Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

The Road to Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Expatriate Teachers' Pedagogical Practices in the Cultural Context of Saudi Arabian Higher Education/vers Une Pédagogie Culturellement Adaptée : Les Pratiques Pédagogiques D'enseignants Expatriés et À L'enseignement Supérieur Dans le Contexte Culturel De L'arabie Saoudite

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

The Road to Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Expatriate Teachers' Pedagogical Practices in the Cultural Context of Saudi Arabian Higher Education/vers Une Pédagogie Culturellement Adaptée : Les Pratiques Pédagogiques D'enseignants Expatriés et À L'enseignement Supérieur Dans le Contexte Culturel De L'arabie Saoudite

Article excerpt

The circulation of teachers around the globe, the internationalization of programs, and the growth in opportunities for students and teachers who are willing to travel abroad to learn and teach raise important questions about culture and pedagogy. This study focused on the perspectives of university teachers working outside of their native culture and on how the associated cultural differences affected their pedagogical choices and the learning of their students. The main question of this study is as follows: How do diverse teacher populations engage in culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) in Saudi Arabian higher education? The participants in this study have taught or are currently teaching in a culture that differs from their own.

Saudi Arabia is moving toward a revitalized vision based on a knowledge-based economy - which emphasizes human intelligence - and away from a resource- based economy - which emphasizes oil. This transition is increasing the demands on the higher education sector. Saudi Arabian graduates need to be prepared to address unforeseen problems in a knowledge-based economy with unique, creative solutions rather than with traditional solutions premised on the old resource-extraction perspective.

The article first provides an overview of the Saudi Arabian context, followed by a discussion of the culture of learning in Saudi Arabia and of how this culture plays out in higher education. This article focuses on the non-Saudi expatriate faculty in private higher-education institutions and on their use of CRP. The following section explains CRP and the framework for teaching from it in order to explore the Saudi context for foreign teachers and native students. The possibilities and challenges associated with CRP are revealed through a case study, and recommendations are offered for the successful implementation of CRP in the Saudi Arabian context.

BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT

The Saudi Arabian context: Demographics, culture, and education

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is a historic geographical area in the Middle East that extends over 2,250 million km2, making it the second largest country by area in the Arab world and the largest in the region. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves and one of its highest birth rates. It is sparsely populated, with most of its population of 27 million (including 8 million non-native guest workers or labourers comprising 33% of the population) being concentrated in large cities (Al-Seghayer, 2011). Almost all native Saudis1 are Muslim, and nearly 98% are Arab (Central Department of Statistics and Information, 2010). They are bound together by a high degree of cultural homogeneity as ref lected in their common mother tongue (Arabic), strong family tribal relationships, and adherence to Islam (Al-Seghayer, 2011). In Islam, education is highly regarded for both males and females.

Public education became mandatory from ages 6 to 15 starting in the 1960s. The public schools were open to all students. Schools are segregated by gender, with males and females attending separate schools from Grade 1. Public universities for men and women are found in most major (and in some small) cities, with universities offering specializations in arts, humanities, sciences, and professional programs. The KSA government aims to provide free education to all (AlMunajjed, 2009). The National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment (NCAAA), established in 2006, is responsible for the accreditation of higher-education institutions beyond the secondary level, with the exception of military education. The NCAAA seeks to upgrade the quality of private and public higher education to ensure clarity and transparency, and to provide codified standards for academic performance (Ministry of Higher Education, 2011a, 2012).

Due to the increasing birth rate in Saudi Arabia and the influx of expatriates and their families, the number of high-school graduates has exceeded the admission capacity of public universities. …

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