Education system in Saudi Arabia


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The education system in Saudi Arabia is undergoing considerable reform, driven by the Ministry of Higher Education and the Saudi government. This includes a $2.4 billion program specifically aimed to change the way of teaching 5 million Saudi students. However, in the due course of the change initiatives that have been taken, tension and resistance, as largely reported in the press (Bake, 2004; MHE, 2006; Ghafour, 2007; Krieger, 2007; McEvers, 2009; Alhammad, 2010). Despite the comments concerning the challenges of such a significant reform process, and the numerous gender-related issues in the Saudi education system, which are at the centre of some of the reform processes, academic studies have not yet examined the potential impact of employee motivation and job satisfaction amongst Saudi's teachers specifically in accordance with the gender differences. Having said so, it is believed that in terms of employee motivation, the motivational drivers of male teachers and different from that of their female counterparts. Therefore this study is particularly interested in investigating those drivers of motivation and job satisfaction with a differentiated focus on potential differences between male and female teachers in Saudi Arabia. In so doing, the study will draw on core theories of motivation (Maslow, 1943; Herzberg, 1966), which have been applied to the job satisfaction literature (Herzberg et al., 1959) in an education environment.

Aims and Objectives

Research Aim

This dissertation aims to examine the different motivational factors of male and female teachers in Saudi Arabia.

Research Purpose

The purpose of the research is to help Saudi educators to get the most out of their male and female employees (teachers) as part of the government's new, multi-billion dollar educational change program. To achieve this purpose the research study aims to: a- identify the current levels and drivers of motivation and job satisfaction amongst male and female teachers implying the theoretical implications, b- identify the required levels and drivers of motivation and job satisfaction and c- make recommendations for improvement upon conducting a gap analysis.

Research Objectives

In order to answer the research aim, as well as achieve the research purpose, the following research objectives have been set:

To critically discuss the literature on motivation and job satisfaction, reflecting on how the theoretical implications differently applies to male and female teachers operating in an educational environment.

To conduct a gap analysis between current and desired levels of job satisfaction and motivational drivers of male and female teachers

To develop a theoretical framework to measure the job satisfaction levels and motivational drivers of male and female teachers in Saudi Arabia resulting from differences in job satisfaction and motivational drivers.

To explain any differences in the motivation and job satisfaction levels of male and female teachers in the Saudi education system.

To provide recommendations for Saudi educators explaining how levels of motivation and job satisfaction amongst male and female teachers can be improved.

Review of the Literature


Motivation is a vital factor in the workplace, influencing job satisfaction, organisational commitment, productivity, and other outcomes. Organisations and scholars have long looked for ways to manage motivation in the workplace. Such managerial approaches to work motivation started with the scientific principles of Taylorism (Taylor, 1911). This viewed employees more as 'cogs' in a system to be trained in a way that helped organisations to create more efficient working environments, but perceived individuals are inherently lazy and untrustworthy. The use of these scientific approaches to improve motivation was largely discounted because of their inhumane components. As a result, the human relations model replaced the traditional model of work motivation. This stressed the importance of viewing employees as human beings who want to work, but need to be motivated to do so. Criticisms were levelled at previous approaches to work motivation for their focus on work routinisation, which lowered employee motivation and job satisfaction (Mayo, 1933, 1943; Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939; Bendix, 1956). However, whilst the human relations school recognised the importance of giving employees a 'voice', its goal was still that of compliance. In order to address these inadequacies, the human resources school emerged (McGregor, 1960; Miles, 1965; Likert, 1967; Schein, 1972), which suggested that individuals were far more complex, as was employee motivation. In the same regard, further theories of employee motivation emerged that attempted to understand process and content-based perspectives of motivation (Porter et al., 2003). Process theories attempted "to describe how behaviour [was] energized, directed, and sustained", whilst content theories assumed "that factors exist within the individual that energize, direct, and sustain behaviour" (Porter et al., 2003, p.2). Due to the extensive range of theories and their different purposes, this dissertation draws only on content theories, attempting to understand those factors that are important in energizing, guiding and sustaining motivation amongst employees. In the full literature review, these theories would be critically discussed to highlight their differences, but for the purposes of guiding the dissertation, the basic principles of Maslow's (1943) hierarchy of needs and Herzberg's (1966) motivator-hygiene theory are particularly important because they underpin the theory of job satisfaction that is measured in the case organizations; namely, the schools in Saudi Arabia.

Job Satisfaction

In order to understand what led individuals to be satisfied in the workplace, researchers examined employees' needs in a workplace context (Lewin, 1958; Snyder and Anderson, 1986), building on the work of Maslow (1943). Some of the early studies of job satisfaction highlighted two managerial assumptions about employees' perception of the workplace. Theory X perceived that employees disliked work and therefore needed to be instructed by management, whilst Theory Y suggested that employees attained pleasure through their work, such that they should be part of the decision making process. Involving employees in the decision-making process of the organisation led to greater productivity (Synder and Anderson, 1986). This fits with the human resources approach to employee motivation (Porter et al., 2003) discussed above.

When applied to a teaching context, research by Herzberg et al. (1959) suggested that individuals seek recognition and achievement in order to be satisfied in their work. When school leaders emphasized and recognised the value and dignity of teachers and their contributions, this was said to lead to empowerment and increased levels of job satisfaction. Herzberg's (1966) motivator-hygiene theory added to this. It did so by suggesting that whilst the job satisfaction of teachers could be improved by factors that were intrinsic to the job itself, such as achievement, recognition, the nature of the work, and how interesting the job was, such intrinsic motivators were just part of the drivers of job satisfaction. In addition, extrinsic motivators, also known as hygiene factors were important in ensuring that employees did not become de-motivated. Such factors included the working conditions of employees, their pay, issues of job security, supervisory relationships, and so forth. When it came to job satisfaction, Sergiovanni (1992) also suggested that distinctions should be made between those factors that led to participation, the minimum commitment of teachers, as opposed to those factors influencing performance, the voluntary contribution of teachers to perform in their roles. This literature review would build upon these two strands of motivation theory - Maslow and Herzberg - in order to illustrate the main drivers of job satisfaction amongst teachers, which would be measured through the research process in Saudi schools.

Methodological Approach

The knowledge claims made by research, together with the research process that leads to such claims, are guided by the philosophical research paradigm adopted by the researcher (Thietart, 2001). A wide range of research philosophies is discussed in the research methods literature, with particular focus on positivism, which broadly dominates the research process in the physical sciences, and interpretivism, which is a popular philosophical approach in the social sciences and business-related research (Bryman, 2004). Interpretivism is selected as a guide research philosophy since it is based on the idea that "the world is made up of possibilities" (Thietart, 2001, p.15) rather than necessities, that knowledge cannot simply be 'out there' and discovered, but must be interpreted based on multiple constructed realities (Lincoln and Guba, 1985; Thietart, 2001). Interpretivism is also more caution in making knowledge claims that can lead to generalisations because of this interpretivist approach, the potential for bias in the research process because of the interdependence of subject and object, and researcher and research participant (Thietart, 2001).

A collective case study approach acts as a context within which the research takes place. This follows Stake's (2003) lead in which the case study can be used as a contextual approach rather than a methodological one. The use of a collective case study approach rather than instrumental or intrinsic one highlights the intentions of the study and the proposed knowledge claims. Such a collective case study approach involves the use of multiple case studies as a means of providing greater triangulation of the data and the research context, in order to try and make some generalisations based on the cases to a wider research context (Stake, 2003, 2006). In this dissertation, such generalisations would be made from a collection of 4 to 10 secondary education schools in Saudi Arabia; the suggested number of cases in a multi-case study approach (Stake, 2006). Where possible, the cases will be selected using random sampling from a list of all secondary schools in Saudi Arabia. Such a probability based sampling technique is important if generalisations are to be made from the findings.

In terms of research design, a mixed methods approach would be adopted, focusing on three phases: First, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with the Head Teachers of the case study schools in order to gain knowledge about current performance levels and desired performance levels of male and female teachers. The interview questions will be structured in a manner that link performance measurement and evaluation with job satisfaction and motivation. In addition, the opinions of Head Teachers will be sought to understand the motivational drivers and job satisfaction levels within the working or school environment. Second, having built such context a questionnaire will be distributed to male and female teachers at the schools to examine the role of gender in terms of levels of motivation and job satisfaction resulting through performance measurement and evaluation.

The results from this questionnaire will be analysed using statistical techniques in order to assess whether there is a statistical different in motivation and job satisfaction levels between male and female teachers. Job satisfaction would be measured using the Mohrman-Cooke-Mohrman (Mohrman et al., 1978; Oliver, 2007, p.90) Job Satisfaction Scale, which involves two dimensions, each with four items. The dimensions reflect the intrinsic and extrinsic nature of motivation, discussed in the literature: Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation. Eight statements are therefore either read out to the interviewee or self-completed on the questionnaire (or online survey). The statements should be considered based on the perception that the teacher, whether male or female, has to their school. The statements are rated using a 6-point scale with 1 being the highest possible response and 6 being the lowest possible response. The following questions would be asked:

Intrinsic Motivation

The feeling of self-esteem or self-respect that you get from being in your job.

The opportunity for personal growth and development in your job as result of being aware of job performance levels.

The feeling of worthwhile accomplishment in your job.

The improvements that you can reflect upon through learning performance improvement levels upon taking the job.

Extrinsic Motivation

The amount of respect and fair treatment you receive from your superiors.

The feeling of being informed in your job.

The amount of supervision, feedback and constructive criticism you receive at the job.

The opportunity for participation in the determination of methods, procedures and goals.

If there are statistical differences in the male and female motivation and job satisfaction scores, further interviews will be conducted with a sample of teachers that completed the questionnaire to try and understand the reason for such differences. These interviews are likely to be of a semi-structured (Saunders et al., 1997) nature in order to direct more targeted questions at respondents, based on the findings.

Appendix: Programme of Work

The planned research would take place between June 2010 and September 2010. The table below details the main tasks that are planned for each month, which also act as major milestones. These are divided into tasks relating to the writing of the research report, which is a major task in and of itself , and work relating to the primary research to be conducted. The researcher has tried to build into the plan sufficient time to gain access to teachers in order to conduct the research, including delays in this process.




Research Report

Task 1: Literature Review

Critically review the literature on motivation and job satisfaction, reflecting on how this applies on teachers operating in an educational environment.

Task 2: Theoretical Framework

Select core theories of motivation and job satisfaction as the theoretical framework within which the motivation and job satisfaction of male and female teachers in Saudi Arabia can be measured.

Task 3: Survey Prep

Prepare potential survey questions for teachers at the case study schools, based on this literature review.

Primary Research

Task 4: Sample Selection

Identify schools that could take part in the research.

Task 5: Gaining Access: One

Focus on gaining access to these schools, with the aim of gaining access to between 4 and 10 schools.

Task 6: Primary Research Prep

Prepare research materials: Questionnaire Performa


Research Report

Task 7: Writing Up: One

Write up the Introduction (Chapter One) and Literature Review (Chapter Two of the Research Report).

Task 8: Writing Up: Two

Prepare the draft Research Methodology (Chapter Three) to ensure that the research process is clear and well defined before primary research starts.

Primary Research

Task 9: Primary Research: One

Conduct initial interviews with Head Teachers at the case study schools in order to understanding more about the change programme and its effect on the school and teaching practices, as well as gaining an insight into the working practices at the school.

Task 10: Analysis: Primary Research One

Analyse the interview data across the schools to examine any similarities and differences, as well as building a broader case study context.

Task 11: Gaining Access: Two

Agree access to distribute the research questionnaire amongst teachers at the schools.


Research Report

Task 12: Writing Up: Three

Write up the Research Methodology (Chapter Three) and the contextual data for the Case Study Analyses (Chapter Four) of the Research Report.

Primary Research

Task 13: Primary Research: Two

Distribute the research questionnaires amongst teachers across the various schools that have agreed to take part in the study.

Task 14: Analysis: Primary Research Two / Possible Primary Research: Three

Analyse the questionnaire data and examine how motivation and job satisfaction differ between male and female teachers (if at all). Examine where such differences, if they exist, are statistically significant. If so, conduct follow-up interviews with a sample of teachers to try and understand the reasons behind such differences.

Task 15: Secondary Research

Collect pertinent secondary data about the Saudi education system and cultural context that may help in explaining the research findings.


Project Report

Task 16: Writing Up: Four

Write up the second part of the Case Study Analysis, focusing on the findings and analysis from the questionnaire, as well as any interview data.

Task 17: Writing Up: Five

Write up the Conclusion and Recommendations (Chapter Five) of the research report.

Firm Presentation

Task 18: Summing Up

Give a presentation of findings and recommendations to the Head Teachers of the case study schools.

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