Change Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

Introduction

Higher education in Saudi Arabia

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has devoted very special attention to fostering a higher education in the country. This is since its entry into the new era of the rapid development in the country’s economy and also infrastructure in the 1970s. The ministry of higher education in Saudi Arabia was established in 1975 and it has since then embarked on a long-standing strategic plan. This would however enable its educational system to further provide a manpower that is highly trained which is a necessity in running the country’s economy which is increasingly sophisticated.

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One of the major objectives of the higher education in Saudi Arabia was to establish new higher learning institutions in the whole country as well as expand those that were in existence. On the other hand the ministry of higher education in Saudi Arabia aimed at establishing the undergraduate and post-graduate programs in most of the disciplines in the Saudi Arabian universities and also colleges. (Fullan, 1991)

There are 8 universities and 214 colleges in the Saudi Arabian kingdom

This would then allow the Saudi Arabian students to obtain degrees in any recognized field within the country’s higher education institutions and they could then pursue other specializations in other countries abroad. King Fahd introduced some new provisions for the council of the higher education and also in the country’s university system in the year 1993. His main objective was to make an improvement in the Saudi Arabian universities by offering new programs in the curriculum.

This would then encourage a greater cooperation among the higher learning institutions in Saudi Arabia and it would further enhance the involvement of the tutors in the faculties operations. As a result of these more students enrolled in the Saudi Arabian higher learning institutions and in the medical institutions alone there are more than 60,000 students who have made their enrolment. (Arends, Richard 1977)

Factors and dynamics involved in the implementation of educational change in higher education in Saudi Arabia with reference to King Saud University

King Saud University is the oldest university in Saudi Arabia and it was opened in 1957. The university has very many students currently and it also offers some courses in medicine and dentistry.

The university is particularly noted for its schools in medicine in which it offers some doctorate programs. There are some factors and also dynamics that are involved in changing the higher education in Saudi Arabia in reference to the King Saud university medicine program. In the higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia typical content in the medical curriculum is basically determined by the individual higher learning institutions as well as the higher learning institutions board in Saudi Arabia.

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Students enrolled in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia

These groups together with the ministry of education take the responsibility of selecting the programs guides and also the useful resources which would be useful for the students studying medicine in the King Saud University. However the programs and also the study resources are a reflective of the learning standards in a particular university or institute which offers the medicine programs they also act as benchmarks for a given grade level in the higher institutions in Saudi Arabia. (Carpenter 1974)

In implementing various changes in the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia in relation to the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) technology in the field of EFL with reference to King Saud University the course instructors or the lecturers and tutors however play a very significant role. These people also play a key role in the programs’ instructions and assessment of the medical programs as they at times identify the needs within the curriculum and they develop some supplemental materials in order to support learning for the diverse learners in the institutions of higher learning.

The higher learning Institutions deficits in Saudi Arabia

The institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia have been facing some deficits since some of them such as the King Saud University have had an unclear and unshared focus and the standard of expectations needs a further improvement.

On the other hand the institution has had various struggles in its leadership where the levels of communication and collaboration need to be highly improved. The higher learning institution needs to have its programs in the medical practice realigned with the expected educational standards both in Saudi Arabia as well as globally especially with the new technology of the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in the field of EFL. The King Saud University on the other hand needs frequent monitoring of the teaching and learning processes in the medicine program. (Barson & Debski 1996)

Similarly the institution needs to further focus on the professional development and the administration which should be very supportive in all ways to the students who are in the medical program of study as well as the learning environment.

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On the other hand the community should get involved together with the key players in the public and the private sector so that they would be able to fees as being a part of the change implementation in the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) technology in the field of EFL for the institutions of the higher education in Saudi Arabia. All the parties involved should also be encouraged to actively take part in the decision-making processes that will involve implementing changes technologically in the institutions of higher learning such as the King Saud University. (Carmen 1998)

On the other hand the Saudi Arabian institutions of higher learning have been facing a lot of challenges in relation to the faculty of medicine. One of these challenges has been the escalating rate of progress in the Saudi Arabian society. There are drastic changes in the literacy levels, the income of the families, social mobility and also in terms of modernization.

Thus the Saudi Arabian society has further transformed from being a nomadic society to one which is urbanized. These changes which are internal have been caused by the external forces which include; the emergence of a more open economy, a global exposure, industrialization, as well as the recent wars. Even though all these developments have had an impact on the development of the higher learning institutions in Saudi Arabia there are real pressures on the institutions which are coming from the students and the labor markets as well.

On the other hand the impact is being felt countrywide especially be the King Saud University which offers the medicine programs for both the undergraduates and the postgraduates. There is a rising demand in the Saudi higher education institutions that are mounting under great pressure. The institutions such as the King Saud University have the pressure of admitting more students than it is capable of handling in reality. The university is being faced with the challenge of admitting and accommodating the ever-increasing number of the high school graduates to study the medicine program.

The reason behind this is that in the Saudi Arabian society the higher education is viewed as a way of avoiding the dangers of having the young people unemployed in very large numbers. There is also lack of proper coordination between the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia and the public together with the private sectors. The institutions of higher education enjoy a certain level of independence in terms of their organization, planning and also policies.

This kind of disconnection has further led to the doubling of programs that are not relevant in the national development of the country or even in the labor markets. The process of nationalizing the workforce in the Arabian Gulf states has further led to the cooperation between the public and the private sector and all the institutions of higher learning. In Saudi Arabia the population holds very many foreign workers and thus the ministry of higher education is faced with the challenge of replacing these foreigners with the competitive and also the qualified Saudi Arabians. (Allen and Unwin 1976)

The faculty members from the foreign countries have been very instrumental in the massive expansion of the higher education in Saudi Arabia. The country’s ministry of education therefore needs to further create equilibrium between the programs expansions, the institutions of higher learning, the students and also the preparation of the Saudi Arabian nationals. The student allowance policy has also been affecting the expansion of the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia. The continual support for the students in these institutions has further created a heavy burden in the higher education institutions’ budgets thus limiting the expansion and also the improvement of the university services together with the academic programs. (Ministry of Education 2002)

The institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia are aiming at making reforms on this program. One of the proposals which it has is linking the financial support with the achievement of the students as this would highly reduce the financial drain on the institutions of higher learning. Similarly the rate of the students dropouts from institutions of higher learning would also decline.

The Remediation plan of implementing change in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia

Aligning the programs instruction and assessment of the higher learning institutions in Saudi Arabia

In the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia there should be primary ways through which it can measure its achievement and this could be through the student’s performance on the large scale and also through the assessments which are classroom and practical based. In order to make these assessments to be very meaningful measures of what the students in the medical programs know and what they are able to do then they must be aligned with both the classroom instruction and the standards based programs.

However the alignment of these components can be very challenging and there are a number of tools which are available in helping the administrators and the instructors in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia in this worthwhile effort. The actual and the planned content in the medical programs at the institutions of higher learning institutions in Saudi Arabia should be very well aligned with all the essential academic learning requirements.

On the other hand the institution should also ensure that the research based teaching strategies and various up-to-date resources are effectively used in the medical practice by the students in these programs. (Ministry of Finance and national Economy 1974)

The staff in this institution of higher learning should also be made to understand the role of the classroom and the assessments that they give the students while measuring and evaluating their work in the medical field. There are several indicators which act as guidelines that are useful while aligning the program’s instruction and assessments within the expected standards in the higher education of Saudi Arabia. First and foremost the programs should be aligned with the state and the local educational requirements. Secondly, the programs to be adopted should also have its instructional materials and models adapted from the research-based materials.

Thirdly the programs instructions should be focused on very high expectations and the instruction should be personalized encompassing the concerted and broad systematic emphasis on knowledge and skills as well as motivation (Ministry of Higher Education 2003)

On the other hand the programs instruction should be modified such that it will be based on the students’ achievement data. Similarly the set programs should provide a clear and a definite link between the instructional activities and the student’s assessment. Finally the programs that are to be implemented by the higher learning institution should ensure that the students are directly involved in their learning assessments as this will give them a better experience and they will be on higher demand in the labour markets.

An analysis of the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia and also the community should also be conducted since the desired outcome is in the determination of the goals which are to be met. The analysis will however include the institution’s administrators, the students, the parents, the tutors and instructors, the community and all the parties in the private and public sector of the higher education.

There should also be a diagnosis that will determine if the strategy to improve the outcomes in the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia is effectively working. Finally all the possible suggestions for lack of improvement should be posed if they exist. The plan should have the desired outcome in promoting the student’s achievement in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia. This could however be achieved if the plan has a list of priority and concepts which need to be addressed and also if there are developed specifications for the plan. (Ministry of Higher Education 2003)

In addressing the issue of the rising demand of the higher education programs especially in the faculty of medicine the higher education board in Saudi Arabia is studying all the possibilities of having an entrance examination nationally for all the graduates from high schools. This will further limit the number of the new entrant in the practice of medicine at the King Saud University. The candidates who will fail in the admission test could be forced to do the general courses under a one-year program. In addressing the issue of the disconnection between the institutions of higher learning and the private and public sectors there have been meetings that involve all the parties in the higher education sector which are being held.

These groups have started working out on new proposals which will act as a guide to both the colleges and the universities as they set their programs to further meet the needs in the market place as well as maintain the high academic standards. It is also important to note that the path of technology will greatly enhance the learning process in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia. They should however not replace the tutors or the lecturers in these institutions. (Dawson 1996)

Some of the universities in Saudi Arabia are equipped with the latest facilities such as the language labs

For instance the King Saud University an extensive e-learning program which will increasingly provide the higher learning institution with quality and also flexible programs that will meet the needs of students with diverse needs thus the institution will be prompted to tailor its programs and courses in a way in which the different educational needs and also the aspirations of the students will be met. On the other hand in the implementation of this change the lecturers will however be forced to change their fundamental teaching approaches so that they can also accommodate the new shift. E-learning will however increase the workload in the institutions of higher learning and thus it will require very effective management. (Kantar 1983)

On the other hand e-learning would threaten the institution’s fundamental structure since the institutions cannot retain their traditional structures. The institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia should accommodate the high demand of the new technological innovations competition in the global virtual universities. However before any form of transition takes place the institution of higher learning should make proper consideration.

Addressing the internal and external resistance to change in the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia

In addressing the internal and the external resistance to change the change models should be aimed in understanding and increasing the insight into the change process in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia. The change models should represent various concepts such as when the change will take place, the process of the change development, the results of the change and also the when the change is likely to take place. (Harris 1987)

The Community needs

The learning community should also be involved in the implementation process so that the set goals can be achieved and this will also curtail any resistance to change that could be building up.

Benchmarked means of measuring the implementation plans successes

There should also be a good plan that includes the methods in measuring the implementation progress. This will be very important in measuring the recognized progress. The new changes should involve the correspondence of the curriculum’s content in various disciplines with the use of various tests so as to assess the students learning progress in the fields of their specialization. This process however necessitates that the institutions of higher learning generate consistency in its objectives, and learning resources, the guides, and also tests that construct the curriculum of all programs of study in the institutions of higher learning. The educational leaders in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia should measure the academic achievement by standard testing as a way of establishing what takes place in the institution.

It should also perceive its effectiveness by increasing its academic achievement and by also identifying the quality of a curriculum which would be a problem for the declining academic achievement in the institutions of higher learning. The administration in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia should know that the lecture room assessment will be the greatest means in increasing the institution’s standards. The curriculum should thereby be aligned in such a way that it will resolve the existing deficits and dilemma. (Weick and Quinn 1999)

On the other hand by incorporating the preceding aspects into the existing higher learning institutions’ education then there will be more meaningful learning experience which will occur for the students and the instructors as well. The educators in the institutions for higher learning should call a meeting for all those who are involved in the in this whole process of implementation and they should then explain the anticipated changes. Similarly all those who are involved in this process will need to be trained and also be issued with the necessary resource especially for those who will be executing the needed change.

During the implementation process there should also be a mentor who is knowledgeable in the anticipated changes and he should be available in assisting or even answering the questions or those who will be involved in the whole process of change. In general the desired outcome is to align the program’s curriculum content, instruction and also assessment so as to attain the student’s achievement as well as cover up for the institution’s deficits. In the alignment the institution should consider if the goals that are to be achieved by the institution of higher learning have been determined. They will also identify those individuals who will affect the achievement of the goals directly. Another important consideration would be in identifying the measurable objectives and goals and also the learning strategies. The deadlines and the resource constraints which could affect the goals should also be identified and an appropriate type of the evaluation measurement should be selected.

Implementation strategy

The first thing that needs to be done in the implementation is to evaluate the programs and also the structure of the institutions of higher education in Saudi Arabia which is presently in use. This is done so as to ensure that there is masterly of content that is specific in the programs offered in the institutions of higher learning. After the evaluation has been successfully carried out then the tutors and also the lecturers can then assist in the change implementation to the tested the written and also the taught programs in the various faculties. There are gaps that might be in existence between what the students learn and what they do in their practices.

This can however be due to the instructor’s inability in making the programs in the institutions of higher learning meaningful in any way. After the implementation of the identified changes in the institution’s programs as well as the structure then the gaps in the institutions for higher learning should lessen. Before the implementation of these new standards there are several questions that need to be answered since the implementation cannot succeed without the understanding and the support of the lecturers who play a very critical role of transferring the necessary knowledge to the students. (Borg & Gall 1979)

  1. Which assessment standards are most likely to be used in the higher education programs?
  2. Which standards are likely to be used as the guidelines or even mandates for change in the higher institutions’ programs?
  3. What processes are in place in ensuring that the quality of the programs offered by the institutions of higher learning is high and the most efficient?
  4. What are the major professional and organizational development issues that are to be considered in the new programs that are to be implemented in the institutions for higher learning?
  5. What are the implications for the implementation of new changes in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia?
  6. What is the connection between the programs instructional standards, assessment and accountability in the institutions of higher learning?
  7. What support will be needed for the new programs in enabling both the students the community and the instructors to maximally benefit in achieving their set goals?
  8. How will the extent and the impact of the implementation be evaluated?
  9. What actions must be taken in order to infuse the new program’s standards into the existing system?

Research has shown that there is a need for new instructional strategies that would involve new technology such as the e-learning in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia. This is however based on a constructivist model of learning but the practice still remains rooted in the behaviorist’s theory and rote methods of learning. Regardless of which standards are implemented in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia a new vision of the programs must be fully based on instruction that emphasizes on the engaged learning. This will further help the students create meaning from their own personal experiences.

The implementation Goals

  1. The institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia will develop better programs that will enable the King Saud University to improve in their performance in comparison to other institutions of higher learning.
  2. The approaches in the new programs will no longer be based on the behaviorists thinking but will emphasize; the learner cantered classrooms, the problem-based learning and the construction and understanding and also meaning by the students.
  3. The organization of all the subject’s content in all the programs will be able to promote a more holistic view rather than the traditional division of the subject matter in the different disciplines.
  4. The assessment in these newly changed programs will be a normal part of the instruction that will further help the students in doing a self-evaluation in their own learning in the medical practice.
  5. The tutors and the lecturers will rethink their personal beliefs about the nature of all the learning subjects and this will result to the emergence of a new commitment in helping the students become literate in all their subjects.
  6. The administrators and the policymakers will break down the barriers to the systematic reforms in the institutions for higher learning such as limited resources, facilities and also time.

The implementation action options

The instructors in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia together with the administrators will engage in the strategic planning to implement the new changes in the in these institutions. The change will however require a very clear vision and a commitment to the continuous improvement and it will also require the willingness to challenge the past practice. The following actions should be part of the strategic plan so that they can bring out a systematic reform.

  1. If the students in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia are to make their institutions the best in the country and also globally, then more time should be allowed for learning in all the programs in the different faculties and also the lecturers should be given ample time in their preparations at all the levels.
  2. The professional development programs must also provide the knowledge and skills that the lecturers together with the tutors need so that they can make good decisions. This includes an understanding in all the programs by the learners and the instructors as well as adapting to new ways of instruction.
  3. The accountability models that are used in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia have the traditional testing formats for evaluation of the students learning and they are not effective in shaping the systematic reform. There then needs to be a provision of professional development for the lecturers who require new skills in assessing the students learning.
  4. Increase the access to technology by making the technology delivery system more users friendly and by also providing an easy access to the data for all the learners in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia.
  5. The facilities that are used in the learning at the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia both outside and the inside of the institutions should be up to date with the recent technological innovations and also readily available for the students use. On the other hand the institutions should add and also equipping the institution’s facilities such as the labs as this will make the students access higher and more efficient. This will also benefit the students after and also during the regular school days in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia.
  6. The institutions for higher learning should incorporate assessment into the learning process in all the programs since this is very critical in developing the learner’s capabilities in creating their own knowledge.
  7. The program’s frameworks in the institutions for higher learning must be developed so as to provide meaningful learning for all the students in the institutions. A more holistic approach should be taken in the content of the new programs in all the areas of study which will provide new forms of assessment. But most importantly the framework should emphasize more on the practical in the medical field.

The barriers to the successful implementation

In identifying the standards for the changes in the institutions for higher learning in Saudi Arabia there are many pitfalls which may occur in the implementation process. The successful change altogether requires very careful planning and the interest’s of all the stakeholders should be accommodated the reforms must be carefully demonstrated and explained to the parents so that they will eventually understand and accept the changes in the in the methodology and the organization of the content in all the programs in the institutions of higher learning.

The lecturer’s acceptance is also very critical and the experience of the tutors shows that they seldom adapt to changes which have been implemented from the top most to the bottom. The policymakers also need to realize that the systematic reforms take time as well as resources. The students are however the most important stakeholders in these institutions of higher learning and all the changes which will be made must increase the likelihood of their success in all aspects. Successful implementation of the new change in the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia school will be impossible without the consideration of the professional development needs of the administrators and the lecturers likewise.

This ensures that they have the required time, skills, resources and the knowledge in implementing the reforms. The needs of the community should also be considered before any actions are taken and before the reforms are implemented. Many tutors in the institutions of higher learning feel comfortable with the institution’s organization in the traditional manner. They favor the authoritarian approach to instruction and naturally such lecturers would not embrace new learning models that allow the students to participate in decision making and also give them flexibility. (Bahgat, 1999)

The implications of the implementation for the practice in the field of medicine

With the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia adopting and implementing new changes in various aspects such as in management, information and technology and foreign languages there are several implications which are expected. In the field of medicine with the changes being implemented the students on campus learning experiences will be enhanced and their knowledge will also be improved. The institutions will also be able to develop their systems in such a way that they will be more flexible integrating all the students in the medical practice thus making the program more accessible and user convenient for the students.

By implementing the changes in the institutions oh higher learning in Saudi Arabia such as globalization and also the ICT applications there will be new demands which will be placed on the higher education establishments in the medical discipline in the Saudi kingdom. This will however hold very important implications in teaching the medical students, in their research functions and this is especially in the growing importance which is placed on the lifelong learning as well as on higher education delivery with more flexible forms. (Borg & Gall 1983)

Conclusion

The higher education institutions are under a lot of pressure to change and this kind of pressure comes from some interrelated factors such as; the expansion of the institutions of higher learning, the students profiles which is rapidly changing, pressures that arise from the medical industry and the increased competition in the technological capabilities.

Thus the institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia are seeking for better managerial tools which will allow them to enhance and also maintain effectiveness and efficiency under all circumstances. The changes to be implemented involve the improvement of the research, learning activities, teaching and administrative activities in the institutions of higher learning.

References

Fullan, Michael. (1991): The new meaning of educational change / Michael G. Fullan with Suzanne Stieg. – 2nd ed. – London: Cassell.

Arends, Richard I. (1977): Systems change strategies in educational settings / (by) Richard I. Arends, – New York; London: Human Sciences Press; London; Distributed by Euro span Ltd.

Carpenter-Huffman, Polly (1974): Change in education: insights from performance contracting. – Cambridge, Mass: Ballinger Pub. Co.

Evaluating higher education: papers from the International journal of institutions – London: Kingsley, 1989.

Morrish, Ivor (2005): Aspects of educational change – London.

Allen and Unwin, (1976): Qualitative research: theory, method and practice / edited by David Silverm. – London: SAGE.

Ministry of Education (2002): Annual Statistic for School and Colleges Belonging to the Ministry of Education, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Data Centre and Educational Development.

Ministry of Finance and national Economy (1974): Census of Population, Central Department of Statistics, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Ministry of Finance and National Economics Press.

Ministry of Higher Education (2003): Annual Statistic for Colleges and Universities Belonging to the Ministry of Higher Education, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Data Centre and Educational Development.

Dawson, S. J. N. D. (1996): Analysing Organizations, Hampshire, Macmillan.

Kantar, R. M. (1983): The Change Masters London, George Allen and Unwin. Beckhard.

Harris, R (1987) Organizational Transitions: Managing Complex Change. Wokingham, Addison.

Weick, K. E and Quinn, R. E. (1999): Organizational change and development. Annual Review of Psychology.

Bahgat, G. (1999): International Review of Education. Education in the Gulf Monarchies: Retrospect and Prospect.

Barson, J., & Debski, R. (1996): Calling back CALL: Technology in the service of foreign language learning based on creativity, contingency and goal-oriented activity, in institutions of higher learning.

Borg, W., & Gall, M. (1979): Educational Research, New York: Longman, Inc.

Borg, W., & Gall, M. (1983): Educational Research: An Introduction, (4th edition), New York: Longman.

Brierley, B., & Kemble, I. (1991): Computers as a tool in language teaching. New York: Ellis Horwood.

Carmen, K. (ed.) (1998). Multimedia CALL: Theory and Practice. UK: Elm Bank Publications.

Golas, K. C. (1995): Journal of Interactive Instruction Development. Computer-Based English Language Training for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces.

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