Saudi Arabia has established itself as one of the countries determined to provide quality education for its people. It grants free education to its children from the lower levels through high school education, strongly attracting more children who search for knowledge. The introduction of early childhood education in its curriculum has catered for the education needs of little children and boosted the education quality in the country. Since formal education in Saudi Arabia is still developing, kindergarten teachers’ knowledge of the curriculum greatly influences what and how the young generation is learning. This literature review seeks to understand what Saudi kindergarten teachers know about the diverse early childhood education programs and curriculum.
Kindergarten education in Saudi Arabia started in the mid-1970’s after an inspiration from a few individuals who had tried and succeeded in the program. Since then, the number of children who are admitted in the kindergarten schools has tremendously increased. Latest government reports indicate that there are as many as twenty-eight thousand kindergarten teachers in the entire kingdom. Such numbers signify the greater importance that parents in the country have placed in the early childhood education (Elyas & Picard, 2013). The government has made it compulsory for every child in the country aged between four years and six years to be enrolled in the early childhood education. The main aim is to nurture the moral and religious values of these children while imparting knowledge and supporting health. There are about two thousand kindergarten schools in the country, as per the 2014 database from the ministry of education. Teachers are provided with modules and curriculum that they must adhere to although they can vary a bit.
Saudi teachers use different kindergarten curriculums in their work. These curriculums include the self-learning curriculum, the Montessori, High Scope Curriculum, Reggio Emilia, and International Baccalaureate (Gahwaji, 2013). Kindergarten teachers should be well aware of these curriculums because each one of them is essential in aiding the learning of children. The various researches have indicated that a majority of the Saudi kindergarten teachers are aware of the different curriculums and implement them in their teaching of early childhood education.
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education in Saudi Arabia is generally referred to as nursery education. Like other education levels such as the primary and higher education, it is supervised by the kingdom through the general manager and the deputy general manager. The kingdom is fully responsible for the setting of goals and procedures in the education curriculum. The development of the early childhood education has undergone a lot of stages to reach the current state (Elyas & Picard, 2013). The ministry of education defines the content of the curriculum which seeks to provide early childhood care and education. The curriculum contains seven books. One of the books is the teachers’ manual which dictates what and how the teacher delivers course content and suggests materials for doing so. The other books contain practical recommendations how to enable the learning and development of children. They also suggest different materials and the environment in which these children should be taught.
Teachers’ understanding of the curriculum is enhanced through the various mechanisms and measures that are put in place by the ministry of education. Instructors can build their own content as long as they adhere to the social and religious requirements established by the government (Rabaah et al., 2016). These models should consider the needs and interests of the children while equipping them with knowledge. The loose structure of the methodology of delivering the education gives kindergarten teachers an opportunity to build flexible ideas and suggestions which can be instrumental in nurturing children’s creativity.
The Saudi kindergarten teachers are aware of the shortcomings in the different kindergarten curriculums. The content of the programs has to align with the Islamic religious views. The culture of Saudi Arabia has greatly affected the content, making it intolerant to the western civilization. Many countries have come forth to criticize the curriculum, not only the one used in kindergartens but also those used in primary and post-primary education levels (Gahwaji, 2013). As a result, the Saudi government has tried to do some reformations to address their curriculum and align it with the modern trends.
The Saudi government hires professional teachers from both the local and foreign market. These teachers are required to satisfy the board on such aspects as academic competence religious views, and others. Kindergarten teachers have expressed their fears of their exclusion from formulating the policies of kindergarten education. Although this level of education has not received much attention from the public, their concern is still genuine and urgent. As the custodians of the future generations, their claims are worth attending. Amid international criticism, the reformations carried out in the academic platform have failed to meet the required standards of the curriculum in the kindergarten level. Teachers have also noted that their education curriculum has a dictatorial approach that requires teachers to obey every element of the content (Rabaah et al., 2016). Most teachers want to be involved in creating policies that affect their teaching environment.
Most of the teachers knew about the different kindergarten curriculums in the country. Self-learning curriculum was the most known, with many admitting that they found it effective in the development of kindergarten pupils (Gahwaji, 2013). The Montessori and creative curriculum followed in popularity as they helped to develop the creative minds of children. Those who were aware of more than one program said that they either learned them in their undergraduate courses or later during their teaching career. A small percentage of the kindergarten teachers, however, admitted that they had hardly heard of other curriculums apart from what they taught at their schools (Gahwaji, 2013). Hence, these teachers would not offer other curriculums to their children even when they would benefit the students. Most private schools used the Montessori curriculum, as opposed to public schools, which relied heavily upon self-learning curriculum (Rabaah et al., 2016). There was a slight difference in those schools that use non-standard curricula. It was, however, noted that schools which incorporated various curriculums in their teaching performed better in terms of social and academic excellence in children.
The different curriculums in Saudi Arabia are designed to equip teachers with methodologies and skills to deliver the educational materials effectively. These curriculums influenced the performance of children both in private and public kindergartens. Dependency on one curriculum makes a teacher incompetent and may render him or her useless in case of a change of curriculums. Although most of the kindergarten teachers know what curricula are accepted in the kingdom, some have no information about programs other than that they are using. It is important for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to recheck the system and involve teachers in the development and implementation of these curriculums to make the early childhood education diverse and effective. Therefore, the current research focuses on the following question: What do Saudi kindergarten teachers know about the different early childhood education programs and curriculums?
Elyas, T., & Picard, M. (2013). Critiquing of higher education policy in Saudi Arabia: Towards a new neoliberalism. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 6(1), 31-41.
Gahwaji, N. (2013). Controversial and challenging concerns regarding status of Saudi preschool teachers. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 6(3), 333-344.
Rabaah, A., Doaa, D., & Asma, A. (2016). Early childhood education in Saudi Arabia: Report. World Journal of Education, 6(5), 1.