is made aware of what is occurring in schools and how their research efforts can be best put to use. The Delivery Unit can help facilitate this exchange of information between the Research Centre and the General Directorate for Educational Supervision, which is in closer contact with lower levels of school governance.

Even with feedback loops, it will be challenging for the Education Policy Research Centre to evaluate all education programming in the country, especially those that originate from small, isolated areas. To expand the coverage of national research, it is recommended that the Education Policy Research Centre engage with universities, which also have significant research capacity. Through calls for tender, the Research Centre could work with university researchers to collect information and evaluate the impact of educational reforms in all regions of the country.

Develop the structures and capacities of Directorates and Education Offices to support school improvement

Directorates and Education Offices, through their supervisors, have a formal role to support schools to improve. Despite this mandate, however, they serve primarily administrative and management functions, such as keeping data and tracking personnel movement. This orientation is motivated by governance structure of Directorates and Education Offices, which are designed to facilitate communication from different departments within MoE to schools through their own subsidiary departments. This encourages the departments to work in silos rather than work as units to support schools.

To orient Directorates and Education Offices towards helping schools improve, the OECD recommends that the previously mentioned root and branch review examine this configuration and determine how it can be revised with the aim of delivering better support to schools. For instance, schools might have a single point of contact from an Education Office instead of several from different departments. Similarly, departments within Education Offices should be required to be more communicative with each other instead of focusing on communicating with their higher-level peers in Directorates.

A further question is the capacity of Directorate and Education Office staff who are nominally responsible for supporting schools. As mentioned previously, supervisors are not prepared to help teachers develop and learn. Thus, one reason that they view their roles as delivering orders because they do not necessarily know how to deliver effective support. Another reason is that supervisors in some areas are overwhelmed with the number of schools they must oversee. The root and branch review should also study how to allocate more efficiently professional development capacity at local levels. If there is insufficient capacity to staff each Education Office, which appears to be the case, consideration can be given to consolidating such capacity at the Directorate level so the most qualified persons are available to support more schools.

Finally, it should be mandated that the purpose of Directorates and Education Offices is to help schools improve and they need be held accountable for how well they support their schools. MoE should review data about Directorates’ and Education Offices’ activities, such as how much training the teachers receive, and evaluate if the support was aligned with schools’ needs. This process would also help MoE identify which areas of the country need greater central support and how to distribute resources accordingly. In Massachusetts, a state in the United States, school districts that are under-performing may be assigned a development assistant lead to help the district in developing and carrying out turnarounds plans for each of its under-performing schools (Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, n.d.[50]).

Develop a vision of good schooling and create a set of associated performance indicators for schools

It is imperative that Saudi Arabia defines what a “good school” is in terms that are broad enough to allow for local agency and contextualisation, but that are specific enough to be meaningful and measurable. The new school evaluation framework already outlines four areas (school leadership, teaching and learning, learning outcomes and buildings) with multiple key standards and sub-standards. This is a very valuable resource for schools and evaluators and serves to communicate the components of a school that will be evaluated. However, what is missing is an overall vision of schooling that encompasses these four areas. In other words, what is the overall goal schools are working towards by meeting all the standards and sub-standards?

The OECD recommends that, in finalising the school evaluation framework, attention be given to defining in a succinct statement of the vision for the Saudi Arabian school of the future. In most OECD countries, such a vision statement focuses centrally on the student outcomes a school hopes to realise and usually include mastery of essential competencies - such as literacy and numeracy - in recognition of their importance for any student’s future success in life.

Many OECD economies have developed a definition of what makes for good schooling, such as Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Scotland (OECD, 2013[3]; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[22]). Within the Middle East and North Africa region, the Kingdom of Morocco has put the “new school” model at the centre of its own Vision 2030; it is framed around the key principles of equity and equality of opportunities, education quality for all and the promotion of individuals and society (Conseil Supérieur de l’Education, 2015[51]).

School evaluation and benchmarking

Create a new set of supervision standards in light of the new teacher standards and new school evaluation framework and update the principal supervision process accordingly

The most important consideration after the new school evaluation framework is implemented is what becomes of the role of the supervisors. Under the new teacher standards and school evaluation framework, external appraisal of teachers would be the responsibility of ETEC-trained assessors and the external evaluation of schools that of ETEC-trained evaluators. Currently, supervisors are responsible for evaluating and supporting teachers, principals and schools. It is understood that their roles will change, but the official designation of their responsibilities has not been officially codified.

The OECD recommends that, after the new evaluation framework is introduced, current teacher supervisors should have no evaluative responsibility and would instead only provide support for teacher professional development, particularly where school and teacher capacity are weakest. Principal supervisors should retain their function of appraising the performance of principals, though how this is done will need to change significantly.

To embed these roles into policy, the OECD recommends that a new set of supervision standards be created to reflect the roles of teacher and principal supervisors in consideration of the new teacher standards, school evaluation framework and planned principal standards. Chapter 3 recommends that current teacher supervisors be renamed professional development supervisors (instructional coaches) to reflect their new support role. Guidance around what the standards for this position should be can be found in that chapter.

Although the role of principal supervisors will remain the same – principal appraisal and feedback - how supervisors exercise this role should evolve significantly to support the new vision of schooling. In the new standards, expectations for principal supervisors should be closely aligned with the expectations for principal instructional leadership set out in the school evaluation framework (and which this review also recommends be emphasised in the new principal standards). This will also require a strong focus on how principals are working with teachers to deliver the curriculum in a way that is adapted to learner levels and needs. The processes and tools used as part of the principal supervision process should also be modified and reflected in the new standards. For example, the current grids should be updated so principal supervisors look for evidence that teachers are using formative assessment in the classroom, providing feedback to students and adapting their instruction for individual learner needs.

Following the updating of the supervision standards and principal supervision processes, principals supervisors will need training in understanding the new standards and following the new processes. This should be the responsibility of NIPED in cooperation with ETEC.

Review and finalise specific components of the new school evaluation framework

Revise sub-standards to focus on student well-being and out-of-class time

Before introducing the new school evaluation framework, the OECD recommends that ETEC revise the sub-standards for school evaluation in light of the challenges identified in this chapter. Specifically, the sub-standards should mention student well-being. If this is the intent of the “safe and supportive learning environment for learners” sub-standard, then that sub-standard should be re-written to refer to well-being. If this is not the intent of this sub-standard, then it is likely that the intent this sub-standard is already reflected in the “safety and security” key standard and can be replaced by one that focuses exclusively on student well-being. The placement of the well-being sub-standard should also be moved to be under the “school community” key standard, as it is more about how the entire school is oriented to support students and less about overseeing a pedagogical process.

The sub-standards should also mention out-of-class time to reflect the fact that students in-school are not always in classrooms. This sub-standard would be most appropriately located under the learning environment key standard and could be phrased as, “Supportive extracurricular and remedial activities outside of class”. This sub-standard would help to reinforce the aforementioned sub-standard about student well-being, as extracurricular activities and supplementary instruction would help students be healthy and feel supported.

Carefully create indicators to accompany school evaluation standards

The OECD understands that ETEC is in the process of developing indicators to accompany the standards that appear in the new school evaluation framework. The recommendations made here are not about specific indicators, but about how to approach the development of these indicators so they align with international best practices and help schools and external evaluators understand school quality.

Develop a small set of school evaluation indicators

The standards that the OECD reviewed are relatively dense compared to standards used by several OECD countries. The new school evaluation framework specifies four areas, 12 key standards and 29 sub-standards. There will likely be even more indicators associated with the sub-standards. A long list of indicators can inadvertently encourage evaluation to become a checkbox exercise that focuses on compliance and not on improvement. Internationally, many countries have simplified their school evaluation indicators to focus on key aspects of school quality. For example, the school inspection framework in Scotland has only three areas and fifteen indicators (see Box 2.4).

School supervision in Saudi Arabia is already closely associated with checking boxes on supervisors’ grids, rather than evaluating quality. Therefore, the OECD recommends that, in finalising the indicators of the school evaluation framework, ETEC only create a small number of indicators. This would give schools and evaluators and more time to focus on the most critical components of teaching and learning quality.

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Box 2.4. Indicators for school evaluation in Scotland

The fourth edition of the school evaluation framework in Scotland, “How good is our school?” is composed of 15 quality indicators divided in three domains: leadership and management, learning provision and successes and achievements. While different sources of information are evaluated to inform the evaluation of each indicator, only one rating is provided for each indicator. The complete set of indicators is shown below.

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Leadership and Management

Learning Provision

Successes and achievements


1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement

2.1 Safeguarding and

child protection

3.1 Ensuring well-being,

equality and inclusion

1.2 Leadership of learning

2.2 Curriculum

3.2 Raising attainment and achievement

1.3 Leadership of change

2.3 Learning, teaching

and assessment

3.3 Increasing creativity and employability

1.4 Leadership and management of staff

2.4 Personalised support

1.5 Management of resources to promote equity

2.5 Family learning

2.6 Transitions

2.7 Partnerships

Source: Education Scotland (2015[19]), How good is our school? 4th edition.

Prioritise using observed classroom practice to evaluate teaching and learning

ETEC is developing classroom observation protocols to support the new school evaluation framework. This is a positive development as observing classroom practice represents a more authentic assessment of the teaching and learning process than simply reviewing standardised assessment results.

It is currently unknown how exactly and to what extent classroom observations will be used during school evaluation. The OECD recommends that most of the indicators that become associated with the learning outcomes and teaching and learning areas be measured via classroom observations and not standardised assessments. This would motivate schools and evaluators to reflect deeply on teaching practices before making a judgement about quality and help prevent the evaluation framework from being focused on test results. In developing these indicators, ETEC might draw on the classroom observation indicators developed by the International Comparative Analysis of Learning and Teaching (ICALT), which are based on practices with a proven impact on student learning (see Box 2.5).

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Box 2.5. Example of classroom observation indicators to evaluate the quality of teaching and learning

Guidelines should explain clearly the purpose of the classroom observation and list the indicators and descriptors that will be used. The International Comparative Analysis of Learning and Teaching (ICALT) was a collaboration among European external school evaluation bodies to develop an instrument to observe and analyse the quality of teaching and learning in primary schools.

The study found that the following five aspects could be compared in a reliable and valid way and that these were positively correlated with student involvement, attitude, behaviour and attainment: efficient classroom management; safe and stimulating learning climate; clear instruction; adaptation of teaching; and teaching-learning strategies. The final observation instrument was adopted for use by external school evaluation bodies in five European countries: the Flemish Community of Belgium, Lower Saxony in Germany, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, and Scotland in the United Kingdom. Below are a subset of the observation indicators:

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Good practice descriptors

Safe and stimulating learning climate (five indicators)

The teacher ensures a relaxed atmosphere

The teacher addresses the children in a positive manner

The teacher reacts with humour and stimulates humour The teacher allow children to make mistakes

The teacher demonstrates warmth and empathy toward all students

The teacher shows respect for the students in behaviour and language use

The teacher allows students to finish speaking

The teacher listens to what students have to say

The teacher makes no role-confirming remarks

The teacher promotes the mutual respect and interest of students

The teacher encourages children to listen to each other

The teacher intervenes when children are being laughed at

The teacher takes (cultural) differences and idiosyncrasies into account

The teacher ensures solidarity between students

The teacher ensures that events are experienced as group events

The teacher supports the self-confidence of students

The teacher feeds back on questions and answers from students in a positive way

The teacher pays students compliments on their results

The teacher honours the contribution made children

The teacher encourages the students to do their utmost

The teacher praises students for efforts towards doing their utmost

The teacher makes clear that all students are expected to do their utmost

The teacher expresses positive expectations to students about what they are able to take on

Involvement of students (3 indicators)

There is good individual involvement of students

The students are attentive

The students take part in learning/group discussions

The students work on the assignments in a concentrated and task-focused way

Students are interested

The students listen to the instructions actively

The students ask questions

Students are active learners

The students ask deeper questions

The students take responsibility for their own learning process

The students work independently

The students take initiatives

The students use their time efficiently

Source: (OECD, 2013[52]), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, .

Avoid external testing of schools as part of external evaluation processes

Currently, teacher supervisors and school principals administer tests to students in order to assess the quality of instruction. Chapter 3 recommends that these procedures should be stopped as they do not accurately assess the performance of teachers and undermine the position of principals to help teachers develop. They are also a distraction for students, taking time away from more valuable classroom learning activities.

The review team was told that ETEC plans for evaluators to test students using centrally developed instruments to inform external school evaluation. The OECD recommends that this proposed practice not be pursued. In no other OECD country do evaluators assess students directly as part of an evaluation; such assessments have no national reliability nor any instructional value. Rather, the majority of OECD countries rely on a mixture of standardised national assessment data, school-level test data and qualitative measures like classroom observations to form a perspective on the quality of learning outcomes in a school and the quality of teachers’ assessment practice. This review recommends that ETEC take a similar balanced approach, and that national assessment data simply be one measure out of many that inform an understanding of school quality.

Articulate procedures to provide schools specific with feedback on how to improve following an external evaluation

School evaluations should lead to clear feedback for schools on areas of strength as well as specific areas for improvement (OECD, 2013[3]). This feedback should be given verbally at the end of the evaluation visit in order to give opportunities for the school to ask questions and discuss any aspects that are not clear. This verbal feedback should be followed up with a written report.

Findings from Hong Kong, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland suggest positive impact from school inspections where inspectors set out improvement priorities and actions (Ehren, 2016[53]). This research indicates that school staff will actively reflect on inspection findings when they feel those findings are accurate and helpful, when the inspection process provides opportunities for staff to discuss the issues raised and when school staff find the inspection visit a positive and affirming experience (Mcnamara and O’Hara, 2006[54]).

In Saudi Arabia, how feedback and follow-up support should be given to schools needs to be articulated in the new school evaluation framework. To link feedback and support, the OECD recommends that, when a school is selected for an ETEC evaluation visit, the relevant supervisors should be informed in advance so they can be prepared to offer support following the evaluation. All supervisors should also attend the final feedback session, during which ETEC evaluators share their findings and recommendations with the school’s leadership.

ETEC’s feedback to schools should be tailored depending upon the performance of the school. Higher performing schools should be encouraged to take ownership of possible improvement areas with limited oversight from their professional development supervisors. Interaction with the principal supervisor should continue, but with a reduced focus on appraisal and an increased focus on how the school is responding to the ETEC feedback.

For schools that are judged to be weaker, a clear support plan must be agreed between the school, ETEC evaluators and the Education Office. Supervisors should be strongly engaged and help the school’s leadership respond to ETEC’s feedback and build the capacity of the school to improve. The school and the supervisors should agree upon a package of material supports that can be provided to assist the school, such as specific training for staff and being paired with schools that are facing similar challenges but demonstrate better outcomes.

Develop a formal roll-out strategy that includes a pilot study of external evaluation and prioritises evaluating weaker schools

Pilot the implementation of school evaluation framework and monitor its results carefully, in particular how schools react to feedback and interact with their supervisors and evaluators

Once the new supervision standards have been drafted and the school evaluation framework is ready to be implemented, the framework’s external evaluation component should first be piloted with a sample of Directorates and Education Offices. The purpose of the pilot is to understand what parts of the external evaluation process are difficult to understand, if the results are valid and reliable and what can be done to improve the framework.

The pilot should be conducted in a small sample of schools, preferably in a region that is noted for having both higher performing and lower performing schools. Following implementation of the framework in pilot schools, MoE should commission an independent evaluation to study the effects. This evaluation would examine several of the processes related to school evaluation, such as how feedback was delivered and what type of support was provided following the evaluation. Of particular interest will be whether supervisors understood that their role is purely supportive and felt competent in fulfilling that function. The independent evaluation would also study the quality of the materials produced by the evaluation and the impact of the process itself. For instance, was the feedback provided useful? What changes did schools undergo following an external evaluation? Finally, the result of the external evaluation should be reviewed. Do multiple evaluators agree with the rating? Do they agree on how the evidence that was reviewed should be interpreted?

The results of the pilot can inform not only how the school evaluation framework should be refined, but also what type of training supervisors and evaluators will need to fulfil their new responsibilities. For example, supervisors might need enhanced coaching skills and evaluators might need training in how to analyse and use school level data to support school improvement. Using this information, MoE can work with NIPED to make sure that the most important training modules are available after the new school evaluation framework is introduced.

Prioritise weaker schools in the roll-out of the evaluation framework

According to the new school evaluation model, ETEC plans to evaluate externally a sample of 700 to 1 000 schools every two years. Some of these schools will be selected as a representative sample, while the rest will be chosen only from among schools who receive the highest two ratings from their self-evaluation. The OECD review team is concerned that this strategy will allocate greater resources (support from ETEC evaluators) to schools that are already doing well, thus having the potential to exacerbate educational inequity in Saudi Arabia.

The OECD supports the selection of a representative sample of schools to be part of the evaluated sample, but recommends that the rest of the evaluated sample be comprised of schools who received the lowest two ratings from their self-evaluation. This approach would serve several purposes. First, it would provide the most qualified support where it is needed most. Second, in cases where a great majority of schools from one area and found to be performing poorly, it would help Directorates and Education Offices be aware of their schools’ needs and help MoE identify where to provide greater support.

The review team acknowledges that some schools might be unprepared to undergo the external evaluation process and agrees that targeting schools with lower self-evaluation ratings would result in fewer accredited schools. However, the purpose of school evaluation is not necessarily to accredit schools. Rather, the ultimate reason that schools should undergo evaluation is so they know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they can improve student learning. Targeting weaker schools who have much to improve better accomplishes this goal than targeting stronger schools who have already found ways to improve. Box 2.6 describes how Ontario, Canada, has provided targeted support to under-performing schools to improve their outcomes.

It should be noted that, in some countries, additional evaluative oversight can be associated with punitive consequences. This would not be a constructive approach for a new evaluation system, like Saudi Arabia’s, which is just being introduced and which aims to build school capacity and awareness of new methods. The focus of this recommended risk-based approach is to concentrate the oversight and expert feedback that an external evaluation brings on those schools that need the most help, not to punish them. In effect, this approach would concentrate the provision of support and resources to the neediest areas, which is in line with international practice and would help improve overall learning outcomes at the country-level.

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Box 2.6. Supporting struggling schools in Ontario, Canada

In Ontario, Canada, the Focused Intervention Program provides targeted support to underachieving primary schools, measured through results on provincial assessments of reading, writing, and mathematics (Grades 3 and 6). The programme funds are used for professional development, additional learning resources for students and teachers, literacy and numeracy coaches, and teacher release time for collaboration and additional training. Schools selected for participation in the programme tend to be those serving disadvantaged communities, with a relatively high percentage of students with special education needs or an above-average range of educational challenges. Between 2002-03 and 2010-11, the number of schools with fewer than 34% of students achieving at provincial standard in Grade 3 reading was reduced by two thirds (from 19% to 6%).

Source: Adapted from OECD, (2012[55]), Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools. OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2015[56]), Education Policy Outlook – Canada. OECD Publishing, Paris.

Build staff capacity and develop resources to assist schools with undertaking self-evaluation

Provide schools with guidance about how to perform self-evaluation along with suggestions of improvement steps in response to common challenges

Eventually, all schools in Saudi Arabia are expected to undertake self-evaluation and, based upon the results, they could be more likely to undergo external evaluation and achieve accreditation. As discussed previously, however, school staff will be unfamiliar with the exercise and will need significant support and guidance as they assess themselves for the first time. ETEC has plans to develop online tools and resources to assist schools to review their quality. These resources are helpful, but they are to be used as part of the self-evaluation. They do not help schools understand the purpose of self-evaluation or guide them through all the procedures. This type of guidance will be needed by schools that are inexperienced with the process.

Saudi Arabia should create materials that specifically help schools understand self-evaluation, guide them through it and instruct them in how to engage in follow-up activities. These materials should include guiding questions that compel principals and teachers to think about their own practices, such as how they make decisions and based upon what information. They should also include best practices from schools across the country about how to address common challenges that self-evaluation is likely to reveal. Tatweer schools would be well suited to contribute to the development of these materials as they have conducted self-evaluation already. Internationally, Scotland’s “How good is our school?” toolkit is an example of a resource that guides schools through self-evaluation and contains case studies of common challenges and responses to those challenges (Education Scotland, 2015[19]).

Administer school-level standardised assessments, input their data into NOOR and support schools to use these data effectively

Benchmarking school performance using standardised data has the potential to enrich the school self-evaluation process, strengthen external evaluation and inform the targeted provision of school supports. With such information, school leaders would be able to track whether student outcomes are improving over time in comparison with national rates and in comparison with schools that have similar student intakes and characteristics. At a more granular level, schools will be able to identify whether students are failing to grasp particular concepts or areas of the curriculum, or whether particular groups of children are falling behind.

Saudi Arabia is administering or plans to administer several national assessments, most of which are sample-based. The OECD recommends that some of these assessments be census-based because their results would serve valuable school accountability and development purposes by giving schools and evaluators a more reliable perspective on the quality of student learning. To enable this type benchmarking, the OECD further recommends that the NOOR database be developed to house the national assessment data and make it accessible to relevant stakeholders.

Once data become available, school leaders will require support to make the best use of the data to enrich professional learning and reflection, rather than just looking at data as a tool to be used when managing teacher performance. Research in this area suggests that, to create a culture of constructive data use, it is important to bring together school staff to reflect on the data and discuss what it implies for their school (Schildkamp and Poortman, 2018[26]).

In Saudi Arabia, support in this area can be provided by QIYAS, which can produce materials that assist school staff in understanding its assessment results and what it might mean for their schools. Principals, with the support of supervisors, can encourage their teachers to meet over assessment results, collectively reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of their school and determine how to improve.

School leadership

In the planned principal standards, establish a core focus on the leadership of teaching and learning and create incentives for individuals to become principals

ETEC is planning to introduce new standards and pathways for school principals alongside the already developed standards and professional pathways for teachers. The OECD supports the development of principal standards. They will set out the expectations of principals and create a separate payscale to motivate persons to become principals. The OECD further recommends that, in the standards, Saudi Arabia broaden the role of principals to become explicitly responsible for leading the teaching and learning that occurs in their schools. Internationally, the Australian Professional Standard for Principals offers a good example of how this type of instructional leadership is embedded as professional expectations. This is described further in Box 2.7. Once principals are established as “lead learners”, principal appraisal systems can then refer to these standards in order to evaluate principals based upon how well they support teachers in the instruction of their students.

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Box 2.7. Leading teaching and learning from the Australian Professional Standard for Principals

Leading teaching and learning is one of the five key professional practices particular to the role of the principal in the Australian Professional Standards of Principals. As instructional leaders, principals are expected to foster a culture of effective teaching, to lead, design and manage the quality of teaching and learning, and to define high standards for the whole school through collaborative planning, monitoring and reviewing learning effectiveness. It is then described at increasing levels of proficiency:

  • At the first level of proficiency, principals ensure that school values foster inclusive practices and guarantee the focus of all activities is on the improvement of students’ learning outcomes. They update and communicate current developments in pedagogy and student engagement to all staff.

  • At level two, principals prioritise the creation of a student-centred learning environment, motivate staff to use research and new technologies keep their teaching practices up-to-date, develop a robust approach to reviewing the curriculum and pedagogy and encourage honest feedback to and from students based on evidence.

  • At the level three, principals direct the whole school towards a focus on individual student achievement and educational provision for all students, ensure that reflective practices, structured feedback, and other practices have an impact on personal improvement of both students and staff. They also systematically monitor student progress, report on this and implement interventions to reduce gaps in attainment.

  • At level four, principals identify excellent teaching and learning practices based on evidence and systematic research methods and share strategies for excellent teaching and learning with the school community. They develop a model of collaborative leadership, exchange practices with other schools and organisations to improve practice, and inspire innovation in the education system.

Source: AITSL (2014[57]), Australian Professional Standard for Principals and the Leadership Profiles.

Engage in manpower planning for the principal profession

Saudi Arabia has a well-recognised oversupply of teachers. Because principals and teachers occupy the same professional status in the civil service system, it is unclear what the supply and demand of principals is. Nevertheless, because individuals can transfer between the posts and because there are few established selection criteria to become principals, there is certainly risk that supply and demand become misaligned. This risk would become greater once the new principal standards are developed and being a principal becomes more attractive.

Mitigating this risk before it manifests itself requires several efforts. First, Saudi Arabia should engage in manpower planning for principals to understand better the profile of principals in the country, entry to and attrition from the profession and movement between schools, as is likewise recommended for teacher workforce planning. With this information, Saudi Arabia can develop a high-level strategy to develop and retain an efficient supply of high quality principals. This type of planning has been successful internationally in managing the supply of principals. England, for example, conducted manpower planning and noted a shortage of principals, which prompted the country to create the National College for School Leadership to identify and train more principals (Greany, 2018[5]).

Key questions that the Saudi Arabian principal manpower planning exercise should seek to answer include:

  • What is the age profile of current school principals? How many new principals will be required in each region/district in future years?

  • How are school principals currently recruited across different districts and regions? How could this process be enhanced to ensure that it is transparent and secures the best possible candidates?

  • Do some remote and disadvantaged areas require extra support and incentives to ensure that they can recruit the best possible candidates?

  • How much financial incentive will be required to attract high calibre candidates, especially to serve as principals in rural, isolated schools?

  • What kinds of systems and processes can best ensure a strong supply of applicants for every principal position in every locality? For example, should every Directorate and/or Education Office be expected to identify and support a pool of future applicants or can this be done centrally?

  • To what extent would Advanced and Expert Teachers represent a supply of future principals, or is a separate, parallel process needed?

Develop in-service principals by creating a new “leadership academy”

School systems around the world have invested in strengthening the capacity and expertise of school-level leaders (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[58]). Principals need access to coaching and mentoring along with well-facilitated opportunities to visit and work in different schools (Greany, 2018[5]). One method of developing principals is through national leadership colleges and academies. These organisations can have several responsibilities, from educating aspiring principals, to training current principals to helping form and drive policy concerning principals. Box 2.8 explains the role of school leadership academies in Singapore and Scotland.

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Box 2.8. A school leadership academy in Singapore and Scotland

The National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore provides one example of how an academy can provide consistent and coherent support for building school leadership capacity. The NIE was formed in 1991 and is responsible for delivering three key leadership programmes that support principals and other school-level leadership. Heads of Departments must take Management and Leadership in School, while aspiring principals must complete the Leadership Situation Exercise and Leaders in Education Programme (LEP). Launched in 2001, the LEP is a 6-month, full-time, fully paid for programme attended by selected vice-principals and Ministry officials to prepare them for school leadership. The programme content covers systems and futures thinking, organisational learning, dealing with complexity as well as more operational aspects of being a principal. It also includes a two-week visit to another country and requires completion of a Creative Action Project, in which participants propose and implement a “value-adding change” in a different school than their own.

In Scotland, the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) provides various leadership learning programmes for prospective school leaders (Towards Headship and the Into Headship qualification) and for school leaders at different stages of their career (In Headship for beginning school leaders and Excellence in Headship for in-service principals). It also provides quality assurance for leadership development programmes in Scotland and identifies the most promising programmes via an online website. SCEL also works with partners to build a strong evidence base to inform policy, shares resources (such as the European Policy Network of School Leadership) and provides free online access to education journals via EBSCO.

Source: Greany (2018[5]), Balancing the needs of policy and practice, while remaining authentic: an analysis of leadership and governance in three national school leadership colleges. Wales Journal of Education, 20(2), 63-98.

National Academy for Educational Leadership Wales (2018[59]), Inspiring Leaders – Enriching Lives.

Education Scotland & SCEL (2019[60]), Website of the Scottish College for Educational Leadership.

The OECD recommends that Saudi Arabia create a similar, national-level leadership academy in order to strengthen the national focus on school leadership and build the capacity of principals. It is suggested that Saudi Arabia’s leadership academy begin by having relatively a limited role in order to avoid creating greater confusion around organisational responsibilities. In the immediate term, it should focus exclusively on training in-service principals. As such, the leadership academy should be located within NIPED because of the training role of NIPED. However, NIPED is already experiencing overstretched capacity, so it will be important that the Academy be funded through additional resources that are ring-fenced for this function, predictable and sustained over time. As NIPED is primarily focused on developing teachers and will become even more focused after the release of the new teacher standards, this leaves a sizeable gap around principal development that an adequately resourced leadership academy can fill.

Upon its introduction, the leadership academy should assume all principal development responsibility that is currently performed by NIPED. This includes not only training principals themselves, but also principal supervisors. Importantly, principals should be trained according to the new principal standards. Principal supervisors should be trained according to the updated supervisory standards proposed in School evaluation and quality assurance.

Replicate King Saud University’s degree programme in educational leadership and set highly competitive entrance criteria

Previous recommendations have suggested that Saudi Arabia better understand the demand for principals vis-à-vis the number of incoming principals and provide more high quality training for current principals. Nevertheless, it will also be necessary to take measures to ensure that the supply of incoming principals is highly skilled and motivated to take on the responsibilities of being an instructional leader.

King Saud University is an elite institution that has been accredited internationally and nationally. Its degree programme in educational leadership is the only one of its kind in the country from an accredited institution and includes coursework in leadership for learning, school performance management and practical fieldwork. Graduates of this programme are some of the most prepared principals in Saudi Arabia. However, this programme is only available at King Saud University, which limits the number of students who can benefit from it.

The OECD recommends that King Saud University’s programme in educational leadership be replicated in select universities around the country that have the capacity to implement it. This would help expand access to rigorous principal preparation. These programmes should work with the National Centre for Academic Accreditation and Assessment (NCAAA) to develop programme and accreditation guidelines, which would improve their rigour and credibility.

Entrance criteria into these degree programmes should be highly competitive. The purpose should be to graduate a limited number of motivated and skilled principals. Similar criteria that is recommended for selecting teachers, such as scores on entrance examinations and interviews, should be employed to select the most qualified candidates to enter these educational leadership programmes.

Create a prestigious programme that identifies and trains high-quality principals

With structures in place to prepare principals, it will be necessary to attract the most capable persons to enter pre-service training and eventually become principals. To this end, the OECD recommends creating a prestigious and highly competitive scholarship programme that selects the most qualified potential principals, provides them with fully funded preparation in one of the aforementioned educational leadership programmes, gives them professional mentorship. Conditions for participation should include being placed in a struggling school upon entrance into the profession, staying in that post for at least five years and acting as a mentor for future Leadership Scholars. The programme might be called “Leadership for Change” and participants “Leadership Scholars.”

The OECD recommends that the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK Foundation) should consider managing Leadership for Change. It is actively involved with education, already experienced with overseeing scholarship programmes and its engagement would further signal the prestige of becoming a Leadership Scholar. Upon their selection, Scholars could be invited to meet MiSK leadership, which would expand the professional network of Leadership Scholars and increase the attractiveness of the programme.

Select the most competitive students to be participants in Leadership for Change and fund their education

Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree, students will be eligible to apply for Leadership for Change. Specific recommendations for the selection process and other pre-service specifications are provided below.

  • Candidates must first pass the selection criteria established by the educational leadership programmes. Those who do would then undergo an additional screening process such that only the most qualified persons out of an already very qualified pool would be accepted.

  • Selection criteria would include higher standards on entrance examinations, a written personal statement and potentially an additional interview with senior MiSK Foundation staff (these could be conducted remotely).

  • The number of Leadership Scholars accepted would be informed by the previous manpower strategy recommendation.

  • Leadership Scholars should have their education fully funded. This not only includes tuition, but also accommodation and incidentals as many Scholars might have to relocate in order to study.

  • During their education, Scholars should be provided with formal networking opportunities with each other and university leadership in order to build relationships that they can take advantage of when they enter the profession.

Leadership Scholars should be directly placed into the profession as a deputy principal for two years and provided with continuous development

Upon graduation, Leadership Scholars should not have to pass the ETEC principal examination because they will have been thoroughly screened and will have graduated with a degree in education leadership from an accredited institution. Instead, they should be guaranteed a position as a deputy principal for two years as preparation for them to assume full principal duties. The schools where they are placed should not be overly challenging in order not to discourage the Scholars and should also be selected based upon the recognised mentorship capacity of the school’s principal (in the future, these schools could be schools led by Leadership Scholars). Selection of these schools should be done in close consultation with MoE. Mentor principals should be provided with training for this role by the previously recommended leadership academy.

Leadership Scholars should be placed into needy schools and provided with continuous development

After completing the deputy principal stints, Leadership Scholars would be ready to assume full principal responsibilities. As agreed upon when they applied to Leadership for Change, Leadership Scholars would assume their principal roles for at least five years in needy schools where their capacity and competence can be most impactful.

During this time, it will be important that Leadership Scholars receive support in order to remain motivated. In addition to support from their principal supervisors, Leadership Scholars should be provided with training from the previously recommended leadership academy. This training should be specifically developed for Leadership Scholars, as their high level of ability and placement into higher risk contexts means that they will need more targeted training. On a regular basis, Leadership Scholar cohorts should be convened for them to re-establish their relationships and learn from each other’s experiences. This will also help them stay committed to the profession and not be disenchanted by the difficulties of the job.

Use the new teacher pathways to develop school leadership roles below the principal

Schools in Saudi Arabia would benefit particularly from having school leadership positions below that of the principal and deputy principals. Given that principals in Saudi Arabia have not typically held roles of instructional leadership, they will need support from their staff when asked to fill this new role. Having additional leaders to share the new responsibilities would greatly assist them.

The policy framework for identifying these leaders has already been outlined by the new teacher standards; Advanced and Expert teachers would be natural candidates to assume roles as heads of departments and on-site mentors. In schools without teachers at these levels, the most competent Practitioner Teachers can be asked to become leaders, which would further incentivise them to develop their skills (see Chapter 3).

Progressively shift the responsibility of school management to schools, starting with those that become accredited by ETEC

At present, schools in Saudi Arabia are managed by a complicated bureaucracy comprised of supervisors and several departments in Directorates and Education Offices. Although principals are the individuals who are most aware about the needs of their schools, they have limited authority and incentive to influence the quality of teaching and learning in their schools.

The OECD recommends that, in the future, school principals, particularly those who demonstrate strong leadership capacity, should have more authority over their own schools and schools should be responsible for managing themselves. This would give greater authority to those who are best placed to drive important and alleviate the burden from an already overburdened corps of supervisors. There are excellent schools in Saudi Arabia, and these should be recognised and awarded with greater autonomy.

This type of significant change, however, requires substantial time to achieve and should not be rushed until the necessary school-level capacity to take on greater management responsibility has been built. Therefore, throughout this chapter the OECD has suggested moderate changes that will help establish the necessary policy foundations needed to achieve greater school-based management in the future.

An additional initiative that can steer Saudi Arabia in this direction is to use the new school evaluation framework to identify those schools that would be most capable of managing themselves. Schools that are accredited by the new school evaluation framework will have demonstrated high levels of capacity would benefit most from having greater autonomy. Key elements of having more autonomy might include less frequent visits by supervisors, greater discretion over which materials the schools wish to use and flexibility over adopting the curriculum for the school contexts.


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Annex 2.A. Key indicators
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List of key indicators

Saudi Arabia

OECD average

Background information



GDP per capita PPP (constant 2011 international dollars), 2018 *

49 101

40 537


GDP growth (annual %), 2018 *





Population Growth (annual %), 2018 *




Population aged 14 years or less (%), 2018 *




Fertility rates, total (Births per Woman), 2017 *




Rural population (% of total population), 2018 *




Unemployment, total (% of labour force), (modelled ILO estimate), 2018 **




Unemployment, youth total (% of total labour force ages 15-24) (modeled ILO estimate), 2017 **



Education Indicators



Starting age of compulsory education, 2018 ***




Duration of compulsory education (years), 2018 ***





Net enrolment rates ***

Pre-primary education (3 to 4 year olds) (2017)



Primary education (5 to 14 year olds) (2018)



Secondary education (15 to 19 year olds) (2018)




Tertiary education attainment rate (25-34 year olds), 2017 (EAG, 2017)





Mean age of teachers (TALIS 2018)




Ratio of students to teaching staff (2018) *** 

Primary education



Secondary education



Learning outcomes


Mean students' performance in reading (PISA 2018)




Mean students' performance in science (PISA 2018)




Mean students' performance in maths (PISA 2018)




Percentage of students below PISA proficiency level 2 in reading (PISA 2018)




Percentage of variance in reading performance explained by student's socio-economic background (PISA 2018)



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