GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Building Effective School-to-Work Transition Systems in Saudi Arabia: A Preliminary Research
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper will explore how the effective school-to-work transition systems can be built in Saudi Arabia. School-to-work transition is a research agenda in the field of educational sociology, which has been investigated with a number of country-case studies and cross-national comparisons in the past three decades (Raffe 2014). Nevertheless, the concept has hardly been applied to the case of Saudi Arabia, most likely due to the rentier nature of the Saudi economy in which the vast majority of local workforce had been absorbed into the public sector until recently (Hertog 2016). With the rapid growth of the population, however, the rent-distributive structure has become increasingly unsustainable. While the economy is now labour-abundant with around 6 million local citizens, or 28% of the local population, between the ages of 20 and 34 (General Authority of Statistics, Saudi Arabia, 2016), the absence of effective school-to-work transition systems has been resulting in the growing number of jobless young educated local citizens (Bosbait and Wilson 2005).
It is apparent that what the Saudi economy is in need of today is mechanisms to feedback changing skills requirements in the labour market into the field of education through effective industry-school partnerships (ISPs) that create ‘contextualised curriculum’ aimed at enhancing graduates’ employability and (further) trainability (Flynn, Pillay and Watters 2016). In addition, the recent literature addresses the importance of early professional experience which prepares students for transition in advance and in a continuous manner. Family and communities play key roles in such early training, and the construction of ‘self-image’ by the student/trainee is considered to be more important than the acquisition of marketable skills at this stage to generating his/her confidence with regard to his/her future career trajectory (Ashton and Ashton 2015).
Nevertheless, the creation of effective school-to-work transition systems is a no easy task. The models existing in the West may not be directly applicable to the ecosystem of Saudi Arabia, given that these models are rooted in Western economies’ long and intrinsically unique historical developmental experiences since the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, which may not be shared by Saudi Arabia and the rest of the late-industrializing world. For instance, the German apprenticeship systems have long been a source of Germany’s industrial competitiveness, but the systems rely on the historically-consolidated social norm in the country that employers are responsible for the provision of training, and the perceived prediction deriving from that norm that employers not doing so will be punished in the form of their damaged reputation (Harhoff and Kane 1997); whereas it is unlikely that such a norm can be generated and diffused instantly among Saudi private firms which have long been enjoying their access to imported skilled labour.
This paper, thus, will instead refer to experiences in catch-up economies in Asia which built their own effective school-to-work transition systems within relatively short periods of time, with an intention to draw useful lessons from those experiences that are applicable to the Saudi context. It will examine what roles relevant stakeholders such as the government, schools, firms, family, and communities played at the early stage of the development of the systems in these economies, and analyse what conditions enabled them to play such roles, as a preliminary step of investigation.


Ashton, Heidi S., and Ashton, David N. (2015) “‘Bring on the Dancers’: Reconceptualising the Transition from School to Work”, Journal of Education and Work (published online).
Bosbait, Mohammed., and Wilson, Rodney. (2005) “Education, School to Work Transitions and Unemployment in Saudi Arabia”, Middle Eastern Studies, 41(4): 533-546.
Flynn, Matthew C., Pillay, Hitendra., and Watters, Jim. (2016) “Industry-School Partnerships: Boundary Crossing to Enable Schools to Work Transition”, Journal of Education and Work, 29(3): 309-331.
Harhoff, Dietmar., and Kane, Thomas J. (1997) “Is the German Apprenticeship System a Panacea for the US Labour Market?”, Journal of Population Economics, 10(2): 171-196.
Hertog, Steffen. (2016) “Rent Distribution, Labour Markets and Development in High Rent Countries”, London School of Economics Kuwait Programme Paper Series, 40.
General Authority for Statistics, Saudi Arabia. (2016) “السكان حسب فئات العمر والجنس”.
Raffe, David. (2014) “Explaining National Differences in Education-Work Transitions”, European Societies, 16(2): 175-193.