Saudi Arabian educational
history: impacts on English
University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and
King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and
University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the history of education in the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia and its impact on modernteaching practices. It explores the relationship between traditional
practices, teacher identity and English language teaching within an increasingly complex context.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors undertake a critical review of education in
Saudi Arabia utilising critical reﬂexivity and their local social knowledge as a means of interrogating
practice, research of the ﬁeld, and related texts.
Findings – The paper indicates a direct link between historical teaching practices in early
Saudi Arabia and the current teaching of English. It suggests the concept of “hybridity” as one way for
local English teachers to construct identities that meet the contextual challenges.
Practical implications – This paper has implications both locally and internationally. It provides
insight into teaching practices preferred by teachers and students in an Arabian context. This in turn has
the potential to inform policy and curriculum development by local educators and foreign contractors in
Saudi Arabia that take teacher and student identity into consideration. It also facilitates a more nuanced
understanding of their Saudi Arabian students by Western educators and administrators.
Originality/value – Although work has been done on teacher identity in Saudi Arabia and limited
studies have examined the impact of English as a global language, this is the ﬁrst study to examine the
interplay between historical praxis, teacher identity and the conﬂicting pressures of teaching English
in this context.
Keywords Saudi Arabia, Educational history, Teaching, English language
Paper type Conceptual paper
1. Introductory background
Johnston (2003, p. 4) elegantly describes the “essence” of language teaching as “values:
That is moral in nature.” This quotation indicates that language teaching, like all
teaching, is not neutral or disinterested. It is affected by and affects the values and
morals of the community. Equally, the socio-political context affects and is affected by
language teaching. In the same vein, Kramsch (1993, p. 29) claims that:
[...] the socio-cultural identities and ideologies are not static, deterministic constructs that
EFL teachers and students bring to the classroom and then take away unchanged at the end
of a lesson or course.
Thus, it is valuable to examine how the identities of teachers and students are formed
and how these multiple identities affect the teaching-learning transaction in the
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Education, Business and Society:
Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues
Vol. 3 No. 2, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited