Saudi Arabia is trying to implement an education system for young children to impart the right values and morals to them so that it does not affect the culture and tradition of the Arabs. The Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia has a major role to play in this regard and as such it must develop Early Childhood Education Programs that uphold the Arab Muslim values to prepare the children to face the challenges of the future.
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To achieve this, education must have priority over all other mundane things of the day to day life of the Arab community. Special emphasis should be made to include English learning in the curriculum so that the Arab students in Saudi Arabia will be able to seek more knowledge in a world that is developing at a fast pace towards ultra modernization.
With English learning, Arab students will become the torch bearers of a new era and in that attempt they will be able to relive the past glory of the Arab civilization. The new generation of the Arab students has to become world citizens of tomorrow and witness the remarkable developments in all fields of knowledge.
With right education they will attain enough confidence to move ahead and send a message to the rest of the world about the rich values, tradition and morals of the Arab society. The Arab students with the help of English language learning will in due course herald positive change in the society in every walk of life.
In the present context, there is a need to examine the prevalent social and educational systems carefully in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which have been successful in the past and improve them further so that the Arab students get the education that will prepare them for the great opportunities ahead.
The Arab value system will not be affected negatively by English learning; rather it will only help the Arab students to have a modernized outlook so that it will create a strong and stable Saudi Arabia, every Arab could be proud of.
Universal Education and the influence of religious beliefs
Education accelerates development in human beings, and the first and foremost aim of universal education is to allow people to exercise the freedom to lead the life they want and provide the right tools and opportunities to satiate their dreams.
Bahgat (1999) states, “Education is essential and all standards of training and teaching throughout the world of mankind should be brought into conformity and agreement; a universal curriculum should be established and the basis of ethics be the same.” This means education has a universal quality by which it taps the inner forces of an individual.
Moral values happen to be the constructive core elements of any social fabrics and they are the real expressions of the individual’s self that lies in the subconscious spiritual reality of a person. The right kind of education will recognize these forces and make them a catalyst in motivating a child in school and bring about a meaningful and lasting change in him which in turn will contribute to the world community at large (Bahgat, 1999).
There are different cultures in the world and the value of education is recognized by all. It is only through education that ignorant person gains knowledge, the fearful becomes brave and fearless; it shapes the personality of an individual and makes him a perfect human being.
It is only through education that people will become more humane and civilized. Education has such a great impact on the human mind and as such the differences perpetuated by education will have immense magnitude (Bahgat, 1999).
Educationists all over the world are concerned over the gradual degradation in the morals and values in the students in the modern times. When a person attains knowledge, it is then directed for the betterment and progress of the society and the children are taught good morals and values that stay with them throughout their lives. Education is instrumental in bringing positive change in the person as well as the community.
An educated member of the society will have the will and determination to overcome all kinds of divisive forces and conflicts in the society and work towards a united and enlightened community (City Montessori School, n.d.).
Education is defined as a continuous and creative process through which a person gets an opportunity to develop his dormant capabilities. The creative process, therefore, begins in a child from the moment he starts learning in the school. With proper education a student can rightfully attain harmony between his own religion and reasoning, as it encourages the individual to investigate reality.
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The human mind is trained gradually to recognize the truth, no matter where it originates from. Each and every person in the society has a responsibility and should amalgamate it with one’s own community and the world outside so that a positive change is instilled. The best educational approach is directed towards the personal growth of an individual and aims to bring in a social transformation.
It is essentially based on the belief that human beings are spiritual in nature and the elements of universal education answers the true needs of the human society and brings its different sections closer to culminate in the unification of the world. Education shall help a person to understand the ways of life and at the same time it must infuse universal qualities that are synonymous with the human race (City Montessori School, n.d.).
The family and the community as a whole have a dual responsibility in developing the student’s moral character and improving his intellect. Parents, grandparents and the neighbors have an important role to play here.
The child must be provided with the best environment possible so that proper growth and development takes place over the years. Education leads to the awareness that people need to be free from all religious bigotry and fanaticism that has gripped the world in the present times. With a broader outlook achieved through education, they can become more tolerant towards other religions and communities (City Montessori School, n.d.).
There is a strong influence of religion on the education system of a country. Every country has its own specific culture and Saudi Arabia too has its own distinct religion and culture. The Muslim community in Saudi Arabia has been a conservative one where education was closely linked to religion. Arabic language is the language of Islam and because of this reason it has gained considerable importance in the Arab community.
Followers of Islam have high respect for Arabic language and teach their children to read and write the language from a tender age. It is taught in the Madrasas and it is a must for every primary school student in Saudi Arabia. Children are trained to read the Holy Quran so that from an early age itself the children are aware of their religion and its teachings (Abdan, 2002).
Culture is a definite method of organizing and improving human activity that in turn is characteristic of the people in general and portrays their national and individual ethnic identity and also reflects the religious environment. In the modern times, the international and intercultural links are developing at a quick pace and the Muslim culture is being redefined and its place in social progress is seen in a new perspective.
It has an undeniable influence compared to other religious communities in forming the new world culture. The Arab world too is going through many changes and English is being taught in most of the private schools so that the coming generation of Arab students does not get left behind in any way.
They have to become global citizens with a broad outlook that will teach them to accept other cultures with an open mind and become more tolerant towards other religions of the world. The Arab people need a universal education that will bring them closer to rest of the world and English learning is the only way to achieve it in the coming years (Abdan, 2002).
The present Arab educational system & the influence of Quran
Saudi Arabia has a rich intellectual and educational tradition that is a matter of great pride to the country men. Lately, the Arab countries are facing a lot of difficulties and it relates to the field of education as well. The education system in the country is going through a transition where Arab students are gradually moving from traditional Madrasas to private educational institutions that are adapting English and American Diplomas.
Since the Arabic people are well known for preserving their religion and culture, the Arabic language has been the first language for the Arab students for centuries. However, the people of Saudi Arabia like to spend their energy and valuable resources in the pursuit of knowledge.
Because of their insistence on acquiring knowledge, the Arab region became the most developed part of the world when compared to any other country in the olden times. They were the leaders in many areas of knowledge and remain the same so even today (Elyas et al., 2010).
We will have to study the various interesting aspects of the Arab education system of the yester years to understand what it means today to the Arab people and where exactly the Arab world stands now with respect to education. They started seeking education from centuries ago, as it was writ in their religion, for Prophet Muhammad stated in the Quran that “it is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek education.”
The prophet is known to have founded mosque schools for the spread of education. Under his guidance and influence the Arabs got an opportunity to pursue knowledge and because of it Arabic gained prominence being the language of Quran and gradually it became the common means of communication of the masses (Hamdan, 2005).
The Arabs absorbed the teachings of scholars of other countries including India, Greece and Persia and that put great momentum to the renaissance movement in education among the Arab community under Abbasid dynasty. Since then the Mosque schools were very popular as it imparted knowledge to rich and poor alike.
There was no bias or discrimination between the men and the women as both had the freedom to gain education. Studies in Koran and Hadith were meant for Muslim students only and many in the outside world still believe that the term madrasa literally means the place of learning where education is mainly based on the teachings of the Holy Koran. But History has a different story to tell.
The madrasas in course of time became popular and scholars from the length and breadth of the Arab empire came to study there. The total number of disciplines increased and teachers were given good remuneration. Best students were awarded scholarships and their studies were funded by the government as well as other private sources (Hamdan, 2005) & (Blanchard, 2005).
Women were at the forefront and there were no restrictions on them and they contributed to all the major spheres of life even in the early years. Muslim scholars traveled from country to country in search of greater knowledge. As a result, academics were able to acquire great amount of knowledge and build an impressive collections of books.
Slowly the Arab influence began to spread to other countries and the resultant transfer of knowledge that was based on Arab learning and scholarship, improved the level of education in Europe. This gave birth to new disciplines such as the seven liberal arts. The Arabic scholars are known to introduce empirical methods to research for the first time in the field of education.
If the Arabs were so famous for their civilization in the past, then why not revive the past glory now with the help of English learning. Today the Arabs are facing an ironical situation since the beginning of the 21st century as they are having a severe knowledge deficit. This is perhaps one of the major weaknesses of the Arabs. It was a different story some thousand years ago when the Arab people was in the lead in every sphere of knowledge.
They made great discoveries and are known for codifying knowledge. The scientific method developed by them in education became the basis of a famous civilization all over the world (Mneimneh, 2008) & (Griffin & Algren, 1988).
Influence of English learning on the attitude of the young Arabs since Sept 11 attack
A lot of significant changes have taken place in Saudi Arabia ever since the terrorist attack of September 11 that has put a question mark on the education system in the country.
The ministry of education of Saudi Arabia has adopted a liberal approach to education and is consciously encouraging private educational institutions in the country to welcome International programs so that the world at large can witness their modern education system.
It has brought in a positive change in the society, and families began to search for the best education for their wards, in compliance with the beliefs and political conventions of the parents. A noticeable transformation has taken place where most private schools in the country have adapted American or English Diplomas in the curriculum visualizing better education for them.
This does not mean that if English is taught as the first language it will affect the knowledge so far inherited by the Arab students. Rather, it will create only a positive impact on the character and achievement of the students (Coffman, 1995).
This is a major concern among the educationists and parents in Saudi Arabia. Will it have an effect on the mother tongue? Will English help the students in achieving the desired knowledge and benefit them in the long run?
The current trend will have to be compared to the traditional Arabic learning program and the educators and parents will have to decide whether the English language or the Arabic language is more effective in student’s abilities and beliefs. The aim of this research is to decide on the best education for the Arab students so that they can have a bright future and an illustrious career for themselves.
It will help guardians to make an intelligent choice between the present education systems and programs that are offered to the students in the country. Saudi Arabia is a country where the people speak mainly the Arabic language, and those who speak Arabic are of the opinion that it is just not a language; it is more than that.
It is the language of God or of Islam, and they believe it to be the language chosen by God to speak to human beings. It is through this language the Arab people perceive the world and express the reality. Needless to say it has a profound impact on a society in general and its outlook (Coffman, 1995).
Quoting Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, the former Algerian minister of education, Coffman (1995) reinstates that “a people that changes language is a people that changes its soul and its view on the world.” The Arabic world is highly conservative and they have been for years very rigid when it came to their culture and language.
They have been remained unaffected by the western influences for decades, but lately with the decision of the education ministry to implement American and English Diplomas in the private educational institutions, the Arabic society adapted a change in themselves that has not been witnessed so far and it has thrown the doors open to a lot of debate among parents about the effects of English as a first language on their children on morals an values (Coffman, 1995).
The September 11 terrorist attacks left the entire world a state of shock, especially Saudi Arabia, when the US Government revealed that 19 hijackers were of Muslim Arab origin and that they had come from Saudi Arabia.
According to Friedman (2001), “the editorial pages of American newspapers have been full of articles discussing Arab educational systems, and particularly Saudi schools”.
The writers of the USA newspapers en bloc held the view that the educational institutions in KSA and other Arab countries were inculcating a hostile attitude in the minds of Arab youth towards the western world, and therefore, they are the only people to be blamed for the anti-U.S. terrorism measures adopted in the world today (Friedman, 2002).
This created immense pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and also on the Saudi’s present education system. Everything changed after the chaotic events of September 11, 2001. Nothing was the same in the Americans or for the Arabs any longer. The Saudi Arabians were looked with suspicion irrespective of their position and stay.
The Americans had no clue as to why it happened in the first place and tried to find the reason behind such a horrific act on the part of terrorists. It must be noted that the number of Saudi Arabs living in the United States is not limited to a few and that is the reason why the Americans got such a big shock.
The incident has left a scar in the minds of all Americans and since then the relationship between the two countries has worsened to a great extent (Elyas, 2008).
Saudi Arabia and America have become suspicious of each other now. The education system in Saudi Arabia came under a severe attack of criticism just after that. The world community felt that the Arabic education system was exporting terrorism by the making of Islamic extremists, who have already become a threat to the whole civilized world.
There was a sound reason behind these doubts as Saudi Arabia follows religious education strictly, and that the terrorist acts were committed in the name of their religion. For the first time the image of Islam was tarnished and the majority of the world population saw the Muslims in a different light altogether.
Islam happens to be the one of the greatest religion with approximately, 1.2 billion followers and as such it was an unpleasant incident occurred in the name of Allah (Elyas, 2008).
Discussing on 9/11 attack, Bar (2004) comments: “This fact has sparked a fundamental debate both in the West and within the Muslim world regarding the link between these acts and the teaching of Islam.”
The unfortunate incident has put the entire Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, under suspicion, and educationists in the country are looking for answers that will put an end to such incidents in future. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wants a new progressive education system and is trying to promote English learning in the Arab students.
The Arab people like the people of other countries are now waking up to the fundamental and dynamic changes that are taking place in the world that are forming broader outlooks. To create a new and a better world that will be free of religious fanaticism it is important that every citizen of the world gets a good and prospective moral education.
The Arab students thus need to develop a mentality to adapt them to an education system that teaches religious tolerance and international understanding. The education ministry of Saudi Arabia is implementing new methods of action in this perspective, which is commendable.
In addition to this, the interaction between the Arabs and the people of the rest of the world has given them an opportunity to know the different cultures of the world and that broadens their outlook. There is more unity among the people of the world than ever before because of the new and progressive economic and social conditions (Elyas, 2008).
English as a catalyst to liberal thinking
The Achebe’s logical view point on learning of a new language, establishes that English education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now become very interesting and that it does not in any way undermine the importance of the Arabic language or the identity of the Arab people.
English learning must be welcomed in schools as it is a tool for bringing modernization in the country which in turn will usher the people to a bright new future under the rule of His Highness King Abdullah Al-Saud (Elyas, 2008).
Saudi Arabia is trying to promulgate a law in order to boost the economy of the country and open it for foreign participation in an effective way. As a result of this step, changes are bound to happen in the coming years.
The education scenario too has many problems and they need to be addressed. The ELT certainly promises to be good for the Arab students and it will prepare them for a variety of new jobs in the progressive economy (Elyas, 2008).
The introduction of English as the first language in Saudi Arabia has great significance in the lives of the Arab community, and now they speak English at the work places, and many other fields in everyday life including entertainment. The Saudi youth is watching TV, listening to the radio, playing video games etc., ant it connects them to the rest of the world.
English has become the language of learning in many branches like medicine, technology and all the areas of science and the transition in the majority of Saudi youth who are studying in English-speaking countries is very explicit.
Earlier, only Arabic which is the official language of the country was used everywhere: in road signs, shops etc., but now, both English and Arabic languages are seen normally in public places such as Banks, Post offices, Bus terminals, Airports, and Travel Agencies and any even in any printed materials (Elyas, 2008).
In the main shopping areas in Jeddah and industrial areas of Jubail and Dammam, one can get to see the names of the well known companies written only in English. All the major cities in Saudi Arabia have a large population of English speaking Arabs and they are working in companies where the main language of communication is English and practically very little Arabic is spoken at the work places.
Majority of the population do not know the English language still. Most well to do families in Saudi Arabia consider it a sign of status to send their children abroad to study and develop their English skills. It is a matter of high privilege for the families that are educated to teach English to the little ones.
The private schools lay more emphasis on English learning than the public schools. Saudi Arabia, recently, is witnessing dramatic changes in the education field and is experiencing tremendous economical growth due to the massive modernization in every sphere of life (Elyas, 2008).
A global language such as English will bring in better awareness in the Arab population about the western cultures and values which they do not yet fully know. When people there will learn English they will be able to express their views and the Arab people will develop better ties with the world community.
English language is thus all set to pave the way for a new in Saudi Arabia, and most of the intellectuals feel that it is an important tool for modernization of the kingdom. They also feel that the language can be helpful in propagating Islam to non-Muslims all over the world (Elyas, 2008).
English as first language in schools of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi administration introduced English learning in primary schools in the year 2003. Prior to it, the language was not taught in kindergarten schools. In the article ‘Debate on Reform in Saudi Arabia’ for MEMORI-2006, Azuri (2006) has written in detail about the current issues of the Saudis, the influence of the Western world on their society, and also the present educational system in Saudi Arabia.
Subsequently, he criticized a website content that condemned the reformists who argued for bringing changes in the educational system in the country. Many eminent Arabs like the Sheikhs, judges and other intellectuals including professors and businessmen have signed a statement that supplemented to the article.
They warned the masses that a ‘Junta’ had taken Saudi media in its grip and that it was acting as a mouthpiece of the external forces that were trying to destabilize the country. They were of the opinion that the external forces wanted to ‘Westernize’ the Saudi society and it was not in the interest of the community as it was endangering it and its core Islamic values.
The statement made an earnest request to the Saudi rulers to ensure that no member of this ‘Junta’ should have a position of Influence in the Saudi society. Religious leaders were asked to prevent all the future plans of the Junta (Elyas, 2008).
The statement sent a firm message to everyone, “the nation against junta, known for its deviant Westernizing tendencies, that has managed to influence decisions and to take over some institutions that have great influence on Saudi society’s identity and future …and cutting down the religious curricula in state and popular educational institutions” (Azuri, 2006).
Later on, due to the American compulsion and demand of Saudi people certain steps were taken to accept English learning. As a result of this, the Higher Committee on Education Policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after being pressurized on the issue from the American Government devised a program for the introduction of English language for the primary level students in the Kingdom.
It was thought that this will expose the Saudi youth to the liberal views of the west. The Arab students needed to accept and learn tolerance of others as it was felt that they had to be introduced to the concept of living in harmony on par with the rest of the world, especially the ‘Others’ or the ‘West’ as seen by the Arabs (Azuri, 2006).
The change in the Arab attitude is quite visible in recent years. It would be very apt to note here the acceptance of the recommendations of English learning in the country by Prince Sultan who holds the portfolio of Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He, being the second deputy premier of the country, such acceptance of the recommendation on a policy by him would have long term effect in the outlook of the entire population of the Arab world in the matter of English learning and its culture.
The decision heralded a new thinking process in the Arabs while underlining the political tone it carried. It was a clear and decisive message sent across to the citizens of Saudi Arabia as well as to the world outside, particularly to the United States, about the seriousness of English learning program in the country (Arab News, 2002).
Dr. Abdulllah Al-Mushrif, the director of Ministry of Education started the English learning program in Saudi Arabia in the year 2004.
In order to teach the Arab students, “K.S.A. had to recruit 935 English teachers from abroad to implement the program, but the Cabinet decided to postpone it until further studies are completed” (Elyas, 2008). However, the Saudi authorities would find it difficult to bear its costs as the nation had just come out of the Gulf War.
Aims and objectives
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the need to encourage modern education to acquire skills in language, arts, science and mathematics is explicit for evolving a pattern of socialization. Introduction of English language at elementary level and continual, is imperative in extending the knowledge and understanding from the early childhood of the Arabs.
The researcher holds the opinion that the findings of this study will help Arab students, their parents, along with teachers and school authorities and even the Saudi government in implementing the English learning at a fast pace. It is presumed that this paper will also support the studies of the future researchers on English learning.
The implementation of the new English learning curriculum for the young students in KSA has evolved certain unfounded anxieties among the Arab community about the possibility of erosion of inherited cultural and moral values in children. In fact, this is only a speculation and does not contribute any thing towards harming the faith or cultural aspects of the Arab Muslim community.
This research is intended to focus on the effects of this trend on the character and achievement of the Arab students and to ascertain whether it will affect their mother tongue. After all, the purpose of education is to help the parents in making the correct choice so that it will prepare the children for their future.
The relevance of modern education will only prove enhancement to their skill, knowledge and outlook which in turn will promote and instill better understanding and wisdom in them so that they can also enter the mainstream of education as in the case of their counterparts in other countries.
The new education policies will in no way affect the learning of the mother tongue and adherence to the culture and religious faith of the young Arab people. This research was conducted mainly for the evaluation of English learning programs in the early childhood of Arab students and its impact on their inherited culture. Additionally, the researcher was instructed to answer the research questions which are given hereunder.
The aim of this research is to gather specific answers to the following questions:
- What is the impact of English learning on the character and achievements of Arab students?
- Will the English learning influence the learning of the mother tongue of the Arab students?
- Does English learning affect the moral and values of the young Arab children?
- Is there any need to enhance the English learning programs for the Arab young students?
- To give an insight about the present status and trend in the English learning of Arab students after the September 11 attack.
- To enhance the present English learning programs for the young Arab students with a knowledge based outlook and standard, and to empower them to meet the future challenges in education as well as making them good citizens of the world.
Significance of the Project
Since September 11, there were drastic changes in the outlook of average Saudi citizens and this is very much reflected in the education system of the country. The change in objectives forced the Ministry of Education to encourage private schools to adopt International learning programs for more or less impressing upon others about the Saudi moderate approach in acquiring International Education.
As a result, the Arab community is trying to impart the English learning to their children without jeopardizing their culture, beliefs and language. But it is not known yet whether this trend will tell upon their inherited knowledge and religious faith in the days to come. Therefore, the significance of the study highlights itself in this concern.
From the perspective of the researcher, it is assumed that the efficacy of English learning programs lies in providing a foundation for the basic skills and curriculum content during the early childhood- educational environment.
The goal of such programs must be designed to promote quick attainment of skills in arts, science and mathematics through English learning, which will facilitate the materializing of socialization on par with others.
The stakeholders of this English education curriculum are the young Arab students and their parents, together with the teachers and school administrators as well as the Sovereigns of the Kingdom. Additionally, the Arab communities as a whole and their unique culture are also at stake in relation to the outcome of English learning programs in KSA.
Limitations of the Project
The results of this study clearly establishes that there were motivations on the part of the administrators of Saudi Arabia in imparting better education for the young children of the Arab community without harming the inherited culture and moral values they cherish most.
But it is not known how far the system will be effective considering the continuing conventional rigid educational system based on Arabic religious edicts and the taboos.
In the article, ‘Challenges for EFL Students and Teachers in Saudi Arabia’, Traynham (2006) writes, “There are certain religious /socio-political dynamics which at times cause friction in the classroom.
For example, many EFL texts and curricula contain topics which may be benign to many westerners, but are offensive to Saudis, or are censored by the Ministry of Education.
For teachers, it is behooving to be in tune with Saudi society and to get to know Saudi culture and to know how to teach these topics, delete or alter them, and to find effective ways to teach using activities which are simultaneously effective and not offensive.” This statement evidences the existing problems in English learning which necessitates enhancement of the curriculum forthwith.
Every study has its own limitations and has also a definite scope. In this research the limitations are often restricted to availability of required time to go through the various data that supports the objective of this thesis and the imposing budget constraints.
The hesitation of the teachers to disclose the facts during the survey also has put in some setback, though it was overcome by justifications later on. However, maximum effort was put in to see that the adversities do not affect the quality of the study. In nut shell,
- There were relative strengths in literature that supported the research questions regarding English learning in Saudi Arabia, but some weaknesses were also identified relating to the conflicts in the English learning program models which go against Arabic learning, though they were negligible at first instance.
- There is no negative impact on the moral and values of the young children consequent to English learning in Saudi Arabia.
Scope and Delimitation of the Study
The study was delimited in the analysis and appraisal of English learning curriculum for the young children in Saudi Arabia in relation to the Arabic learning.
Introduction to Literature Review
The researcher has gone through a large number of literature and previous researches related to the present study. Since it is not feasible to do a review on the whole literature perused, within the limits of the page constrains, a few of them are cited here which are more relevant to answer the research questions.
Culture is identified as heritage, acceptance of social responsibilities, adherence to morals and values, faith, customs, traditions, and skills of the people. It is the symbol of an entire community of people and their environment in which they live. Normally, the term “Arab” brings to the mind the picture of the Middle East.
The maximum concentration of the Arab people happens to be in the North of Africa that extends over almost eight million square kilometers of land. Sudan and Algeria are the other two countries that are inhabited by the Arab people.
The Arab world covers a total area of 12.9 million square kilometers converted as 5 million square miles to the North of Africa and also a part of Western Asia. This region is called the Middle East (Tadmouri, n.d.).
There are two parts which are determinant in the Arab world. They are the Mashreq and the Maghreb. Mashreq is the region that is Arabia proper, whereas the North African part that does not include Egypt and Sudan is called the Maghreb. There is a difference of opinion regarding the 20 states and two territories that are parts of the Arab world. All these states have Arabic as their official state language.
The masses belonging to these states speak Arabic even though there are many different dialects depending on the region. The Arabic speaking regions are Yemen, Algeria, Western Sahara, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya and Mauritania.
All these states have a population of approximately about 315 million people. The Arab World contributes to two-fifths of the total output of the Muslim World put together (Tadmouri, n.d.).
The impact of English learning on the inherited knowledge of Arab students
The Arab society is structured in a particular way and all the values and the family traditions and practice have their roots in the Bedouin culture. The Bedouins have influence on the Arab way of living and it is dominant even today in the Arab society. English learning in the Arab students is bringing in a change that is perceived by the educated world for the betterment of the society.
It will help the Arabs to keep pace with the rest of the world in the age of modernization and make them more progressive.
“Before Islam had swept the Arab world, residents of the Arabian peninsula were categorized into two groups, the Badwa (Bedouins) who lived a harsh desert life enduring severe environmental conditions with herds of livestock as their primary livelihood, and the Hadar (Settled People), who lived in villages and towns, with trade and agriculture as their main source of income” (Chuchmuch, 2006).
The Arab people have their own identity. English learning will only prove to be beneficial and will not have a negative impact on the inherited knowledge of the Arab students. On the other hand, English learning will help them to gain more knowledge and enable them understand the recent developments that are taking place in the world so that they can apply the newly acquired knowledge for the betterment of the Arab society.
The values and morals of the modern Arabs students have gradually been derived out of the Bedouin tradition. “The Bedouins were, and are, a patrilinial and patriarchal society, kin-based and strongly kin-orientated.
The functional social unit is the wandering group- a number of extended families, all of whom usually trace their descent to one common patrilinial ancestor. Such a unit camps together, wanders together in search of pasture for its animals, practices endogamy (intergroup marriage), and has strongly developed feeling of cohesion” (Pattai, 2002, p.83).
The Bedouins were known for their blood relation and same ancestry. They were very independent in nature under the leadership of the chiefs well known as Sheikhs. These leaderships of the Sheikhs were marked by inheritance.
The major responsibilities of the Sheikhs were settling disputes between the members of the society or between the clans, finding adequate pastures for the grazing of their cattle and camels, preserving the water wells and oasis and defending them from intruders.
The sheiks were also responsible for entering diplomatic relations with other clans or outsiders and treating them with generosity and hospitality. They are known for their wisdom and wealth too (Chuchmuch, 2006).
The Arab society is a conservative one. English learning is bringing up a new generation of Arabs who are developing a broader and a liberal outlook towards life and becoming more tolerant to other religions of the world. Nevertheless, they are now unintentionally put under pressure to conform to the societal dictum and the unwritten moral code.
It is statutory for them that without such effective assistance and protection, the identity of an individual will perish (Patai, 2002, p.321). Some may feel that they are too rigid in their outlook and there is no preference given to the individual, his thoughts and tendencies, rather one has to pay a heavy price to get the support of the society.
The Arabic culture insists that every person must conform to the value system of the group and their internalization. It is to an extent where every person is conditioned emotionally in such a way that he learns to identify his own interests with the other members in the group thereby promoting oneness in the community.
Effects of English learning on the student’s character and achievement
English learning in the private schools in Saudi Arabia is building a strong character in the Arab students and helping them to achieve more in every field of knowledge. They are taught the universal values of education that are instrumental in molding the student’s character. Essentially, five main characteristics are taught to the Arab students and they are imparted through Bedouin Values in the Arabic culture.
These values are self respect, hospitality, courage, honor and generosity. The Arabs feel that hospitality and generosity promote strengthening the unity and solidarity of the group in general. “Poverty, even in the extreme form in which it is encountered among the weak tribal splinter groups in the desert, does not excuse a man from fulfilling his sublime duty to hospitality; to shelter and feed a guest, stranger or friend for three days.
If a visitor is not received hospitably the failure reflects on the entire tribe or village and blemishes its reputation and cause loss of “face” and blemishes the tribe’s reputation” (Patai, 2002, p.222).
This concept is practiced even now as the basis of the society while extending hospitality. “Cost what it may, one must defend one’s public image. Any injury done to man’s honor must be revenged, or else he becomes permanently dishonored” (Patai, 2002, p.222).
In Saudi Arabia, there is mounting pressure of the society to uphold the values and success of the family. One can see that there is communal pressure on a person to adhere to the value centric self respect, commitment, family honor, feelings and emotion. Till date these underline the Arab Muslim value system and these are imparted to the Arab children continually.
Like in any other community the family forms the basic unit of a society among the Arabs. This is the guiding factor as a social organization and it prevails as a cohesive institution in all of their social and economic activities. It is patriarchal and at the same time hierarchical too. Sex and age are also a guiding factor in the Arab family set up.
This tradition is seen in all of their economic and social life categorized by the main patterns of Arab living viz., Bedouin, rural and urban. These patterns insist that the members of the society shall cooperate with each other to earn the daily bread and improve the community well being in oneness.
Therefore, livestock and other farms, trade centers, shops, other businesses, cattle rearing etc., are all compartments coming under common ownership and management for the welfare of the whole (Patai, 2002).
The success or failure of a member of the family reflects directly upon the family and this nature of making the family as the basic socio-economic unit is now facing challenges in educational institutions and other social organizations.
But the network of kinship continues without any disruption and the father is vested with the absolute authority and is responsible for all the activities of the family. In addition to these, his commands are carried out with strict compliance and commitments.
Thus the dominance of the family as a social organization and production unit extends towards the maintaining of patriarchal relations within the society as well as in functional relationship with the other similar social organizations, whether it is school or workplaces.
This patriarchal dominance is identifiable as pyramid of authority and the position goes unchallenged except under certain situations an equal patriarchal poses an intrusion (Barakat, 1993, p.23).
In generic, the Arabs uphold family values and have a great sense of loyalty toward it. A sense of security is there and every Arab lives his life peacefully as he knows that he will be taken care of in difficult times too by other members of the society.
There is a strong sense of group feeling and solidarity in them. Arab families are always united and that has a positive impact on the society. They oversee that security is provided to everyone and no body shall run out of resources and opportunities to well being. “Family support is indispensable in an unpredictable world; the family is a person’s ultimate refuge” (Chuchmuch, 2006).
The Arab Muslim culture brings in stability in the society and the children are brought up with the right values and morals from an early age itself. Those who think differently may face conflict as their ideas may not be acceptable to the others in the group.
It is true that an individual’s mind may be in turmoil when freedom of expression is denied or personal ideas and ideals are rejected without explanation by the rest of the group, as these experiences and feelings are not acceptable to them.
Even if it is so, ultimately such difference in attitudes will be compromised and settled within ones own individuality towards the stabilization of oneness in societal image and status (AHDR, 2003, p. 156).
The Arab society recognizes the importance of proper education for the students as it feels that correct child rearing practices are largely responsible and contributes in a big way to the formation of an overall personality. “There is incidence and severity of corporal punishment administered to Arab children, more so then is the case in the Western World.
The father is severe, stern, and authoritarian, while the mother is, by contrast, loving and compassionate” (Patai, 2002, p. 26). Several studies in this line shows that child rearing in a family is nothing but the authoritarian followed by the over protective protocol. From the beginning stage itself a child is trained to suppress its inquisitive and exploratory mental exercises.
“This adversely affects children’s independence, self-confidence and social efficiency, and leads to an increase in passive attitudes and the deterioration of decision making skills, not only with respect to behavior, but also how the child thinks” (AHDR, 2003 p.53).
The impact of English learning on the mother tongue of Arab students
English learning is not undermining the importance of the Arabic language in any way but on the contrary the Arab students are learning about other cultures too. The Arab Muslims are highly religious and observe a strict religious code. It encompasses all the important facets of life, for Islam is not simply a religion but is the way of life, to them.
The Quran is the final and supreme authority for Muslims and it acts as the fundamental and the greatest paramount directive to maintain the creed, ethics, rituals and laws of Islam.
This supreme directives are originated from the unstinted belief that the Holy Quran is God’s words revealed directly to Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel and those words are followed in all places and at all times. The Quran was revealed to Him during a span of 22 years between 610 A.D and 632 A.D (Haleem, 2004).
Till now Arabic was the main language and it is gradually changed to English as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is moving towards globalization. In reality, the Islamic faith is a great religion that preaches love, compassion, peace, tolerance, humanity and unity.
English learning will not have a negative effect on the mother tongue of Arab students. They will get to learn a global language and will be able to improve their lives further. Islam promulgates 5 essential beliefs and also 5 pillars of faith in Islam. They are belief in:
- Allah as the only God
- God’s angels
- Quran and in the prophets who revealed the book
- The Day of Judgment & Resurrection
- God that He is responsible for all that happens and that all happens as per His Will (Clark, 2003, p1).
The Quran is the Holy book revealed in Jewish and Christian Bibles. According to Quran, God has sent his prophets and the messengers to disclose His words. This was done to warn the people about the punishments that would happen if they deviate from the path of God. Muhammad is the last prophet and Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus, among others were his predecessors (Clark, 2003, p1).
The five pillars of Islam are:
- Shahada: It denotes that a person will become a Muslim by means of testimony.
- Salat: It is a compulsory ritualized prayer done each day at 5 specific times.
- Zakat: The word Zakat implies that it is obligatory for a Muslim to offer charities annually @ 2.5% of income or assets.
- Saum: It is fasting that it is to be performed during Ramadan. Muslims shall not eat, drink and copulate during this period.
- Hajj: Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca a Muslim has to do during his lifetime (Clark, 2003, p1.).
Arabic language is synonymous with religion of Islam and is taught in most schools in Arab and Muslim countries. Arabs will continue to teach Arabic to their children as it is their mother tongue which is inherent in the Muslim culture.
Islam insists on gathering the knowledge that is revealed through God and also the knowledge that is acquired by human beings themselves. Islam promulgates that knowledge is vital and that every Muslim should seek it (Boyle, 2002). The Muslim clergy preach in this language and so the mother tongue has considerable influence on the Arab students.
According to Munir (2002), “it was in the mosque where the Prophet Mohammed would convene people to listen to his revelations and their interpretation. Mosques were places where the Quran was compiled……… The Mosque was the first school in Islam. In the early days of Islam, there was no hierarchy; anyone who could master the Qurán was able to lead the group of prayers and offer guidance to the people (Munir, 2002).
There is a change in the current Educational Practice and Curriculum in the schools of Saudi Arabia today. Along with the schools that have the traditional Arabic learning there are the elite who prefer to send their children to private English oriented educational institutions.
The right educational practice and the knowledge imparted to the students that lies within the curriculum is a significant aspect that forms the foundation of education for a student. It gives shape to the way of thinking and application of skills and abilities of an individual.
The current methods of teaching practiced in Arab schools unfortunately do not encourage critical thinking or develop the knowledge in the Arab students. English learning can bring in the much desired change in the education system that will teach the students to think and apply the acquired knowledge to build a better career for them.
“Present day educators have been educated in systems that encompass “rote learning”, memorization and lectures” (AHDR, 2003, p.69). Under them, the common students can only memorize lessons and add to the very rote learning. Books and lecture notes are the learning tools and the communication in the matter of education itself becomes didactic.
Added to these are the texts in which the gathering of the knowledge is objectified to great extent. This sort of educational system will do nothing but encouraging the students to transform themselves as subjects to submission and subordination, rather than compelling them to experience free critical thinking. The curriculum has nothing in it to inspire the students.
It is inert and does not challenge any flaws of the community or the administration. “The assigned curriculum, starting from preliminary school or even before, embodies a concept that views education as an industrial production process” (AHDR, 2003, p. 69).
The current trend of English learning of Arab students after Sept 11 attack
After the Second World War large numbers of International students have started coming to Europe and America, and from the mid 1970s the flow of the students was in the increase subsequent to the economic boom originated in the OPEC nations including Saudi Arabia.
The money the Arabs got from the petroleum exports was diverted to a great extent to education and thus the Arab youth began to seek enrollments in the Universities of USA. By 1979, their numbers reached the zenith. It is interesting to note that most of these students were from Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
However, this flow of the students to America and Europe did not stay steady, and immediately after the September 11 attack it was reported that there was considerable fall in student enrollments from Arab countries. The decline in such enrollments from Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries alone accounted to 25 percent during 2003.
It was also estimated that almost 50 percent down in these enrollments has occurred since 2001 and up to 2004. This can be confused as the intensity of alarm that gripped the Arab community after September 11.
But in fact, a gradual decline in the number of student enrollments from the Middle East has begun long time back, beginning from the eighties after the Iranian Revolution (1979) and the 1983 attack on US marines in Lebanon, and as such the present decline in enrollments can only be attributed to it (Sedgwick, 2004).
However, what said above cannot conceal the truth. The 9/11 attack became a catalyst to the sudden drop in enrollments from Saudi Arabia and Gulf region. Subsequent to the Pentagon and World Trade Centre attacks, there originated an unprecedented decrease in enrollments from countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.
A survey which was conducted by the Institute of International Education in October 2004 revealed that about 59% of Muslim and Arab students failed to secure the enrollments due to the unprecedented stringent measure adopted by the US administration against the normal processing given to other foreign students.
For the Muslim students to obtain an F-1 visa since 9/11 became a great risk which forced many to discard even the attempts. The security procedures disheartened them much and the alien and unwelcoming attitude of the US administration together with the anticipated harassment hampered their quest for knowledge in America.
These situations forced the government of Saudi Arabia to seek new measures to implement English oriented education programs in its Universities and schools, which is now considered as a welcome sign for the Arab students to satiate their thirst for knowledge in their own gifted land but with a liberal and universal outlook (Sedgwick, 2004).
Thus, in July 2004, the Saudi officials under the patronage of Prince Khalid Al Faisal placed their innovative English learning policy before the Arab community to combat the changing situation.
In an interview the Prince said, “The school curricula constitute 20% of the issue [extremist and violence], but 80% is the hidden curricula and the way in which these ideas of violence and extremism are inculcated by those who are responsible for the students in the schools, institutes, faculties, and universities.”
This bold acknowledgement of the problem became the stepping stone for the much needed liberal education in the country, and the proud Arabs accepted it wholeheartedly without jeopardizing their cultural heritage, identity and religious beliefs (Elyas, 2004).
Bravely though, the country took 5 years to admit the shortcomings in its educational system, and the present development in English learning reflects the trend of the Arab youth and the young students towards liberal thinking and it contributes to the fulfillment of their dreams and aspirations for the future.
Concern of the Saudi Arabians (parents & government) on the welfare, perception, intellectual prospects and achievements of Arab students on English learning
Saudi Arabia is now at a decisive juncture where the education system faces challenge. The orthodox and conservatives are somewhat against the change in the long endured education system. To make their stand strong they seek the support of the parents.
And out of concern, they also ask: Does this English learning supplement the welfare of their young ones? What would be the outcome of this towards their intellectual prospects? What would be the achievements after the English learning? That is why the educationists and policy makers are blending Eastern values with Western curriculum (AHDR.P.69.2003).
The majority of public schools, in Saudi Arabia, are today, focusing on a curriculum that lays more emphasis on English learning and are adopting teaching practices that have its origin in the Western world. Due to this reason the education system stresses on the individual and is designed keeping in mind the very individualistic pattern of society followed in the Western countries.
What is happening now is that most of the schools are teaching a more modernized curriculum to the students. “Westerners tend to believe, for instance, that the individual is the focal point of social existence, laws apply equally to everyone, that people have a right to certain kinds of privacy, and that the environment can be controlled by humans through technological means.
These beliefs have a strong influence on what Westerners think about the world around them, and how they behave toward each other” (Nydell, 1996). As a result of this, Arabs students are caught somewhere between the Westernized values taught in the private schools which is largely somewhat choice based. It is designed for the individual student and has a modern problem solving curriculum.
Hence there is a need to merge the traditional education system that deals with group dynamics and authoritative approaches which are synonymous with the Arabic society. The Arab society has a particular way of functioning in the daily life and that is very different from the Westernized value system.
There is a lot of difference in the two value systems. The Arab people believe that many things in life are governed by fate and are controlled by it alone. They think that there are things beyond human control.
The Arab people are protective towards their children and love them a lot. They believe that wisdom comes with experience and age. Some educationists feel that men and women have different inherent personalities. The Arabs are trying to have an educational environment where they can bring up their children well.
They consider this an extremely important duty and feel responsible towards their education as it speaks well about the family. The Arab parents take it as an insult if they are told that their child is not being raised properly. The upbringing of the child and the building of his character reflect directly on the parent.
It is characteristic of the Arabs to give credit to the parents for the successes of their children and similarly they are severely blamed if the child fails. Parents willingly make the necessary sacrifices so that their children do well in their life (Chuchmuch, 2006).
There is a strong parental influence on the child and that remains throughout the lifetime. Parents do expect that their sacrifices and efforts will be acknowledged later. Unlike the Western parents who concentrate on the child’s training from an early age, the Arabs are not all particular about early education.
The Westerners want their children to be independent and self reliant as soon as possible and teach them the value of money when they are young. They encourage their children to take up jobs and also give regular pecuniary allowance to them. The children are allowed to make their own decisions and it is welcomed by the parents (Chuchmuch, 2006).
The Arab parents are there to take care of their children through out and differ from the training given by the Westerners. The western parents feel confident that their children will be able to take care of themselves even in adversities. That is why they focus on early training so that the child is no longer dependent on them. The Arab parents do exactly the opposite, and they like the dependence of their children on them.
Mothers do not let go of their children and want that they should be tied to them emotionally for years. The young people in Saudi Arabia live with their parents till they get married. In the traditional Arab families it is a common custom that the young married couples stay with the husband’s parents.
The parents support the newly married couple and take care of all their needs and help them financially. These are characteristic of the Arab culture” (Chuchmuch, 2006).
Comparison of the different Arabic learning programs in the primary level students in Saudi Arabia
When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed in 1926, there were only a few educational institutions in the country. At that time only the Islamic madrasas imparted education to primary and higher level of students. For the first time in the late 1940’s an education system based on the Western style of education was formed.
At that time, a significant part of the teaching hours was confined to Islamic studies alone and the ulama did not favor the Western style education in the schools. Though Saudi Arabia took the credit for opening the first university in the year 1957, the educational system was a bit tarnished by the insistence of difference in genders at all levels of the system. Segregation was visible in every part of it.
However, the whole curriculum remained the same for boys and girls, with the traditional Islamic education confined to the males only. What is most positive about the education system in Saudi Arabia is that it is free at all levels and so the rich and the poor alike can get education.
Primary education like other countries is not compulsory for children in Saudi Arabia. In fact, till the 1990’s maximum number of children did not attend schools at all (Kjeilen, n.d.).
The primary level schooling of the Arab young students begins at the age of six and extends to 6 years without a break. All branches of education are included in the curriculum along with Arabic and Islamic studies. Subjects in Home economics are restricted to girls only, while Physical education is limited to the boys.
Attendance in classes is equal for boys and girls, and they are eligible for the General Elementary School Certificate after passing the final examination at the end of 6 years. Only with this certificate they can seek admission in the intermediate schools. In the year 2000, the scenario changed a bit and there was equal attendance in boys and girls. They attended school for full nine years.
There are many private institutions now in Saudi Arabia that function at all levels. The curriculum are funded and encouraged by the State and the educational institutions get the funds from the State budget. The students studying in private schools formally complete their schooling by appearing in public exams.
The total expenditure on education in Saudi Arabia was around 6.8% of GDP in 2004, and in 2008 this came to per capita cost of $1,400. Today the literacy rate in Saudi Arabia is not very impressive despite huge amount of wealth in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some believe that the low literacy rate is due to reasons such as age, gender and geography.
It is interesting to note that a large population of illiterates is senior citizens who are above years of 65, whereas the illiteracy in the young children is marginal. Maximum illiterate people live in the villages and in less developed regions of the State (Kjeilen, n.d.).
Initiatives towards the enhancement of English learning with respect to the cultural heritage and belief of the Arab community
Culture is defined as “the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving” (Hofstede, 1997).
In other words, it is a system by which the acquired knowledge is shared among a particular group of people or community. Therefore, Arab cultural heritage is the accumulation of various skills like art forms and literature that were imbibed by the society through the passage of time and passed on from one generation to the next generations.
During the past centuries Saudi Arabia remained the cultural centre of the world. Its geographical realms extended up to South Asia, Egypt and the Mediterranean. Trade links between the countries in the region enriched the cultural traditions of the peninsula. The origin of Islam in the seventh century made Mecca as its centre and the world over witnessed the flourishing culture and sciences of the Arab community.
When the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, the King and his descendents put their total devotion and efforts to preserve the Arab traditions and culture and thus the country marched towards economic development and stability.
And amidst this progress, in the year 1974, the Saudi administration took further steps and established the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (which was put under the Culture and Information Ministry in 2003) to instill better understanding in the young Arabs about their rich cultural heritage. In addition to this, in the same year of 1974, the Ministry of Education was formed (Saleh, 1986).
Thereafter, initiatives were taken to modulate the educational system based on Islam and its philosophy of education. English learning was given due importance to open the doors towards knowledge at a global perspective. With this objective higher education programs were conceived in the line of modern university education.
In order to translate the progress of the country in terms of economy and spiritual lead, empirical statistics were given due consideration by the government.
In 1957 modern education at the university level was commenced with a number of twenty one students in a single institution, and by 1982 the number of higher educational institutions rose very high to boast of 63,563 students with a teaching faculty of 6,906 (Saleh, 1986).
Finding out the best education system for Arab students to enable them prepare for the future
Education Ministry is working hard on finding out different ways in order to provide education to Arab people. In various sectors they have developed many plans. There are basic elements that are being implemented by them. They are:
- Making co-ordination between various sectors in order to literate young as well as adult education.
- Literacy standards are continuously being updated so that people gets good quality of literacy. All requirements are being fulfilled and this program mainly emphasize on improving the skills of every individual and making them capable of self-learning.
- Some new technologies are being adopted so that it will be more helpful in providing good education to Arab people.
- In order to fulfill the goal by 2015, the percentage of literate people should become 90%. For this they have made certain plans and follow various steps.
- They find out the number of people who are illiterate, divide them according to age groups and then emphasize on each group separately. The people belonging to different age groups are not able to study with other age group.
- Students can face and stand in front of literate people. They can fulfill all the demands that are needed in the current market.
- This program continuously encourage learner to further learn more things as study has no end. Continue learning, survey things and do research. Thus people will find many different things to learn.
- Teachers should be well educated in order to make the illiterate literate ones. Their aim is to just increase cultural heritage among Arabs people.
- Even teachers are also given training and more education if they require so that they can do their best to teach them (Unesco National reports, n.d.).
The Ministry of Education is working hard in improving literacy program in Saudi Arabia, and is now implementing new programs to improve the quality of education. More enhanced education curriculum is recommended which can fulfill all educational needs of the Saudi children.
The curriculum and programs are continuously being diversified to encourage other illiterates to come and join these programs which will help them to gear up their learning prospects. Professional training programs are also held in order to infuse skills in people to meet the increased requirements in technology in the context of Saudi industrialization which is taking Saudi Arabia to new heights.
Teachers are being provided more training facilities to make them deliver their best to students. The Ministry continuously asks them to evaluate the student’s textbooks to assess their levels and standards (Unesco National reports, n.d.).
Different educational systems and programs in Saudi Arabia and their pros and cons
Knowledge seeking is very important for the Muslims as it adds more essence to their individuality. Education in Saudi Arabia has special characteristics and it focuses mainly on Islam which is part and parcel of their discipline to become familiar with their culture. But this Islam centric education alone will not be enough for the Saudis to quench the thirst for knowledge inherent in them.
And this fact is dawning upon them even though many shun declaring it in public. In due course, their identifying the real issue will tend to make it more advantageous. Now they know that women of Saudi lack behind their counterparts in other countries. The programs implemented to combat adult illiteracy are welcoming signs for the Saudis.
Such adult oriented education programs include six year education for men only, which consists of 3 years of intermediate and 3 years of secondary education. It will enable them to secure decent jobs in their own country and will instill in them a new awareness to seek further knowledge to stand equal with the people of other countries (State University of Saudi-Arabia, n.d.).
The Ministry of Education must develop Early Childhood education programs that will benefit the little children in the primary level. The young students must be encouraged to play which will allow them to explore and learn as it is an important way of learning. The schools must have multi sensory learning environment so that the Arab students learn independent thinking and problem solving skills.
There must be flexibility for learning in the Arab schools, and the teachers shall be rewarded for their efforts and a high standard of teaching should be maintained in the schools. Only trained and capable teachers must be given the teaching jobs as only a few are gifted in the skill of teaching. Anyone can choose to be a teacher but only a few people know how to teach the young minds.
The teaching profession must be given due importance and its stature must be promoted. These steps will send a strong message that the country is bent upon to advance the values of education. Instead of seeking assistance from abroad, the local and regional Arab professionals must be given priorities in providing employment so that Arab talent shall become the role models for other Arabs.
They should examine social and educational systems that have been successful in the region before implementing the systems from western counterparts. This would ensure that the Arab value system continues to remain in tact. The Arab world needs to become more modernized and it is not a necessity to make them westernized.
Implementation of parent training programs that aids in moving away from an authoritarian approach to child rearing would be the right approach. This would aid in helping children from a young age to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Individuals can be independent and develop their talents and still give selflessly to enhance the stability of the family and group dynamic (State University of Saudi-Arabia, n.d.).
The study conducted by a team headed by Rami Khouri, senior fellow of Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut, with the support of UNICEF & Dubai School of Government, to analyze the education and public policies that are challenging the Middle East countries and how the youth see the world with this perspective, revealed that the young people amounting to 113 million in 2009 having their age between 15 and 29, according to UN estimates, accounted for one third of the population.
As per the given statistics the number of Arab youth will be 113.5 million by the end of 2011. After 2011, there may be a tendency of declining their strength.
These young people get their basic education and avail the benefits of better social services, but they lack the opportunities to get themselves manifested in the rich attributes of humanity such as creativity, professionalism, entrepreneurship, cultural dynamicity and the real and profound sense as to how the Muslim societies should be maintained to cope with the challenging future (Khouri, 2010).
According to Rami Khouri, these conditions may vary in large proportion between the different Arab countries, but the underlying fact is that these countries have some core weaknesses. Therefore, Khouri (2010) establishes that:
“The education systems that fail to promote personal development aspirations or national development drives; economies that do not tap the full potential of the energy and talent of our youth; and, political governance systems that treat youth and adults alike as unthinking and servile subjects, rather than as citizens with rights to define national policies and hold accountable those in power.”
The Arabic youth are accustomed with multiple identities and as such they navigate through several entities at one time. They really want to have freedom to engage in their basic habit of exploration, which is identifiable with every youth. They are keen to explore their dominions and experiment them, and they do like to learn and grow to express themselves.
They, unequivocally, want to be strong to excel and fulfilled in everything they do. But instead of making them achieve what they need, they are left to be pulled and pushed in opposite directions.
“Autocratic governance, stultifying security cultures, conservative social mores, and strong religious legacies tend to severely curtail opportunities for young men and women to move smoothly into adulthood, while privatization, globalization, technological innovation and the communications revolution all provide youth with massive new outlets and enticements that they naturally want to embrace” (Khouri, 2010).
It would be alarming for the Arab administration to find that they have to build around 40 million jobs to combat the unemployment situation that may arise in these Arab countries in the coming decade. This truth opens the eyes of the administrators of the Arab world to the bleak future and as such the education system should be revamped to inculcate English learning in their curriculum.
Introduction to Methodology
According to Habermas (1972) every research made shall be in accordance with motivation which is guided by interests and values. The social and personal notions of the researcher will naturally find a place in such researches. Therefore, the value problems that may come up while the researcher traverses to fulfill the task will naturally become the guiding principles for the study.
This research paper as such engages in values and interests, ethical codes, practices and societal welfare. To complete the task the researcher has investigated the available literature and learning procedures which put insights to formulate ideas to achieve the objectives. Qualitative analysis and cross studies were incorporated to streamline the research.
This study has utilized the descriptive and correlation method for the evaluation of English learning and its impact on Arabic language, culture, and moral of the young Arab students. To facilitate this, enough data was gathered from every source including books, journals, websites etc.
The secondary research was conducted by placing a questionnaire before the target groups such as the primary level teachers and the elementary level students. The questionnaire was framed with the help of a group of English teachers according to the Macro-Hill published assessment standards and the same was done to understand the attitude of the target groups towards the new English learning program and their loyalty to it.
Reliability of this research was measured using the scale of 5 points which is the standard tool applied for assessment of variables in all International schools.
Tables were prepared on the basis of the data collected through the questionnaire and the same was subjected to inter-tabular cross checking and further tabulation. Graphs were drawn to visualize the variation as well as deviation and finally to derive the desired result out of them. The procedure adopted is detailed below:
Two private schools in Alhasa were taken for the study and the academic year conceived was 2010/2011. Grades one and two elementary girls and boys were selected for this particular study.
- The class one comprised of students having English program in most subjects.
- The second class having the ordinary program with normal quantity of English and Arabic.
By this approach, the learning abilities of the primary level students in both the languages; English and Arabic, were subjected to the study very effectively. In order to get a clear picture, a 12-item questionnaire, related to this topic was distributed to the teachers of primary level students of grade one and two elementary boys and girls in Alhasa, Saudi Arabia.
The first school taught the Saudi students all the subjects in English. And the second one taught the usual curriculum with normal quantity of English and Arabic. The average age of the primary level students was 6-7 years.
The teachers who took part in the survey were given a questionnaire and asked to express their agreement or disagreement against every point in it. Each question is marked by a five-point answers viz., (i) Strongly Agree (SA), (ii) Agree (A), (iii) Neutral (N), (iv) Agree (A), and (v) Strongly Agree (SA).
Translation of each item into Arabic was done to avoid any misunderstanding about the points in the questionnaire. For convenience, the International exams were selected to evaluate the results of both the classes. A team of well educated persons and educational experts appraised the results to justify it.
Table 1- 6 lists the findings.
|1. The English textbooks meant for the primary students have unwanted or taboo information.||6||10||8||18||5|
|2. I suggest that the Western culture should be eliminated from lessons of English learning.||17||10||4||10||6|
|3. I believe that English learning in Saudi Arabia will benefit the government.||10||31||3||3||0|
|4. The text books and topics taught in the classes are good for me to excel myself outside my classroom.||12||10||8||10||7|
|5. The topics seem to be important for my primary level students.||5||8||10||22||2|
|6. I firmly believe that my level of English language at present is not good because of the bad education system prevailed in Saudi Arabia earlier which had not included English culture in it.||2||6||7||11||21|
|7. My textbooks are complex and confusing and I cannot understand it easily.||2||12||7||16||10|
|8. Learning English language and culture is a must for my students in the primary level||6||5||1||11||24|
|9. I have entered the teaching profession with an aim in mind.||13||12||6||4||11|
|10. My students learn better when are taught subjects in English||6||2||3||14||22|
|11. My students learn better when they are taught subjects in Arabic||3||2||2||15||25|
|12. I want my student to have extra English classes after the school hours.||2||6||1||5||33|
Table 1 shows the responses of the participants on the issues and the new textbooks.
Table 2 shows the percentage of teachers of primary level students who believe that there exists certain taboos and harmful information in the text books.
The findings from the above two tables show that about 37% of primary teachers are of the opinion that alien information contained in the text books with become harmful to their Islamic identity.
Only 22% have opposite views. From these tables it can be conceived that 59% of the teachers still believe that the taboo information contained in the English textbooks should not be exposed to the students.
Table 3 and Table 3a indicate the percentage of primary level teachers who believe that Western culture should not be incorporated in the English learning curriculum in Saudi Arabia.
The findings in Table 3 and 3a shows that major section of teachers of primary level students are against separating English culture from English learning. For, the culture here means only that is something applied to know the people outside the Arab community without harming own Islamic identity.
Ignoring the neutral responses and considering the opinions of other participants it is found that 68% of the teachers hold the view that learning English culture will in no way hurt their Islamic identity, though about 40% of them think otherwise.
Table 4 gives the percentage of combined sum of Table 1 & Table above. After a detailed comparison of Table 4 with Tables 2 & 3 a graph was prepared on the basis of its result. From this graph it is concluded that 39% of the teachers of primary level students are against the taboos that are present in the learning texts, and that 22% of the students want that English culture should be removed from English learning.
Table 5 carries the percentage of teachers of elementary students opting for English language and its culture in the curriculum so that there will be a constructive education system in the country which can bring better prospects for English major students.
After going through the data collected from Tables 2, 2a, 3, 3a, 4, 4a, and 5, the issue of amalgamation of English culture in English education was examined with the same group of teachers. Table 4 furnishes a clear picture of those teachers who think that English language and its culture are necessary for all primary level students in the Kingdom.
Out of them only 18% opposed it, while 51% strongly agreed to the merging of English culture and English language learning in the curriculum. On summing up SD+D and A+SA it was concluded that 83% of the teachers believed that effective and result oriented learning of English would become a mirage if culture is alienated from it. They hold the view that the language and culture should go hand in hand.
Table 5a denotes the percentage of the teachers’ attitudes towards learning English language and culture as a must for a primary level student.
Table 6 shows the percentage of the teachers of elementary level students who are of the opinion that learning of English in KSA promotes imperialistic feelings.
Subsequent to the above finding another graph was drawn to examine the quantum of understanding of the teachers regarding the imperialistic input in terms of satiation of such aims in the promotion of learning English in Saudi Arabia. From the graph it is known that about 66% of the teachers disagreed with this notion.
They did not consider that the administration has any discreet purpose behind the English learning towards the fulfillment of imperialism. However, 8% think that such learning was conducive to imperialistic objectives. Apart from this, Table 6a confirms that 95% of the students rejected the idea of any imperialistic aims in the English learning.
For, Islam advocates that studying another language is an act of esteem and will be never looked upon in the Arab concept and it would only satisfy their quest for knowledge. It is neither brain washing nor against Islamic culture. Shafi (1983) states:
“The English language, therefore, has a crucial role to play in the achievement of the ultimate aim of Muslim education” (Shafi, 1983, p. 35). What he means is that English learning will pave a very convenient path to the spreading of Islam.
Today the world has become a global village. Technology has made life easier and education has brought in the modernization in the Arab countries. The modern day Arabs are educating themselves and are progressive in their thinking process and interact with the people of other countries, which is a very positive sign as they are gradually realizing the benefit of English learning.
Thousands of opportunities have come up now due to modernization and the people of Saudi Arabia are moving toward global civilization where globalization has accelerated the pace of technological advances everywhere and Saudi Arabia is not at all left behind (AHDR, 2002, p.5).
To satiate a better understanding of the status of the problems and advantages of English learning programs in Saudi Arabia, the effects of overall education, modernization plans of the administration and the mode of English learning etc. have to be analyzed critically.
For a modern society to develop, it is essential that the people should acquire knowledge when the world itself is progressing bringing information and physical presence very closer.
Due to the technological changes and globalization it has become imperative to learn a global language such as English to facilitate proper interaction between people. It is in the interest of the Arab people, and for the welfare of their community, as “knowledge diffusion, production and application become the organizing principal in human activities; culture, society, the economy, politics, and private life” (AHDR, 2003, p.21).
When any society is educated their way of thinking changes considerably and in that sense acquisition of knowledge has positive effect and great intrinsic value that cannot be ignored at all.
Knowledge brings prosperity at all levels of life and acts as a catalyst for change and development of human culture. “Knowledge development by people emphasizes that people must be able to participate actively in influencing the processes that shape their lives” (AHDR, 2002, p.10).
In the present age of globalization, education brings in progression and that leads to modernization because it helps every body to expand the mind further and absorb the teachings of other fellow beings. The Arabs by the virtue of their knowledge are changing their destiny. Prophet Mohammed, in Sura 95 of the Qurán said, “Read in the name of your Lord the creator”.
Human beings can improve the quality of their lives through education as “Knowledge increasingly defines the lines between wealth and poverty, capability and powerlessness and between human fulfillment and frustration”. (The Arab Human Development Report, 2003, p.25).
If the Arab world does not progress towards the future and teach their children with a global outlook, then it will end in the rejection of the hidden potential within them, for no society can exist without educating their people.
After the September 11 attack, there was a hostile attitude towards the Muslim community in the western world. This propelled drastic changes in the outlook of average Saudi citizens which reflected in the education system of the country.
The shift in the objectives compelled Saudi Government to encourage private schools to adopt International learning programs so that the rest of the world know that Saudi Arabia is moderate in its approach to acquiring of International Education. As a result the Arab community is trying to impart the best of English learning to their children without jeopardizing their culture, beliefs and language.
The efficacy of such programs is very much connected to the basic skills and curriculum content during the early childhood education environment. From this perspective it is concluded that there are no negative impact on the culture, moral and values of the Arab students in undergoing English learning program models. Such an education program will in no way affect the Arabic learning and religious faith.
If education is given due importance and English learning is promoted, then the Arab students will certainly make tremendous progress in their lives and a new era will set in. The future generation of the Arab students will breathe in a world that does not suffocate them while in their pursuit for greater knowledge to mark their identity as perfect human beings.
This will make them world citizens who will have the confidence to move ahead with the rest of the world. They will be able to hold their head high and let the people of the world know the rich values and morals of the Arab society. It will send a strong message to all nations that people of Saudi Arabia value education and realize its importance.
However, there is a need to examine the outcome of prevalent social and educational systems in Saudi Arabia that have been successful in the past and the present amalgamation of English language educational system with it.
It will be beneficial for the Arab students rather than blindly adopting education systems of the western society. In this way, the Arab value system will not be negatively affected by English learning and parents need not worry about their children anymore that they may move away from their own culture and tradition.
The educational curriculum in English should be framed in such a way that it lays emphasis on the Arabic culture, and the 5 pillars of Islam which is known as the guiding principle of the Arab Muslim Values that are translated through Arabic, the mother tongue. Therefore, if the young students are trained in heart intelligence and relationship building skills, the Arab community will only gain from it.
The Ministry of Education has to revamp the existing Early Childhood Education Programs to benefit the young children in the primary level with the support of English learning tools. The schools must have multi sensory learning environment for enabling the students to learn independent thinking and problem solving skills through English language.
The education system must utilize the talent and expertise of the existing Arab professionals of the Kingdom. Flexibility for learning shall be conceived and the teachers are rewarded for their efforts in maintaining a high standard of teaching in the schools.
Trained and capable teachers must be given the jobs as only a few are gifted in the art of teaching. For, anyone can choose to become a teacher but only a few are there who know how to teach the young minds.
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