Education is provided to everyone through secondary school, segregated by sex. There is both general education or traditional Islamic education available to boys, and education for girls. The general curriculum includes Arabic, art education, English, geography, history, home economics (girls only), physical education (boys only) Islamic studies, math and science. In the final two years of secondary education, students must choose between a scientific or literary stream. (Sedgwick, 2001)

There are a limited number of universities in Saudi Arabia, offering a Baccaloreus degree, which generally takes 4 years, with additional time required for certain fields. Master’s and doctorate degrees are also available, but limited. (Sedgewick, 2001) In 2005 King Abdullah created a scholarship program whereby approved Saudi students could go to other parts of the world in pursuit of their post-secondary education.

According to Amani K Hamdan, an Assistant Professor and Vice Dean at the Faculty of Education in the University of Dammam Saudi Arabia, some of the challenges that non-Saudi teachers find when teaching Saudi students are as follows:

  • Rote Learning vs. Critical Thinking: Saudi education is focused on rote learning. Truth is deemed absolute, and knowledge is imparted by teachers. One teacher in the study says, “students in Saudi are used to [using] one function of the brain, which is to store information…I feel for my Saudi students who have been taught to memorize for the entire K-12 education.” (Hamdan, 2014)

  • Motivation of Saudi students: Some teachers noted that they found it very difficult to motivate their Saudi student. “Unlike the students in the US, Saudi students rarely work…part-time or full-time job[s]. Telling Saudi students that they need to pass the course for a job has little or no effect.” (Hamdan, 2014)

  • Student/faculty or staff relationship: In Saudi Arabia, male teachers teach only male students and conversely female teachers teach female students. When a Saudi student comes to the U.S. for education, they must quickly adapt to the fact that they will be taught by both males and females. In addition, the Saudi cultural expectations of the hierarchy between students and teachers will be greatly different than they encounter here. The Saudi student typically expects much more direct instruction from faculty.

  • In Saudi Arabia, as in the U.S., the curriculum is more imitative than creative, having adopted from western programs to compete on an international scale, and often do not seem relevant to the Saudi student. In the U.S., of course, most textbooks are written almost exclusively from a western perspective. It may, therefore, take extra work from the professor to find ways of connecting the material in relevant ways with the non-western students in the classroom.

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