Defineing Saudi Arabian Education And Selection Of Teachers

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The National development plans of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) emphasised the fundamental philosophy for its successful modernization (Sacm.org, 2006). This philosophy centred on the two major principles of developing the required human resources via education and training and constructing ample economic infrastructure (Sacm.org, 2006).

Under The First Development Plan initiated in 1970, the striking quantitative development in the education sector has been overshadowed by the advancement in the qualitative development of education (MOE, 2006). This is borne out by the fact that, whilst the student numbers in the system increased six times during the 1970s to the 1990s, the number of full-time teachers grew by over nine times (MOE, 2006). The student-teacher ratio, at fifteen students to a teacher, in The Kingdom is among the lowest worldwide (MOE, 2006).

The education sector has been among the foremost and most outstanding beneficiaries alongside and resulting from the development of contemporary Saudi Arabia (Sacm.org, 2006). The Directorate of Education was instituted in 1925, and followed in the subsequent year by the "Basic Instructions" that laid the groundwork for a centralised government system (Sacm.org, 2006). The founding of the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 1953, under the Council of Ministers, led to the next stage of development of the modern education system in Saudi Arabia (Sacm.org, 2006).

Subsequent to the MOE being established, numerous more schools were started which led to the countrywide expansion of public education (Sacm.org, 2006). This swift growth in education necessitated the formation of "school districts" all over the country to help the Ministry in distributing some of its responsibilities of selecting and training of the faculty (Sacm.org, 2006). The KSA, in 1958, together with other Arab League members decided on a standardised education system that offered six years of elementary education, three years of intermediate education followed by a three year secondary phase with a discrete higher education program (Sacm.org, 2006).

This study evaluates the modus-operandi of the selection of teachers in the MOE in Saudi Arabia. It also attempts to evaluate the benefits of the improved education system and the extent to which the reforms have been successful in furthering the social, economic and religious causes of the Saudi Arabian nation.

3. Analysis

3.1 Overview of Saudi education system

With particular reference to the education system, the MOE's ambitious Ten Year Plan is targeting, inter alia, its goal of improving the quality of its teachers and increasing the citizens' participation in the education sector to harness the full potential of the Saudi human capital (MOE, 2005).

The detailed objectives emanating from these goals are: (a) to develop teaching and education methodologies (b) to develop the processes of educational supervision in conformity with the targeted development of the educational framework (c) to raise by 20 percent the acceptance rate at teacher colleges of both female and male students specialising in Arabic, Science, Mathematics, Computer Science and English (d) To implement a renewal arrangement for the male and female faculty to be employed for five years and to be allowed career practice licences (e) to expand and from time to time run integrated standard tests for the male and female teachers (f) to transform the work system to permit the continuation of the distinguished professionals' faculty at schools (g) to formulate a wages and rewards structure to prevent the loss of eminent teaching professionals (h) to assemble and extend specific educational standards for the male and female faculty performance supported by an accountability system and (i) to attain a 95 percent Saudinisation rate in all stages of the education and jobs steps (MOE, 2005).

3.2 The Selection Process

The selection mechanism for the selection of teachers can be categorised under the six classifications as follows: (a) annual planning (b) creating job requisitions (c) sourcing candidates (d) screening applicants (e) selecting applicants and (f) hiring applicants. The annual planning process is used to establish the type and amount of employment that the MOE expects to generate every year. The process is initiated with the creation of a job requisition for filling a vacancy based on the decision of the MOE on the quantum of visas that need to be issued for overseas recruitments. For generating the requisite number of job requisitions, the MOE liaises with the different educational institutions to deliberate on their needs in terms of the jobs being replacements or fresh positions, whether they are temporary or permanent and whether they are accessible to overseas candidates. Based on the number of requisitions furnished by the institution, the MOE sanctions the number of recruitments based on the budgeted allocations. To source the applicants, the concerned job descriptions are forwarded to the outsourced external agencies that are in charge of the selection process.

The process is taken forward with the recruitment agency performing the thorough preliminary screening and telephonic interviews against the submitted requirements as per the job requisitions with the MOE, Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, a review of the short-listed candidates' is provided to the MOE which decides and provides feedback on whether there are adequate suitable candidates. Based on the applicants and the recruiters' interactions regarding the availability schedule of the applicants, the recruiter confirms the specific dates, times and co-ordinates of the interviews. The interviews are then held as scheduled and the interviews' feedback is submitted for all the applicants. The recruiter then examines the interview feedback and communicates to the unsuccessful applicants. Based on the outcomes, the recruiter makes to the candidate a verbal offer and simultaneously confirms the results to the MOE. In case of the applicant refusing the initial offer, deliberations on possible revisions to the offer are held by the selection agency. On finalization of the offer, the HR administration team completes the offer paperwork and the necessary formalities.

3.3 The value and slow progress of reform

Prince Turki al-Faisal in USA Today (2006) avers that Saudi Arabia is experiencing dramatic self-examination in that each facet of Saudi Arabia's culture and society is being overtly discussed. He adds that there has been recognition that an all-inclusive, transparent and modern education system using its contemporary textbooks is essential to the country's growth and prosperity. Further, it has been opined that a considered modification of this system is essential which is already well in progress (Ghafour, 2006).

The mission statement of the Ministry of Education centres on the development of evaluation processes and educational measurement (GDME, 2005). The strategic goals relating to teachers' development include: (a) the standardisation and construction of tests for the basic competencies of teachers, school principals, student counsellors and educational supervisors and (b) conducting the evaluation studies of the appropriate teaching methods, educational programs and curricula (GDME, 2005).

Jamal Khashoggi, in his interview with Foreign Exchange (2006), stated "…the tide eventually will be won over by the reformists to bring about a better education system which will better educate our youth to be more challenging particularly after Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more integrated with the world." (Ghafour, 2006, p 1)

Sarah Whitson, the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch stated that, in spite of the current educational reforms, the Saudi Arabian government is still imprisoning the school teachers for conducting overt debates with their students. She added that the Saudi children will continue to lose out as long as the teachers are hounded for doing their jobs (Whitson, 2005). The Saudi Arabian judiciary is putting behind bars the advocates of legitimate education reform instead of defending freedom of expression (Whitson, 2005).

3.4 Good quality teachers and training programs

In Saudi Arabia, the teacher training plans have grown to be an essential part of the education system (Sacm.org, 2006). During the last fifty years the standards for the training of teachers have risen progressively, matching the general growth of the Kingdom's educational system (Sacm.org, 2006). The current minimum qualification for teaching at any educational level is a four years bachelor's degree (Sacm.org, 2006).

The development, selection and training of faculty is another major focus area of the project and Saudi Riyals (SR) 2.94 billion has been allocated towards this purpose of which a particular curriculum development proposal will receive SR 980 million (Ghafour, 2006). The Ministry of Education intends to implement seven training programs for over 400,000 teachers, focusing on their critical areas of educational supervision, individual specialization, computer science, school management, self-development and the improvement of soft and hard skills (Ghafour, 2006).

3.5 Causes of poor job satisfaction

The investigation of the relationship between job satisfaction and the selected critical variables through the non parametric Kruskal-Wills statistical test disclosed important disparities between job satisfaction (in terms of relationship with the relevant management, morale, head teachers' authority, the school environment, and overall job satisfaction) with reference to the educational supervision centres (Alzaidi, 2008).

Additionally, a further Kruskal-Wills test exposed significant divergences between job satisfaction among the head teachers' practices in relation to the completion of the programmes relating to the head teachers' training (Alzaidi, 2008). Conversely, there were no major differences in job satisfaction related to the parameters of experience, head-teachers' qualifications and ages, student numbers and school building types (Alzaidi, 2008). It was further identified that the extremely centralised Saudi educational system and the absence of autonomy are the criteria that affect job satisfaction (Alzaidi, 2008).

4. Conclusion

The analysis highlights the factors involved in comprehending the mechanism for the selection of teachers in the MOE. It is revealed that a serious consideration is required by the Saudi Education Ministry to understand how the contemporary initiatives need to be implemented to augment the selection and working environment of the faculties across the board (Alzaidi, 2008). This selection process will also need to consider the social and psychological attributes and attitudes of the prospective faculty employees; this has been sorely lacking in the selection process to date.

The findings demonstrate that premium educational quality is principally correlated to the significance of the head teachers' function in fronting the educational process. (Alzaidi, 2008) Moreover, the MOE must give particular consideration to the subject of the effect of the extremely centralised structure by entrusting more of its powers to the schools' head-teachers and teachers with the objective of curtailing the effect of the centralised structure and maximizing the schools' autonomy (Alzaidi, 2008). This will enable the maximization of the value-addition of the teacher selection mechanism in terms of greater teacher retention and lower attrition levels (Alzaidi, 2008). In order to enhance the value of this analysis, future research would be necessitated, using the factor analysis technique to spot precisely the most important criteria which affect secondary school head teachers' job satisfaction resulting subsequent to their successful selection through the recruitment process (Alzaidi, 2008).

5. Recommendations

In light of the above analysis, it is recommended that the selection mechanism for recruitment of teachers to the MOE takes into account the socio-economic environment as well as the pace of reforms of the Saudi economy, apart from the standard qualifications and requirements. It is further observed that the selection mechanism will need to address the shortcomings of the institutional gaps due to the past recruitment processes and policies. This will enable the fulfilment of the societal, religious and economic norms in terms of the selection, training and retention of quality faculties in all the educational institutions in Saudi Arabia.

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