Norah Al-Faiz

Vice-minister at the Ministry of Education

I was born in Shagra in 1954 at a time when education was still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia. 

Growing up between Riyadh and the Eastern Province, I finished my early education, studied sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh in the mid-1970’s, and graduated in 1978 whilst pregnant with my first child.

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During my early journey through motherhood, my husband received a scholarship to the US, and I decided to move.

Eager to pursue my higher education, I started my master’s degree at Utah State University in instructional technology at the education department.  At that time, 99.9 percent of job opportunities for women were in education, and I knew this was needed in my country. 

Managing my family duties and studies was a unique experience as I was pregnant with my second child when graduating. I stayed focused and decided to pursue my specialist degree right after.

Returning to the Kingdom in 1983, I first joined the Institute of Public Administration as a manager and instructor; it had just opened its branch for female students. 

With the help of my colleagues, we established the Education Technology Center at the Ministry of Education, which focused on the development of education employees in the sector.

After that, I was invited to work as a supervisor for the Special Needs Center and worked part time as a professor at King Saud University before returning to the Institute of Public Administration as the general director of the women’s branch. 

In 2009, I was the first Saudi woman to be appointed to the position of vice-minister of education, an honor bestowed on me by the late King Abdullah. 

I was the first Saudi woman to be appointed to the position of vice-minister of education, an honor bestowed on me by the late King Abdullah.

I was determined from my first day to initiate programs that would have a positive impact on the professional career pathway of Saudi women, particularly in education.

Between 2009 and 2015, I succeeded in providing leadership opportunities for women at the ministry, improving working conditions and student learning outcomes. 

Another important step I am proud of is permitting private schools to have female teachers, and letting them teach male students in primary grades. Although I received opposition, it did not stop me from my goal. 

None of my achievements have ever been an individual effort: I worked with an amazing team and I am proud of the outcome. 

I received the Distinguished Arab Women Award in Education from the Arab Women Foundation in 2011, as well as the first prize at the 20th Global Summit for Countries Best Practices to Broaden Women Employability at the MOE in China in 2010. My alma mater, Utah State University, tracked my work and granted me an honorary doctorate in 2012 for my support of women’s and early childhood education.  

As a proud mother of five, my husband and I focused on raising our family to be independent and open to the world. Education was important but I believe striking a balance is key to happy, successful lives.

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Linkedin: @norah-alfaiz