Friday, July 8, 2011

Mandatory English Courses Come to Saudi Primary Schoolers

For too long the Saudi Ministry of Education gave less than its full attention to requiring primary school students to learn English. When I was a kid the Saudi education system provided me with few tools to master English, so I learned the language mostly on my own.

Beginning with the 2011-2012 academic year, the Ministry of Education will require English-language instruction for Saudi students starting in Grade 4. Khalid Al-Seghayer argues in the Arab News that “there is evidence that students knowing English are more creative, they develop a deeper understanding of cultures, show stronger skills in their own native language, and generally do better in problem-solving and overall academic performance.”

I have a younger brother taking intense English-languages courses in the UK to prepare for undergraduate studies abroad. I have seen amazing results in his command of the language and improvement in his cognitive skills in just a few months. Imagine if he had started when he was 8 years old.

There are thousands of Saudis abroad studying at the best universities because they took the time to study English on their own or had had teachers who influenced them to study the language. These students are part of the fabric of the international community because of their ability to communicate with people of other cultures and nationalities.

The Ministry of Education recognizes the necessity of mastering English. It’s a vital step towards narrowing the differences between cultures and religions. I look forward to see what the next generation of Saudis will bring to world as they acquire these new skills.


The Linoleum Surfer said...

From a sceptical point of view, I'd ask where the capable teachers are going to come from. There is a long way to go. But that said, on the positive side it's an important acknowledgement of a policy principle.

The comments from Khaled al Seghayer's article are fascinating too: I wonder if there's a causal link between learning English and being a better student overall, or if it's just that the children who are learning English are at better schools or with more education-minded parents? Either way it's a very interesting subject.

Let's face it, it's rare enough to say but: "Well done, Ministry of Education!". With one step begins the journey of a thousand miles...


Anonymous said...

I've been aware of the driving ban problem faced by the Saudi women since King Abdullah's niece decided to go ahead and drive her car anyway maybe it was last year and I have had my ear out to listen to the outcome of the situation. It seems that now the situation has come again to the attention of the media because of the latest arrest. Thank God that there are lawyers around who make sure that these stories are made public. Because at the end of the day one woman cannot make a change, however a collective of women can. And this collective of women have to be empowered. Because when they have the necessary background to mobilise a change in the wind then that is when change can take place. But there has to be a powerful voice behind that to clear the path ahead so that the way is available for women to walk down.