Study on The Education Policy of Saudi Arabia

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Many Saudi Arabs seek employment in Saudi Aramco, drawn by monetary incentives and better working conditions. However, little consideration is given to differences in educational values between the Saudi school system and Saudi Aramco`s corporate ones. According to Al Dohyan, Ghimlas and Al-Shabanat (2001:13), education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia complies with the guidelines drawn up in the Educational Policy. This policy teaches the individual to perform his or her duties towards God and his or her religion, and to fulfill the needs of society in order to achieve the aspirations of the nation. Educational policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is derived from the morals and judgments of Islam, which constitutes the religion of the entire nation and which is considered to be an integrated system of life.

Saudi Aramco, on the other hand, has to ensure that the company recruits candidates who have the maximum potential for on the job. Each year, more than 10,000 new applicants for the Industrial Training Center (ITC) go through screening tests to enter the vocational training path. According to Program Development & Quality Assurance Division, 2010 Year End - Accountability Report, in 2009, 458 participants entered the training centers and only 286 graduated during that year. In light of these results, the Industrial Training Department (ITD) will be reviewing training gaps between the Saudi curriculums with the market needs and that of Saudi Aramco requirements to bridge the gaps and align the training programs.

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This study will try to answer to which extent the national curriculum of Saudi Arabia prepares pupils to work for Saudi Aramco. Furthermore, it will compare both establishments Educational Policy by means of a literature study and empirical investigation. The objective is to explore how Saudi Arabia's schools can better prepare their students in educational and skills terms to work for Saudi Aramco. Qualitative data collection will be done by in-depth interviews guided by the following research questions:

What is Saudi Arabia's curriculum philosophy and how are the programmes structured?

To what extent do Saudi Arabia's curricula prepare pupils to work in a culturally diverse company?

What are the issues related to Saudi Arabia's curricula in preparing pupils for employment in Saudi Aramco?

This research includes the administration of Training and Development such as supervisor and instructors within Ras Tanura Industrial Training Centre (ITC). The individuals were chosen because they reflect diverse background of ethnicity and educational systems. All of these individuals were accessible to the researcher, therefore making it easier to compare findings in a timely manner. The research was conducted by means of a literature review and empirical investigation. An overview of the official values contained in the policy documents of Saudi Aramco and Saudi Arabia's education systems is included. An empirical investigation using a qualitative approach was conducted. Data will be obtained by conducting in-depth interviews. Finally, the researcher will provide a series of recommendations.

2. Literature review

Education in Saudi Arabia has experienced dramatic growth over the last fifty years and has made tremendous strides in providing quality education to the nation. The country has realized the importance of the influence of underlying values in the ongoing discourse in society as well as the ability to pinpoint the effects of such underpinnings on educational dispensations within a broader societal context.

To better understand how the Saudi Arabia educational system is lead and managed, we must study the historical and cultural location. Grace (1995:5) argues that ¨it is essential to place the study and analysis of school leadership in its socio-political context of the moral and political economy of schooling. We need to have studies of school leadership which are historically located and which are brought into relationship with wider political, cultural, economic and ideological movements in society.¨

2.1 Historical Background

Formal schooling is organized and controlled by the royal government. It has power over its goals and their measurements, its objectives, its approved books, who has access to school and who has not. Because education is administered by the government, it is, by definition, political. To better illustrate this statement, Stalinsky (2002:12) states, "The Saudi government maintains control of every aspect of educational material. The government is concerned with the control of all books coming into the Kingdom from abroad or going out of the Kingdom to the outside world.

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No books shall be allowed for use unless they are consistent with Islam, the intellectual trends and educational aims of the Kingdom¨. Saudi Arabia`s Government policy states that: "All books should fulfill the aims of education and be devoid of anything conflicting with Islam."

Students also learn "how to face misleading rumors, destructive doctrines, and alien thoughts." The Saudi education authorities insist, "The school textbooks should be in line with Islamic requirements". It is clear that the foremost priority of the Saudi Arabian Educational Policy has been to foster and develop the Islamic faith through its entire curriculum. Gilbert (2008, 19)

2.2 Socio-Political Context of the Educational System of Saudi Arabia

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, opportunities for education were not widely available, being mainly limited to religious teaching and basic literacy conducted in mosques. In the 1930s, King Abdul Aziz initiated a programme of formal primary education in the Kingdom. This program was given added movement in 1949-1950 (1369-1370 AH).

The Ministry of Education was founded in 1954 (Abd-El Wassie&Wahab 1970.)

Mindful of the need to ensure that the Kingdom's population should rise to the challenges of development, the government has devoted vast resources to programmes covering primary, secondary and higher levels of education.

All the Kingdom's Development Plans have taken into account the educational aspirations of the Saudi people, providing free education to all (Abd-El Wassie&Wahab 1970).

The education system has been continuously and systematically expanded to accommodate the ever-growing demand for educational services. Through this investment, the Kingdom has been able to guarantee equal of opportunity for all and to ensure that the Kingdom's need for an educated and trained national workforce will fulfill the Kingdom's future development. With little prior expertise in modern education, the education system in Saudi Arabia basically adopted the curricula of other Arab countries especially that of Egypt, adding a heavier emphasis on religious subjects (Findlay 1997:34).

Saudi Arabia's educational system was designed to observe the teachings of Islam, disseminate knowledge, and construct schools. Saudi Arabia's first technical secondary school and school of higher learning, the College of Sharia (now, Umm Al Qura University), were founded in 1949. In 1952, the United Nations reported that Saudi Arabia had 306 elementary schools, but illiteracy was between 92 and 95 percent.

To combat such dire statistics, a Ministry of Education was established in 1953 with the task of expanding and modernizing educational resources. In 1958, the Saudi kingdom adopted a uniform educational policy in cooperation with other Arab states that provided for a six-year compulsory elementary education, a three-year optional intermediate education, and a three-year optional secondary education for boys only.

As relations with Egypt deteriorated during the 1960s, the Saudi government abandoned the Egyptian model, and proceeded to develop its own educational system. Under the leadership of King Faisal (1964-1975) and King Khalid (1975-1982), Saudi Arabia established two five-year plans that promoted education to develop the needs of the people as human resources through education and training and to facilitate the nation's economic infrastructure. The educational system was redesigned to accommodate an increasing number of elementary and intermediate school students. Only 50 percent of the students were permitted to enter into a general secondary education leading to a university degree. The other students were placed in teacher training and vocational and technical education programs. Under the rule of King Fahd, major changes occurred within the educational system.

The General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training (GOTEVT) was created in 1980, to accommodate the kingdom's increasing needs for specialized technical training.

Saudi Arabia's Approach to Education

Seeking knowledge is mandatory for each Muslim. Islam is both integral to and the essence of education. The principles of education formulated by the Higher Committee of Educational Policy include the responsibility to:

Strengthen faith in God and Islam and in Mohammed (PBUH);

Foster a holistic, Islamic concept of the universe;

Emphasize that life is a stage of work and production to invests full understanding of and faith in eternal life;

Proclaim the message of Mohammed (PBUH);

Instill Islamic ideals;

Engender faith in human dignity;

Reinforce the duty of each Muslim to see education and the duty of the state to provide education in it various stages within the state's capacity and resources;

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Incorporate religious education and maintain Islamic culture at all educational levels;

Integrate Islamic orientation in sciences and knowledge in the curricula and teaching;

Stimulate human knowledge through Islam to raise the nation's standard of living;

Foster fundamental beliefs; and

Teach the importance of Saudi history and the preservation of the Islamic religion. (The Ministry of Education: 2004)

Education in Saudi Arabia has four special characteristics: an emphasis on Islam, a centralized educational system, separate education for men and women, and state financial support. Islam is the core of Saudi Arabia's curriculum, with time each week devoted to the study of the Muslim sacred text, the Quran, Islamic tradition, jurisprudence, and theology from primary through higher education. Religion is not separate from but is a part of the disciplines of education, economics, sociology, psychology, medicine, and law. It is expected that the Quran will be memorized, interpreted, and applied to all aspects of daily life.

Table 2.1 Saudi Arabia's Secondary Education Curriculum.

SECONDARY EDUCATION

I. General Secondary School

Duration: Three years (ages 15 to 18)

Compulsory Subjects: During the first year, students share a common curriculum, and in the final two years are divided into scientific and literary streams. Students scoring 60 percent in all first-year subjects may choose between the two streams. Those who score under 60 percent must opt for the literary stream.

General Curriculum: Arabic, biology, chemistry, English, geography, history, home economics (for girls), mathematics, physical education (for boys) and religious studies

III. Technical Secondary School

There are three types of technical education offered at the secondary level: vocational/technical, commercial and agricultural. Admission to a technical school requires the Shahadat Al-Kafa'at Al-Mutawassita (Intermediate School Certificate).

All technical and vocational training comes under the authority of the General Organization for Technical Education.

Duration: Three years (ages 15 to 18)

Curriculum: 

Vocational/Technical: architectural drawing, auto mechanics, electricity, machine mechanics, metal mechanics, radio and television. In addition to technical subjects, students take Arabic, chemistry, English, mathematics, physical education, physics and religious studies.

Source: International Guide to Qualifications in Education. Great Britain 1996

Through these general aims and principles, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education has laid a foundation for the entire educational sector to perform their duties towards God and their religion, and to fulfill the needs of their society, in order to achieve the aspirations of the nation.

3. Investigation

This is a small scale qualitative case study aimed at determining to which extent the national curriculum of Saudi Arabia prepares pupils for Saudi Aramco's need for a competent workforce. The objective is to explore how Saudi Arabia's schools can better prepare their students in educational and skills terms to work for Saudi Aramco. Qualitative data collection will be done by in-depth interviews guided by the following research questions:

What is Saudi Arabia's curriculum philosophy and how is the programme structured?

To what extent does Saudi Arabia's curriculum prepare pupils to work in a culturally diverse company?

What are the issues related to Saudi Arabia's curriculum in preparing pupils for employment in Saudi Aramco?

3.1 Data Collection in Qualitative Research

As stated earlier in this paper, the data for this case study will be collected through an analysis of Saudi Arabia's Educational Policy through official publications or the Government Web Sites, and an interview questionnaire guided by the previous research questions.

The researcher worked, in close consultation with the Industrial Training Center supervisor and school leaders (that is, personnel in positions of official or unofficial authority), to develop a plan to identify and recruit potential participants. This ensured that the selected participants met the diversity characteristics required to contribute to this research.

Cohen et al. (2000:268) also suggests that `the interview ... may be used as the principal means of gathering information having direct bearing on the research objectives. Therefore, the used of an unstructured interview, where the questions will be predetermined coupled with a diverse group of participants should guarantee reliability as well as significance of data collection. In this research, the characteristics of the participants included age, country of origin, gender, religion, and profession. The criteria chosen allowed the researcher to focus on people that would be most likely to experience, know about, or have insights into the research topic.

Schumacher and McMillan (1993:391) state that qualitative researchers collect data by interacting with purposefully selected persons in their setting (field research) who are considered rich sources of information and by obtaining relevant documents. Since context plays such an important role in qualitative research, a thorough explanation is given.

Qualitative researchers study small distinct groups, such as the staff members of an innovative school. This kind of research is known as a case study design and was followed in this study. In-depth interviews are optimal for collecting data on individuals' personal histories, perspectives, and experiences, particularly when sensitive topics are being explored (Denzin, 2000). One advantage of qualitative methods in exploratory research is that use of open-ended questions and probing allows participants to respond in their own words, rather than forcing them to choose from fixed responses, as quantitative methods do. Open-ended questions can to evoke responses that are:

• Meaningful and culturally salient to the participant

• Unanticipated by the researcher and

• Rich and explanatory in nature

Another advantage of qualitative methods is that they allow the researcher the flexibility to probe initial participant responses - that is, to ask why or how. The researcher must listen carefully to what participants say, engage with them according to their individual personalities and styles and use "probes" to encourage them to elaborate on their answers.

3.2 Methodology

The research was conducted by means of literature review and empirical investigation. A thorough overview of the official values contained in the policy documents of the Saudi Arabian and Saudi Aramco vocational education systems was carried out. This was augmented with current critical issues in the two education systems to portray the unofficial viewpoint.

Data were obtained via personal interviews. The in-depth interviews of between 20- 45 minutes were conducted with four educators, one group leader and one supervisor. Once the data was collected, comparisons were drawn between the responses of the participants in order to gauge the similarities and the differences. Finally, a discussion of the results was presented, drawn from the responses of the interviewees.

3.3 Reliability and Validity

The researcher realises the importance of reliability of the measuring instruments. In order to ensure the validity and reliability of the data, a number of research methods were used to ensure validity, such as interviews transcribed verbatim and by the diversity of the sample participants. Schumacher and Macmillan (1993:404-406) state, "Qualitative researchers typically use as many strategies as possible to insure the validity of the design."

The researcher worked with one of the participants and knowing him personally made the participants comfortable with the researcher and he confided easily in him. Bergum (1991:61) and Holstein and Gubrium (1995:4) agree that in order to attain validity to the study, there has to be a process of collaboration. This view fits in with the qualitative approach of research. Phenomenological interviews were chosen as "… you can understand and experience and reconstruct events in which you did not participate" (Rubin & Rubin 1995:1). There are different ways in which the interviews can be conducted, ranging from structured to unstructured ones with open-ended questions.

In the initial planning of the research, three contact sessions were established. The first was to make contact with participants, get their permission to conduct interviews and discuss possible problems. The second was to conduct the actual interview via tape recording. The third was to confirm with participants if the information gathered after analyzing the transcripts was correct and ask if they wanted to add or omit something. A tape recorder was used to record the interviews so that it could be transcribed verbatim. To ensure consistency, both interviews followed the same pattern. Ethical guidelines, like confidentiality and anonymity, were mentioned to participants. The main questions of the study were repeated. Specific questions that followed stemmed from the descriptions provided by the participants in their own words about their teaching experiences. These questions were posed to elicit clarity and a broader understanding of the participants' experience, feelings and thoughts. Questions such as "Can you give me an example?" or "Explain what you mean by that" were used. Other strategies the researcher employed were summarizing and paraphrasing to make sure he understood the participants.

3.4 Ethics

In conducting interviews, ethical issues are one of the main concerns. Confidentiality must be a given. Respondents "should not be harmed or damaged in any way by the research … It is also important that interviews are not used as a devious means of selling something to the respondent" (Gray, 2004 p. 235). From the outset of the data gathering process, it was made clear to all participants that the information given by them would be strictly anonymous. The researcher also made use of member checking, that is, to send a draft of the data analysis to all the participants to show that their information had not been misrepresented.

Moreover, participants were free to request the deletion of anything they were not comfortable with.

Hart (2003) describes anonymity as referring to concealing the identity of the participants in all documents resulting from the research. All participants were guaranteed that the information solicited was treated with maximum confidentiality.

3.4.1 Role of the researcher

According to Fox (1958:284) in Gephart and Ingle (1969:423) "The value of a particular piece of research is not so much that it fits the reader's already preconceived prejudices, but rather that it meets certain criteria that indicate that the results may be depended upon". Therefore, it is required that the researcher declares his biases to provide the reader with his background to understand what 'excess baggage' the researcher may bring to this study.

Schumacher and McMillan (1997:392) note, "Qualitative researchers become "immersed" in the situation and the phenomenon studied. Researchers assume interactive social roles in which they record observations and interactions with participants in many situations".

This scenario has the potential to jeopardize the validity and reliability of the study if the researcher conducts the research with preconceived notions or tries to manipulate research to suit his/her outlook.

In this research, the researcher had to be particularly acute of the following reality:

Being born Christian and working in a Muslim country that propagates only one religion, the researcher had to be careful not to transgress the religious boundaries set between Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims and the researcher paid special attention to their views about religion in Saudi Arabian schools and in general.

Analysis

This study investigated to which extent the national curriculum of Saudi Arabia prepares pupils to work for Saudi Aramco. The objective was to explore how Saudi Arabia's schools can better prepare their students in educational and skills terms to work for Saudi Aramco. The findings achieved the primary aim to partly confirm the information in the literature review. In this analysis, some issues where found related to how Saudi Arabian curriculum can prepare graduates to enter Saudi Aramco Technical Colleges and therefore become a Saudi Aramco employee. One key finding was that Saudi Arabian Curriculum relies heavily on Islamic values and moral principles and focuses mainly on their development in accordance with the society's culture and principles. In addition, it was found that eliminating illiteracy was also amongst the highest priority governing the educational policy of Saudi Arabia.

A unexpected discovery was that the curriculum, teaching methods, and textbooks at all levels and in all programmes of education and training do not encourage independent and critical thought, the capacity to question, enquire, reason, weigh evidence and form judgments, and achieve understanding.

4.1 Biographical Data of Participants

The biographic data and background of the selected participants help clarify their responses. This means the research dealt with mature individuals with broad experience and had significant knowledge on the Saudi curriculum and the ITC curriculum.

Table 4.1 Biographical Data of Participants

Job Title

Years of Experience

Diploma

Program

Gender

Nationality

Administrator

35

Ed.D.

Educational administration

Male

Saudi

ITC Supervisor

29

BA degree

Mechanical Engineering

Male

Saudi

Instructor 1

20

Diploma in Education

Mechanical Work Course

Male

Soudan

Instructor 2

15

Technical degree

Welder

Male

Argentina

Teacher 1

25

BA degree and a teaching diploma

English teacher

Male

American

Teacher 2

2

B.Ed. English studies

English teacher

Male

British

4.2 Saudi Arabia's curriculum Structure.

The majority of the respondents pointed out that the public system's policy was largely to blame for the lack of results in the education area. Aside from the fact that the entire curriculum is based on the messages from the Quran, the organization and the ways in which classes were distributed between the areas of study contributed to a considerable degree in the educational formation of the children and young adults.

In this sense, for instance, a large part of the study period is dedicated to memorizing the Quran, and only a small amount of the study material focused on subjects such as the English language, arithmetic, geography, or natural science.

In contrast, Singapore's curriculum since the 1960s reflects sound management of both content and purpose, having kept up with economic and technological challenges. Education in KSA is a mixture of religious/moral and secular education. Indeed, religious studies are paramount for maintaining and reinforcing religious heritage, but other subjects such as math and science are equally important for a knowledge-based economy and for reflecting socio-economic priorities. This is especially true at both the primary and intermediate levels of education, so that the structure of curricula is not biased toward literature majors, producing fewer science and technology college graduates than industry requires.

Al-Wahda (Saudi Gazette 28 August 2004:2) states that in a controversial proposal, a Saudi educationalist, Al-Bakr, has called for the integration of the six Islamic subjects in primary schools into one unified subject called Islamic studies. The paper, which looked at the readiness of the Saudi education system for the challenges of globalization, revealed that a massive 32 % of the educational plan studied by primary students is allocated for Islamic studies, while Arabic studies take about 27 % of student time. Al-Wahda argued that: "The curriculum allocates 6 % for science and 14 % for mathematics". This is also reflected in middle and higher education.

Curriculum reflects a combination of purpose (relating to a country's socio-economic objectives) and content (relating to material that would help achieve these objectives); its development is aided by keeping pace with changes in technological knowledge. National curricula should also reflect social, economic, and political goals.

Figure 4.2 Discipline/Total Enrollments vs. Sector Labor Force, 2002

Grisay (1994) suggested that overemphasis on subjects other than science is likely to influence students' decisions to pursue non-science majors, even if the individual students are analytically or scientifically perceptive. This trend may be exacerbated by the current rigidity of the education system, in which students are not free to change majors once their educational affiliation, i.e., literature or science, has been determined.

Table 4.3 Estimated Share of total courses for Saudi Arabia, 2002.

Education Level

Subject

Percentile

Primary/Elementary

Math & Science

20%

Religious/Moral

31%

Intermediate

Math & Science

24%

Religious/Moral

24%

High

Math & Science

30%

Religious/Moral

13%

4.3 Saudi Arabia's Human Capital

When asked what aspect of the Saudi Arabia's curriculum most likely prepares student to enter Saudi Aramco's ITC, most of the respondents stated that even though they believed that the curriculum's content and purpose is generally suitable to prepare student, teacher quality is an essential element in student learning.

One of the respondents made the following remark with regards to the curriculum:

" The material used in Saudi schools is for American first language speakers. As far as I am concerned this is above the level of most boys. The boys are being taught math, science and the various parts of English (comprehension, spelling, phonics, grammar, and writing) from this American system."

Approximately half of the respondents confirmed that they attended excellent Saudi schools that prepared them sufficiently for higher learning, because of the high quality of teacher these schools made available.

Surprisingly, they also emphasized that all of these teachers were expatriates coming from Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt.

When asked what aspect of the Saudi Arabia's curriculum most hinders student to succeed at Saudi Aramco's ITC, a majority of respondents declared that, for the most part, teachers either from Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries followed old teaching methods, based on rote memorization, without implementing modern techniques of encouraging creative thinking and original work.

One of the participants agreed that some teachers do not promote critical thinking amongst students.

"They [students] are not thinkers at all. They rely solely on the teacher in the classroom or the private tutor at home. To ensure better results, they are given a pre-test before the actual test. This is for examinations likewise. Many, if not all, of these students will die with their brains sealed and unused."

Teachers have an important role in delivering the curriculum material to the students. The influence of teachers on student learning comes as a result of teachers' academic skills, their assignments, their experience in teaching, and their professional development. Rossmiller (1984) found a positive and significant relationship between teachers' qualifications and experience, and students' achievement. Other variables, which include teacher characteristics such as education and teaching ability, have likewise been found to correlate positively and significantly with the achievement of students.

4.4 Educational System Outputs

The last question was aimed to seek perception of the Educational System Outputs. According to The Institute of International Finance (IIF), "Regional Report Gulf Cooperation Council Countries," August 15, 2006, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Country Report No. 05/268, the top factors that drive unemployment among nationals in the Gulf Countries region are lack of skill and low motivation to work, coupled with high salary expectations.

These factors were also mentioned in the answers provided by the research participants.

When asked what expectations they had of entry-level graduates from the vocational school system when they join the Saudi Aramco's ITC, respondents pointed out that the educa­tion system as well as the curriculum need to be improved to create a generation of skilled Saudi nationals who would ultimately replace the expatriate labor force.

The following comments were expressed by the respondents:

"We need fewer scholars and more capable technicians and professionals"

"With adequate training, our graduates are capable of succeeding and performing their daily duties. However, they lack problem-solving skills, which are crucial when things go wrong!"

"Vocational education is [considered to be] for poor performing students and less privileged individuals. An academic degree is always a preference."

Additionally, the research participants have raised serious concerns with regard to the professionalism and work ethics of their pupils.

These comments show the perception of the respondents with regards to the Educational System Output and can be summarized as follows:

The school system produces too many graduates from social sciences and humanities vs. key specialization to meet Saudi Aramco's need.

The curriculum taught at vocational institutions is too theory oriented and lacks the practical requirements of Saudi Aramco.

While exhibiting general proficiency in basic skills, graduates from the national education system lack problem solving skills.

The quality of education and knowledge-base of recruited graduates falls short when tested, suggesting a significant difference between official indicators on the quality of the education system and the real perception about the proficiencies of graduates. Saudi Aramco needs to conduct extensive internal training on basic skills.

The issues raised here were also identified by the Ministry of Education in its report entitled "The Development of Education" (2004). The report describes the need to reform the curriculum to address challenges facing education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The proposed changes will offer better compatibility between the results of education in the secondary school stage and the needs of the labor market, a balance between the theoretical and practical aspects of the curricula, and the necessary skills and tendencies for productive action and encouraging the practice of manual labor amongst others.

Conclusion

The purpose of this small scale qualitative case study was to answer to which extent the national curriculum of Saudi Arabia prepares pupils to work for Saudi Aramco. The objective was to explore how Saudi Arabia's schools can better prepare their students in educational and skills terms to work for Saudi Aramco. Amongst the conclusions, it is recognised that the education system is indeed of major importance for Saudi Arabia in the current globalization process. In Saudi Arabia, considered to be the cradle of the Muslim world, the reformation initiatives are rather hard to implement, especially because of the dual nature of the ruling powers, the political and the religious ones. The perspective of Islamic values is the most important element in the entire process of education in Saudi Arabia. This is largely due to the historical experience of the state in terms of education mechanisms, with a particular focus on the traditional and formal levels of study. Accordingly, the second element of the curriculum reform focused on "making fundamental and typical changes in the curricula for it to be more suitable for quick growth and development, locally and internationally." (Ministry of Education, 2006) In this sense, changes have been made in the distribution of classes and hours of teaching. English classes were introduced on a more systematic basis, special classes of IT and other sciences have become to play a much more important role in education.

One issue, expressed by the participants, and addressed by the reformation initiative, involves the human resources engaged in the teaching structure. Due to the fact that for decades, education was largely based on the teaching of the Quran, in general, professors were little prepared in other areas of study and had basically no other experience other than the theological perspective they relied upon when presenting the Quran to students. In this sense, the level of preparedness of the teachers is not satisfying enough for the implementation of a thoroughly elaborated alternative curriculum.

The evidence gathered showed that most of the respondents expressed concerns about the education system`s lack of problem solving skills. In Singapore, the Ministry of Education adopted the mission statement "Thinking Schools, Learning Nation" in 1997 to guide the education system to focus on innovation and enterprise as key character traits to develop in students, supported by the appropriate life skills and attitudes. This reform was mostly guided by Gardner's multiple intelligences model applied to education. In 2004, this mission statement evolved into "Teach Less, Learn More," with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. That means less dependence on rote learning, repetitive tests, and "one size fits all" instruction, and more focus on experiential discovery, engaged learning, differentiated teaching, the learning of lifelong skills, and the building of character through innovative and effective teaching approaches and strategies. Recently, Saudi Arabia has been cooperating with Singapore in a desire to emulate Singapore's model and transform its curriculum structures.

Clearly, Saudi Arabia's curriculum needs a shift in order to foster student acquisition of practical knowledge, skills, and attitudes to positively react to and face the country's socio-economic objectives, and to develop appropriate abilities and attitudes that encourage learning. Those are the key elements students require to succeed at Saudi Aramco.

Recommendations

Vocational training in Saudi Arabia has achieved remarkable progress in the past two decades, in terms of quantity and quality of students. However, as a part of the overall education and training system, it is facing, to a great extent, the same challenges that confront the general education system. This paper raises several recommendations for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education to reform its curriculum to better prepare students to succeed at Saudi Aramco Industrial Training Centre:

Link curricula with market needs. Curricula need to address the key socio-economic priorities.

Apply an internationally accepted academic accreditation system to technical colleges and vocational institutes.

Equip students with vocational skills as well as academic skills.

Build a good learning environment by including extracurricular activities within culturally approved boundaries. (e.g., museums, theaters, and science competitions)

Involve private organization such as Saudi Aramco in developing educational process, including curriculum development for GOTEVOT.

Develop teacher's practices, teaching methods and teaching situations inside and outside the classroom.

Train teachers to use modern teaching methods and develop thinking skills to replace the traditional methods of teaching.

Critique

I believe this topic was worth researching as it highlighted the urgency to reform education in Saudi Arabia to improve the quality of education. With a rising young popula¬tion that represents a majority, Saudi Arabia needs to continue its efforts to develop and imple¬ment comprehensive education-reform programs that can result in a skilled, knowledge-based workforce in line with socioeconomic goals.

The biggest issue the researcher had was to find up to date information related to education policy information in English. Fortunately, Mr. Faisal Al Saddique offered his help to translate the information available on the Saudi Government web site. My biggest concern was the accuracy of the translation to ensure that no facts were lost or personal biases were introduced in the process.

Discovering the history and religious background for this research was fascinating. Realizing how closely educational policy is linked to the history, culture and belief of a country was stimulating. Culture is an important factor in studying education policies. As Saudi Arabia is recognized as a closed country, with a hermetic culture, it is constantly challenged by socioeconomic changes. These changes generate tensions and conflicts between the Ulema (Religious leaders) and the Royal family. The most interesting fact the researcher learned through this research was that, in Saudi Arabia, the state and religion are inseparable. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an example of an Islamic state governed by the Holy Qur'an. It is therefore inevitable that the Ulema play a key role within the Kingdom. They play an influential part in the Religious education, that is, Islamic legal education and theology at all education levels in Saudi Arabia. It seems that most of the power is in the hands of the Ulema. This hinders greatly the ability of the Kingdom to meet the educational objectives it sets in its 5 year-plan.

If I was to write this paper over, I would study more in depth the example of Singapore`s radical programme of education reform and establish parallels between the Saudi Arabian`s reform. The literature review explaining how the Singapore`s model can have positive impacts on education policy development was not sufficient. This could have been mitigated if the literature review would have been more thorough and if the Singapore`s educational policy reform would have been used as a case study and a benchmark against Saudi Arabia`s.