It was not just the teens that were affected by the competition, but their schools as well who found pride in their ability to encourage creativity and innovation. This pride could result in the adaptation of schooling systems to become more accepting of different talents.
The Saudi culture - and all cultures worldwide for that matter - was prompted and influenced by creativity. The importance of culture lies within a society’s ability to move forward and constantly progress, but always remember its roots. This proposes the notion that fostering creativity will inevitably lead to a flourishing of innovative minds - a key ingredient of progression.
As Saudi Arabia strives to bring its Vision 2030 to life and move away from its dependency on oil, it begins to focus its efforts on stimulating the creative minds of its young generations and future innovators. These endeavors may be more recent than others, but they are no less important nor are they stagnant.
According to data from the Global Innovation Index, the kingdom has been climbing, slowly but surely making its way up the innovation ladder. In 2020, KSA went up two places to reach 66th globally on the index, while its rank on the Creative Output Index rose from 86th place in 2019 to 69th in 2020. In such a short amount of time, the kingdom has been able to make considerable progress, and any progress is still just that, progress.
Anytime is a good time to foster creativity
The Ministry of Education, in partnership with Salem Bin Mahfouz Foundation, set out to unearth the creative minds hidden across the kingdom by bringing into being the national expressive talents competition, Khayal (“Imagination” in English), in 2017 and 2018. TAM’s competition design, organization, and launch experience was given the opportunity to apply itself throughout that entire period.
Khayal was developed as part of the MOE’s contribution to the Saudi Vision 2030 and its corresponding National Transformation Program which included the goal of improving the educational environment to better motivate creativity and innovation. The competition encompassed the world of digital artistic literature in the form of writing and drawing.
Each student was expected to submit either of the two methods of expression to represent the chosen educational topics or scopes. Simple as it may be, the competition would provide students with the means to convey their knowledge, allowing the ministry to discover, develop, and reward them for it.
In the final month of 2016, TAM began the preparation and project development phase for the contest. This of course entailed designing its identity and color scheme which would demonstrate the two participation methods.
Next, a focus group made up of education, arts, and literature experts was put together and invited to discuss the competition and its subject matters. This was done to better understand the needs of each field, how they can be combined, the students’ possible interests and motivation factors, as well as the best ways to reward them. Soon after the focus group concluded, the contest’s challenge topics and awards took form.
However, a focus group of experts alone was not enough, and TAM conducted a second involving middle and high school students. Taking into consideration the target audience’s opinions and remarks about the chosen details of the competition gave TAM a deeper understanding of what was expected from Khayal, allowing the team to further improve upon their already available components.
The final result was a set of three challenges for the Saudi middle and high school students to complete, each of which allowed them to either write or draw their answers. Now to apply, these students would need a dedicated platform designed to provide them with more information about the contest, its rules and regulations, the prizes, and how to register. TAM gave them just that, with an introductory video to boot.
TAM started by promoting the competition to the targeted audience with the use of colorful social media posts, influencer content, and relatable imagery, ones that teenagers would be intrigued by. TAM also included inspirational posts, fun polls, and even a countdown, all to bring awareness to the contest and grab the talents’ attention.
As the reach accumulated to secure tens of millions, the submissions consequently grew to hit 4,160 and 10,890 young artists and writers, respectively. To keep them motivated away from backing out, the applicants were sent direct emails informing them that their work had been received.
The competition had officially begun, and it was time to ink up the filtration system which would decide the advancing submissions based on the rules and whether all three challenges had been completed. Of the total, 120 youths would be chosen to continue to the judging phase where 28 would remain in the competition.
The final judging panel would then determine the 12 best applications, three for each of the following: middle school writers, high school writers, middle school artists, and high school artists. They would then proceed to the last part of the competition, the public voting, which would be completed through the website itself. After around 20,000 votes were in, the three high school and three middle school winners were announced, whether artist or writer.
Creativity is everywhere and it lives within us. Fostering this talent from a young age can ensure a more inventive and innovative future for generations to come. It is apparent that these students are looking for a way to showcase what they have, and that the public is willing to help ensure they develop their youths’ talents for a thriving and colorful prospective society.