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Doctoral Research Forum - Rajaa Fallatah - Curriculum Development in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Primary EFL Teachers’ Perspectives on the Challenges of the Implementation of CLT into the English Curriculum in State Schools

Event details

Curriculum Development in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Primary EFL Teachers’ Perspectives on the Challenges of the Implementation of CLT into the English Curriculum in State Schools

In the context of Saudi Arabia, changes in educational policy and curricula have come to place as a result of international pressures after the 9/11 attacks. One of these changes, in the ELT field, was the adoption of the communicative language teaching (CLT) approach which has been, arguably, imposed on language teachers by the Ministry of Education (MOE). Some researchers in the literature have attributed these changes to the government’s attempts to shift to more globalized neoliberal education policy (Elyas & Picard, 2019) because it was in the economic interests of the state to manage the linguistic resources of the nation and tie them to economic policies and ideologies (Barnawi, 2019). As a result of those changes, the nature of teaching practice in Saudi EFL classrooms has ultimately changed (Elyas & Picard, 2012). Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate teachers’ perspectives on the challenges they face while implementing CLT into the English curriculum at the primary level in state-schools in Saudi Arabia. The second aim of this study was to explore the nature of in-service training that EFL teachers receive and/or have received to cope with the CLT approach. The study also sought to explore the extent of teachers’ involvement in the processes of curriculum development. This study was exploratory and interpretive in nature. The research data in this study was drawn from three main sources: a questionnaire, unstructured classroom observations, and semi-structured interviews. Consequently, the participants have been divided into two strands based on the method. The participants in the qualitative strand, classroom observations and semi-structured interviews, were 15 Saudi female EFL teachers employed in state primary schools. The participants in the questionnaire, on the other hand, were 75 mixed gender Saudi primary EFL teachers employed in state schools around the kingdom. The findings indicated that primary EFL teachers faced challenges that fall under six main aspects of the curriculum. Namely, those challenges were related to CLT as a pedagogical approach, students, syllabi, classroom processes, the learning environment in schools, as well as teachers’ limited role in the process of decision making with regards to curricular change. The findings indicated that after the implementation of CLT teachers have been placed under increasing performative pressures that have raised feelings of insecurity and dissatisfaction with the profession. One of the interesting findings of the study showed that EFL teachers were dissatisfied with the quality of professional development (PD) they were getting. Some teachers described formal in-service training as disconnected from reality as it did not meet their training needs on how to successfully implement CLT.  The findings also suggested that the Saudi educational system was significantly centralized and that teachers were marginalized and lacked voice and choice within the system. This study should, therefore, be of value to those in the realm of education wishing to resolve two fundamental questions: what could educational policy and curricular changes signify beyond the obvious pedagogical changes on the instructional level, and what effects do they have on teachers and their practice?


About the speaker:

Rajaa Fallatah is a Lecturer in the department of curriculums and instruction at the college of education at Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia. She is a PhD in TESOL candidate at the College of Education. She has two master’s degrees: M.Ed. in TESOL (2014) from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and MSC in Educational research (2017) from the University of Exeter. Her research interests include curriculum development in TESOL, initial language teacher education, ESL teaching and learning, and language teacher professional development and learning.