Saudi Arabia is in an eon of transformation. In the last 50 years it has obliterated its previous rate of illiteracy down to near-zero. Education for women has also become a marked investment for the country, as demonstrated in the King Abdullah Scholarship program, the largest scholarship program in the history of Saudi Arabia, that started in 2005 between King Abdullah and President George Bush. It was lauched as an initiative to promote understanding between citizens of Saudi Arabia and Citizens of the United states, to improve their relation in a “post-911” era.
When the program began it had about 6,000 students in the states, but since then it has grown immensely popular. Eight years after its nascency 71,000 Saudis are studying topics from English, to Leadership organization, to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math.)
However, there is a paradox here. The number of women studying science surpasses the number of men studying science across the arab world, and yet these numbers are not being duplicated in the research workforce. Unemployment among Saudi women looking for jobs is down to 34 percent — almost five times as great as the 7 percent unemployment rate for men. Those unemployed women are disproportionately college-educated. Of Saudis receiving unemployment benefits, 86 percent are women, and 40 percent of those women have college degrees. Billions of dollars are being invested in the education of women whose presence in the work place is not always tolerated.
(More information can be found here. This is a synthesis of the situation and commentary about what Americans should do in response to the influx of Saudi students)