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Education minister pushes for ‘practical partnerships’ at Saudi-Canadian forum

RIYADH: During the KSA-Canada Education Partnership Forum in Riyadh on Monday, Saudi Minister of Education Yousef Al-Benyan emphasized the need for “practical partnerships” between the two countries, stating that he is not interested in more agreements, but rather in meaningful collaborations.

“I want you to think beyond the traditional way of partnerships. We have had a lot of MoUs (memorandums of understanding) that have been signed previously and I want to tell you I am not interested in more MoUs. We want to make sure that these are carried into practical solutions,” Al-Benyan told the forum.

The Canadian Embassy, in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Education, hosted the forum, bringing together leading educational institutions from Canada and the Kingdom to explore areas of collaboration.

The forum will continue on Tuesday with discussions focused on joint study programs, collaborative research initiatives, curriculum development, student and faculty exchanges, and partnerships in technical and vocational training.

Jean-Philippe Linteau, the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “Canada is back, and Canada is eager to work with Saudi Arabia.

“We have over 70 people that have traveled from Canada and we have over 70 Saudi institutions that are here to meet them, (this) shows (that) the desire, the appetite for that collaboration between our two countries in the education sector is very, very strong,” the envoy told Arab News. 

“I am confident that out of today we will have many partnerships and successes that will develop over time for the benefit of Saudi students and Canadian education institutions as well,” he added. 

Spearheaded by the Canadian Embassy’s trade division, the education forum brought together leaders from several universities, including the University of Toronto, McMaster University, Western University, Humber College, and dozens of others.

The forum will include a tour for the Canadian delegation to meet the senior leadership of King Saud University, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.

On Tuesday, experts will discuss key areas of cooperation within the framework of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including information technology, tourism and hospitality, healthcare, clean energy, mining, and agriculture.

The Saudi minister said that this forum marks “the start of a practical partnership” that “looks into the ways and means to make an impact.”

Al-Benyan added: “We would like to see more student exchange and faculty exchange.” 

The Canadian envoy in turn emphasized the importance of people-to-people ties when growing partnerships. 

He told Arab News: “The best thing that can happen is we brought all of these people from Canada here, they will see the new Saudi Arabia, they will go back and they will tell people what they saw and what they missed, for the ones that were not here, and I think we will get more and more collaboration coming up.”

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