The new English language curriculum in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: intentions and tensions in curriculum design and enactment

Mitchell, Brendan (2018) The new English language curriculum in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: intentions and tensions in curriculum design and enactment. Professional Doctorate (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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The research described in this dissertation focuses on an investigation into the processes associated with the development and implementation of the recently released English language curriculum in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: English Language Curriculum for Elementary, Intermediate, and Secondary Schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Grades 4 – 12, 2014 – 2020. The dissertation examines through a four-stage descriptive case study methodology the complex influences on the development of this curriculum, teachers' perceptions of their responses to enacting the curriculum, and an evaluation of efforts to support the curriculum's enactment, including a consideration of the role of initial teacher education in the reform efforts. The study draws attention to the claims of Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman, (1995) who suggest that curriculum "becomes the site on which the generations struggle to define itself and the world" (pp. 847-848). In brief, it addresses, through a multi-phase research journey, the tensions associated within the processes of curriculum design, development, and implementation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 21st Century. The study triangulates quantitative and qualitative data, including policy documents, an analysis of the content in initial teacher education programs, and surveys completed by English language teachers and supervisors to understand the phenomenon of English language reform processes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The findings of the study indicated there was evidence in the national English language curriculum, over time, of an increasing explicit intention to national imperatives, suggesting that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is consciously trying to "define itself" through a well-articulated identification of curriculum intent. As evidenced in the curriculum documents and the background materials supporting the development of the curriculum documents, the current curriculum gives increasing attention to adherence to the unique nature of the customs, culture, and the influence and importance of family and religion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There is also increased evidence of neoliberal influences in curriculum intention; that is, the documents increasingly demonstrate explicitly the intention of the Kingdom to align education to economic output through the "Saudization" of the workforce and transforming both the economy through diversification from oil and graduating students as creative thinkers with entrepreneurial capability. While the current curriculum is clearly defined, both English language teachers and supervisors have concerns around the intended reform imperatives that thwart the realization of this intent. Participants identified, amongst other things, their personal language proficiency, time constraints, and the need for more professional development programs targeting teachers' needs to see this intent actualized. The challenges that teachers encounter with the implementation of the current English language curriculum are identified to likely be perpetuated by initial teacher education programs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that give minimal attention to English language teaching pedagogy. Further, the absence of benchmarked English proficiency testing as an entry or exit requirement for initial teacher education programs is suggested to be necessary to address graduate teachers' proficiency to enact the demands of the curriculum.

This study has several implications for the successful implementation of the current curriculum and future curricula. First, there is the need for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to address the identified challenges teachers face in implementing the current curriculum through professional development programs and English proficiency programs. In addition, graduate teachers require induction and in-service training programs, which would assist them with transitioning to the classroom with the ability to deliver the curriculum as intended.

In summary, the study identified key areas that need to be addressed to improve the teaching and learning of English in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and implement the curriculum as it is intended. English language teachers, working in Ministry of Education schools, require pedagogy and English proficiency professional development programs in order to see the current curriculum realized. Aligned with this is the likely need to implement standardized national English proficiency tests for students to quantitatively benchmark and measure student improvement and the success of professional development programs for English language teachers.

Complementing English proficiency requirements for English language teachers is a recommended requirement for graduate teachers to attain the same English language proficiency level as English language teachers before being eligible to apply for an English language teaching position at the Ministry of Education. It is suggested this needs to coincide with the restructuring of initial teacher education programs in the Kingdom to align them with the skills and attributes graduate teachers require to enter the classroom without the need for professional development programs upon graduation and before entering the classroom. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has and continues to make great strides in the development of the provision of quality education for all its citizens since its foundation in 1932. However, the research identifies the changes necessary for these educational development challenges to be addressed for this ambitious nation to diversify its economy, "Saudize" its workforce, and become a knowledge-based society.

Finally, the research has been instrumental in informing, from a critical perspective, my role as an international curriculum facilitator. It has advanced my knowledge and application of curriculum construction, the fluid definitions of curriculum, and the intentions and associated tensions of curriculum, with a particular relevance to educationally developing countries. Complementing this professional knowledge development has been the acquirement of the skills to analyze the impact that teacher professional development programs have on implementing curriculum as intended and the influence of initial teacher education programs on teacher competency. In brief, I understand that curriculum intentions are strongly influenced by the stakeholders involved, and in my future roles understanding these influences are central to my role in negotiating the design of a curriculum and its implementation for "common" good.

Item ID: 63814
Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate (Research))
Keywords: English language curriculum, pedagogy, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Brendan Mitchell.
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2020 01:08
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130204 English and Literacy Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl LOTE, ESL and TESOL) @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130207 LOTE, ESL and TESOL Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl Maori) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education @ 100%
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