My Experiences of the Saudi Arabia Education System
Every nation has its own education system. In this paper, I will present my experiences Saudi Arabia education system, having had the privilege or rather the opportunity to study in the vast country. I am a Saudi Arabia Citizen and I completed my Bachelor degree in 1994. I was among the lucky few who managed to get employed the same year of my graduation. However, I opted out of the teaching industry to pursue a Masters Degree in Education and Leadership. I am currently involved in the education system of Saudia since I am working at the country’s ministry of education
The education system in Saudi Arabia is largely dominated by religious content. For instance, Religious Studies at the primary school level are allocated a total nine periods per week. The number makes up of larger percentage compared to twenty-three hours per week allocated to Arabic language, mathematics, science, English language, social studies, and physical education. On the other hand, two-thirds of the university graduates attain their degree in Islamic subject. In general, Saudi Arabia is a country with stereotypical religious and oriental culture which is even entrenched in the country’s education sector (House, 2012).
Principles of Change Management
According to Alpern and Aguirre (2014), there are ten principles of change management which should be adhered to in achieving effective change. In a nutshell, the principles include leading with the culture, commencing at the top, involving each layer, making the emotional and rational case together, and acting your way in new thinking. In addition, you should engage all stakeholders, leading outside the lines, managing informal solutions, leveraging formal solutions and finally adapting and accessing.
Currently, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education is in process of revamping the primary school curriculum in an attempt to bring the levels of education in the country up to the international levels of learning. The ministry acknowledges that primary stage is important to building student’s personality and holistic development. Moreover, the ministry is in the process of making changes to the curriculum providing training for teachers and other measures that are required in preparation of children at this level. This is in line with the principle of starting at the top, engaging the stakeholders who in this case are teachers, leveraging formal solutions and acting in new thinking.
The changes in the education curriculum are in line with the countries pursuant of sustainability and diversification, as it moves towards is Vision 2030. The nation believes that education is one of the key pillars that would help in the realization of this ambitious vision. This is because it is through education that meaningful economic, cultural, and business reforms would be implemented through the creation of skilled and educated workforce. This thus aligns with the principle of leading with the culture as well as making the emotional and rational case together.
According to the national demographic statics, two-thirds of the country’s population is below 30 years old (Sayre, and Yousef, 2016). Therefore, for Saudi Arabia to realize its vision 2030, it has to take advantage of skills, knowledge, and expertise that this young generation would have to offer Furthermore, the country needs to go away with the outdated, ineffective teaching methods and low education standards. The ministry of education puts its efforts in the following three sections: building skills needed for the job market, new curriculum development, and higher education advancement. Among the vision 2030 goals are, ‘to develop at least five world ranking university among the best 200 universities around the world’; ‘help students attain marks that are above the international average in global indicators’; ‘work towards attaining job specifications of every field of education’. From a distance, these goals seem farfetched and unattainable, for example, the ministry is not clear on where these five universities will be built or the criteria of being chosen, how the development of job specifications for every education field will be achieved.
Nonetheless, these goals are in line with the knowledge-based economy, which is reliant on skills and capabilities of individuals as opposed to the natural resources or the physical inputs. To achieve this, the country needs a total change in the education curriculum that would align itself with these goals, a curriculum that puts its emphasis on critical and analytical thinking skills as opposed to the traditional memorizing of literature for the sake of passing the examination.
As revealed by Hargreaves, and Fullan, (2012), the students in Saudi Arabia are not learning the required skills expected to be taught in schools such as problem-solving, questioning and creative thinking. He continues by saying that some students in the country find it hard when they begin their learning at the university some most of the subjects are taught using the English language, as subjects such as biology, physics, and chemistry employ English as their basic language of approach, analysis, and methodology. Moreover, they lack adequate learning skills and the personal commitment to the university education.
As a result, the majority of the Saudi graduates are ill-equipped for the job market, the situation is worse when it comes to competing on a global level. Because of this, the country today relies heavily on foreign expertise and skills. For the country to deliver the vision 2030 that has the feel and touch of the local, it needs to invest in quality education for its younger generation. To achieve this, first, the country needs to a change in the way of thinking of individuals, communities pertaining religion, customs, and tradition. As it is today, the education system in Saudi Arabia is deeply rooted in values and teachings of Sharia law and Islam. For instance, at K-12 level, the emphasis is on the history of the country, religion, and culture as opposed to mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.
To help student to do well on this critical subject at the university level, they must first be integrated into the K-12 curriculum earlier in their learning period. According to the UNESCO report on education in Saudi Arabia, the goals of education in the country are to equip students with religious value besides equipping them with various skills and knowledge. In education is also aimed at developing the society culturally and economically. In addition it is also focuses at preparing a person to be a useful member in building of their community’ and ‘to develop their conduct in constructive directions.
In this respect, the country must educate and equip skills to its workforce if it has ambitions of becoming a global force in the economy. Measures have been taken in this direction to ensure that the young generation is well educated regardless of their gender. For instance, King Abdullah started a scholarship program known as the KASP (King Abdullah Scholarship program) where students get a chance to be sent abroad to learn and acquire new academic skills in a bid to crop bred of a young generation that would help in the modernization of the country. This crop of young people now plays a critical role in ensuring that the vision 2030 is on track (Reizberg, 2011). The K-12 program, on the other hand, was included in vision 2030 to measure the effectiveness of parent’s involvement in education. The program aims that by 2020; about 85% of the parents in Saudi Arabia will have gotten an opportunity to participate in school activities that involve the educational development of their children. This will shift the children’s educational responsibility from the house helps to parents