Saudi Arabia - Education
Education played a significant role in the country's development plans, in
the 1990's with particular emphasis on engineering and science, although teaching
is still strongly influenced by culture. Despite a great deal of effort in the
field of teacher education, the shortage of teachers is great and many teachers
are foreigners. In 1995, illiteracy was 37% and highest among the elderly and
women. There is no compulsory schooling.
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The education system, which is state and free, includes a preschool for
4-6-year-olds, which is applied for by approximately 8% (1996) and is common to girls
and boys. In the six-year primary school, which is followed by 76% (1996), and
in the later schooling process, girls and boys do not just go to different
schools, but these are also placed under different ministries. 61% (1996)
continue in the three-year middle school, which can be followed by a three-year
higher secondary school.
The country has eight universities (1998). The oldest and largest, Islamic
University of Imam Muhamad Ibn Saud, which was founded in 1953 and has had
university status since 1974, has approximately 40,000 students.
OFFICIAL NAME: al-Mamlaka al-Arabiyya al-Saudiyya
CAPITAL CITY: Riyadh
POPULATION: 27,300,000 (Source: COUNTRYaah)
AREA: 2,200,000 km²
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (S): Arabic, English
RELIGION: Sunni Muslims 93%, Shia Muslims 3%, Christians 3%, others 1%
CURRENCY CODE: WOUND
ENGLISH NAME: Saudi Arabia
POPULATION COMPOSITION: Arabs 90%, others 10%
GDP PER residents: $ 31,300 (2013)
LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 73 years, women 77 years (2013)
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, HDI: 0.836
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, POSITION: 34
INTERNET DOMAIN NAME: .so
Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of the Arabian Peninsula. The country is predominantly
desert and very sparsely populated. In the subsurface is 1/4 of
the world's known oil reserves; with these in the back and as guardians of
Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia plays a major power
role in the Middle East and in the Islamic world.
The country's highly conservative government has based its stability on a
combination of political, social and ideological control along with improved
living conditions and a well-equipped military. With an incipient opening and
modernization of the country, the government faces major challenges. For
geology, cultural conditions and prehistory, see Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia - Constitution
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy and the basis of government is Islamic
law sharia. The throne is not hereditary, as the king is chosen from among and
by the princes of the Saud family in consultation with religious leaders. The
king has the executive power and appoints a government to help him.
The first written constitution is from March 1992, when a law with civil
rights was passed; in 1993 an advisory body of 60 members appointed by the king
was set up; expanded to 90 members in 1997. It has no legislative powers but can
Saudi Arabia - social conditions
Saudi Arabia's oil revenues have very purposefully benefited the entire Saudi
people in terms of welfare services such as free education, free access to
health care and improved infrastructure; however, the services do not include
the country's many guest workers.
However, society is still very stratified. At all levels, the traditional way
of organizing social networks, based on family and tribal relationships, is
being rediscovered. This kinship-based system is particularly visible at the
village level, while in the big cities a modern middle class has emerged, which
orients itself towards a more western lifestyle and welfare.
On the basis of a strict interpretation of Islam, society is strongly
gendered, which means that women's legal rights and social conditions are
relatively limited. They are not allowed to move freely in public space; for
example, they are not allowed to drive, and they are to sit in special, enclosed
areas in restaurants. In general, the restriction on civil liberties is strongly
pronounced, see the Islamic legal family. Compared to Western countries, crime
is very low, which is officially justified by the widespread Islamic ethics.
Saudi Arabia (Health Conditions)
Life expectancy in 1996 was 71 years for women and 69 for men, an increase
from 1970 of respectively. 17 and 18 years. Infant mortality dropped from 65
per 1,000 live births in 1980 to 22 in 1996.
The disease pattern is still characterized by infectious diseases, but the
incidence of civilizational diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and
cardiovascular disease, is increasing.
Saudi Arabia has an expanded public health service with hospitals and health
clinics, which is free for Saudi citizens. The Armed Forces has its own
healthcare system. Government expenditure on public health in 1996 amounted to
3.1% of GDP. There is also a private health service with hospitals and
clinics. Foreign nationals working in the country must be health insured by
their employer. A large part of the health workers are foreign, especially
Egyptian, but in the 1990's there was a sharp expansion of medical education.
Saudi Arabia (Judicial System)
Saudi Arabia, like the other states on the Arabian Peninsula, is a Muslim
country whose population in principle lives under Islamic law, ie. the customs
which assert the superiority, excellence and immutability of Islamic
law. Personal, family and inheritance law is Islamic law, and the same applies
to criminal law, where punishments such as beheading and flogging are still
used. Commercial law, however, is governed by Western law. Saudi Arabia has
introduced laws that are heavily influenced by Egyptian law, which in turn is
governed by French law. Even in the areas where Western law has been introduced,
Arab jurists interpret and apply the laws in a way that testifies to an Islamic
way of thinking. See also the Islamic legal family.
Saudi Arabia (Military)
The Armed Forces is (2006) at 224,500. The army is 75,000, the navy 15,500,
the air force 18,000, the air force 16,000 and the National Guard 100,000. The
forces' equipment is of Western make, primarily new American and British
equipment as well as somewhat older French and American. The regular army staffs
three armored and five armored infantry brigades as well as an
airborne brigade. The National Guard includes 75,000 regular soldiers manning a
further three armored infantry and five infantry brigades, as well as 25,000
desert tribe fighters. The fleet has 11 larger and 66 smaller combat units,
7 demining vessels, 8 landing craft, 19 armed helicopters and a navyregiment
of 3000 men. The Air Force is the third largest in the Middle East and is a
balanced force with approximately 290 fighter aircraft, 5 radar
surveillance aircraft, 11 tankers, 45 transport aircraft and approximately 80
helicopters. The Air Force is primarily equipped with French and American
missiles and cannons. The border forces are 15,500.
The biggest military opponent for many years was Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but
after the Iraq war in 2003, this danger is gone. After the fall of the shah,
Iran has been an unpredictable neighbor and in the Iran -Iraq War, there were
skirmishes between Saudi and Iranian units. Yemeni tribesmen regularly cross the
border and Saudi Arabian armed forces are deployed to restrict traffic.
Saudi Arabia - Mass Media
The press is relatively young; it was not until the late 1940's that a
news-oriented press emerged. In 2004, approximately ten dailies. Two of the largest
Arabic speakers are Al-Riyadh, grdl. 1965, edition approximately 150,000, and
Al-Jazirah 'Peninsula', grdl. 1972, edition approximately 110,000.
The largest English-language newspaper is the Pan-Arab Arab News (Grdl. 1975,
circulation approximately 110,000). The press is loyal to the government and its
policies, and criticism of Islam, the royal family or the government is
The majority of the media is owned by the royal family and its relatives. The
State Broadcasting Service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates four
television networks; private radio and television stations are not
allowed. Censorship is widespread, also of the internet. But many people watch
satellite TV from the joint Arab channels MBC and Al-Jazeera as well
as CNN. See also Arabic press.