A lot of research has been conducted to reform the education system. This reformation has been aiming at improving the performance of students and schools. Most of these studies have been successful, coming up with good policies and strategies which would help to improve the education system(Plank 2009, p.457) Despite this effort most of these strategies and policies are not put into practice therefore making the initiative of reforming the education system not to be sustainable in the long run (Plank 2009, p.459).
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It is therefore critical to understand the concepts that can be applied to make schools to be successful and develop means of maintaining this success. This will make reforms on educational systems to be sustainable in the long run. Such studies should avoid describing the attributes of successful schools as in the case of studies which have been conducted in the past, but to focus on the process that is involved in making schools to be successful and the capacities that are required to achieve this objective (Hargreaves and Fink 2006, p. 15).
Embedding and sustaining change in schools in a strategy which can bring about a lot of change and positive development in the administration and running of educational institutions (Baker et al 2000, p. 450). This can be achieved using various strategies such as modifying the manner in which schools are run by principals and administrators and by changing the method of teaching. Improving the teaching process of schools is a difficult and tedious exercise. Studies that have been conducted show that when the schools are monitored by private providers, they have a drastic improvement in their performance. However, when these private providers leave, the performance of most schools go down. It therefore proves that the reforms that have been initiated to improve education are not sustainable in the long run. This may be because of several factors which affect the commitment and engagement of teachers to the education. Teachers should therefore have motivation in their careers and they should not depend on supervision to perform their duties.
Schools should therefore have a strong organisation and administration. This can be achieved by having strong leaders who have the vision of improving the schools performance by ensuring that the reforms that are put in place are sustainable (Mcleod, 2002). They should therefore put strong mechanisms which will ensure that the performance of the teachers is in accordance to the standards that have been set. The management should also have strong internal control systems that will control the conduct of the teachers. This will ensure that teachers perform as per the expected standards. However, many schools have failed to implement these systems due to poor leadership and organisational skill. These factors therefore slow down the rate of reformation of the education sector.
This study aimed at identifying the challenges facing the sustainability of the education reforms in Saudi Arabia. The study identified the factors that make reforms on the education sector not to be sustainable. It also measured the level of teachers’ engagement in education and their attitudes and perceptions towards change in education. It also tries to identify sustainable methods that can be put in place to ensure the changes that have been put in place to reform education last in the long run.
Embedding and sustaining change in schools in Saudi Arabia is mandatory to ensure that the school improvements that have been introduced by the providers will last for a long time. A lot of focus therefore need to be laid on the manner in which these schools are managed and the performance of teachers. These are the key aspects which affect the quality of education in schools and their overall performance. A proper understanding of these aspects will thus provide relevant knowledge that is required to improve the level of education and performance of schools in Saudi (Wu and Short, 1996). For the level of education to improve in these schools, organizational and management changes should be conducted.
This study laid a lot emphasis in the attitudes and perception of the administration and teaching staff to get a clear understanding of the internal state of the schools. The main aim was to determine whether they were engaged in the teaching exercise, a key determinant in the sustainability of change which had been put in place to improve the education in the country. The study went further to come up with a toolkit based on empirical evidence to curb the prevalent resistance culture that has slowed down the reform process.
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The objectives of this study were:
- To identify strategies capable of sustaining school improvements over time across schools in Saudi Arabia.
- To determine whether there is a correlation of teachers’ engagement in education between male and female schools.
- To investigate to what extent staff engagement is key in the sustainability process.
- What methods embed school improvements in time across Saudi schools?
- Is there a correlation of teachers’ engagement in education between male and female schools?
- How to engage school leadership and teachers in the education reform to ensure sustainability?
- Ho1. Embedding school improvements over time in schools in Saudi Arabia will improve the level of education in the country.
- HA1. Embedding school improvements over time in schools in Saudi Arabia will not improve the level of education in the country.
- Ho2. There is a correlation of teachers’ engagement in education between male and female schools.
- HA2. There is no correlation of teachers’ engagement in education between male and female schools.
- The time span for carrying the study is short and therefore the study may not capture the topic in detail.
- The study was carried out in two schools only.
- There could be little relevant secondary data to supplement the primary data.
Education reforms are common all around the world. These reforms aim at improving the education systems of various countries so that it can meet the demands of the modern world. The world is changing at a very fast rate with a lot of advancement in information, communication and technology (ICT). The education systems that are currently in place in most countries are out-dated as they cannot meet these new demands. Most governments are therefore trying to change their education systems to incorporate this change so that it produces individuals who can participate in the globalization of the world. These governments have realised that time has come to train a new group of individuals who are well prepared to face the realities of the modern world. These individuals need to have diverse skills and knowledge which cannot be provided only by academic knowledge (Al-Dhuwayan et al, 2000).
Teachers’ attitude towards change has also led to the failure of the reforms in the education sector (Mcleod, 2002). Most of them have this belief that it is difficult to change the education system of a country. As a result, they do not put enough efforts to make these changes in the education sector to be successful in the long run. Most of these teachers still use outdated teaching methods. These methods are not interactive therefore making it difficult to impart the relevant knowledge and skills that are required by students to face the modern world. According to Mcleod (2002), beliefs are influenced by the attitudes and perceptions of an individual. It is therefore difficult to change the beliefs of an individual especially if they have been in place for a long time. They tend to be regarded as part and parcel of the character of an individual. That is why teachers have a good engagement when the providers for change are around but when they leave, the initiative that was put in place fails. The reason for failure is because these teachers only perform well under supervision but when they are not supervised they tend to relax and go back to their old habits of having a negative attitude towards change in educational reforms (Hargreaves and Fink 2006, p. 11).
Sustainability of change in education is also affected by institutional factors. These factors are mainly dependant on the culture and traditions of the schools (Mcleod, 2002). Every school has its own traditions and culture that makes it to be unique from the rest. These cultures have a lot of impact in the manner through which they view change. For change to be sustainable, it has to be consistent with the traditions and culture of the schools. However, this is not the case in most of the time.
The traditions and cultures of schools tend to conflict with the changes that have been put in place to improve the education system (Mcleod, 2002). For example, some schools have a tradition of having poor leadership and organization. They do not have good planning strategies which will ensure that the changes which have been put in place become sustainable. School reformation is an issue which is very sensitive in nature. It requires proper planning and implementation for it to be successful. For a programme to be sustainable, it has to be in existence for a long period of time. Longevity is therefore the best indicator of a sustainable project (Hargreaves and Fink 2006, p. 11). However, the success of any initiative depends mainly on the leadership that is being practiced in the organization. In the past, leadership was viewed as being successful after implementation of the formulated policies and tactics. In the present times however, good leadership is associated with the sustainability of the initiative that it is based on (Fullan, p.1).
It has to be noted that the leadership tactics which have been implemented to create change in educational have not been consistent (Mendez, 1992). They vary from place to place and with time. This is due to the limited knowledge that is available for this matter. The studies that have been conducted on this issue are few and take a long time therefore limiting the required knowledge and skills to solve the issue (Mendez, 1992). Although there is limited information about the kind of leaders that are required to create change in education institutions, there are some assumptions about their qualities. These leaders are expected to be leaders and managers at the same time (Manasse 1986, p. 153). Though the two qualities are seen as different, they do in many circumstances synchronise with one another. These roles are also under the same individual usually. The principal of a school for example is responsible for setting the vision of a particular school. He is also the same individual that is expected to formulate and implement the tactics that will ensure that the vision is attained.
Another assumption for creating change in an institution is that the leaders who initiate the change should be individuals at the administrative level ignoring the role played by the staff at the middle levels (Murphy 1988, p. 655). This assumption was based on studies that were conducted in the past. However, as per the studies that were conducted in recent times, teachers are viewed as the best leaders to embed and sustain change in schools (Bellon and Beaundry, 1992). These studies have advocated for the involvement of teachers in the administration and running of school affairs especially in decision-making and formulation of policies. Emerging studies have been concentrating on the role of teachers on this context (Mendez, 1992).
According to Hargreaves and Fink (2006) sustainability is not entirely dependent on the longevity of an initiative but also on the effect the initiative has on the survival of other activities which are on the same environment (p. 30). All schools should therefore be able to benefit from the change initiatives that have been implemented. A particular school should not benefit on the expense of the other. This will be against the standards which have been set to ensure that the initiative is sustainable in the first place. School leaders should also be supportive of the success of other schools despite their own. There should therefore be within the school, among schools and among school leaders. With this in place the level of education within a region and the country as a whole would develop.
School leaders should therefore work together in one direction to ensure that change is experienced in all their schools. They should formulate visions and strategic policies which will act as their guidelines to achieve the long-term goals and objectives (Fullan, p. 9). This will aid the leaders to have a clear picture of what they want to achieve so that they can put energy and effort to achieve these goals. Therefore for an initiative to be sustainable proper planning and management should be put in place. These tactics should however be in place during the early days of the initiative as they very important for the success of the operation. The attainment of the vision is what distinguishes a leader from a manager (Manasse 1986, p. 151).
Every principal who requires change has a picture of what he or she wants the school to be in the end. With this picture in mind the school leaders can put all their efforts and strength to achieve these objectives. It will be difficult for a leader to challenge his followers on attaining a certain objective without having a vision in place. All leaders should therefore have visions which they want their organization to achieve within a certain period of time. It becomes easier to lead a group of people and satisfy the needs of the community by using visions as a guideline. Leaders should therefore clearly state their mission objective and work hand in hand with their staff to ensure that these objectives are met in the long-run.
Currently many countries are enforcing changes on their education systems. The engagement of teachers to education is among one of the key reforms which have been advocated for change (Manasse 1986, p. 155). Education is an important factor in the development of a country. Politics, the economy, cultural and social developments are all dependant on education (Schultz, 1980). As a result reformation of education in many countries is under the national development plan and a lot of money has been invested in the programme.
Reforms in the education sector normally schools under the pressure to achieve certain goals and objectives within a certain period of time. The manner in which schools handle this pressure will determine whether the initiative will be successful and sustainable or not. In most cases these reforms fail to be sustainable because the schools in which the initiative has been put in place cannot handle such pressure (Yahia, 2011). Most of these do not exhibit high capacities in terms of students’ performance or achieving the objectives that have been set by the school or the government. This is due to poor administration and organisation of the school, a conduct which can be regarded as the tradition of the school. This schools which only perform under constant supervision and once the supervision is not in place their performance goes down (Abdulkareem, p. 16). That is why the changes that were put in the education system seemed to work while the providers were around but failed after they left.
Schools that have low levels of achievements are normally resistant to reformation that will change the education system (Abdulkareem, p. 16). These schools lack the competence to handle the changes in education. They lack the professional man power and facilities to implement and sustain the changes. Due to this fact, they would rather avoid any change and maintain their traditional teaching practices. These schools have developed negative attitude towards change and believe that it will be almost impossible for them to achieve the objectives of the reformation (Abdulkareem, p. 16). It will therefore be difficult to introduce change to such schools and if change is introduced, the chances of it being sustainable are minimal.
Other factor that has made the initiatives to embed changes in schools not to be sustainable are the elements that have been chosen to indicate the success of the programme (Yahia, 2011). Improvement in the performance of the students is the element that has been commonly used in the studies and initiatives that have been conducted. Improving the performance of students takes a long time and depends also on other factors which have to stabilise for it to be observed. These factors include a strong organisation and administration of the school, presence of qualified staff, availability of equipments and so on (Yahia, 2011). Putting these factors in place takes a long time which is not considered during the period of reformation, hence the initiative is termed as not being sustainable. Reformations that have been successful had a standardized indicator of achievement comprised of several elements. These included test scores, teachers’ engagement in education and development, long term improvement and development of a school culture that appreciates, accepts and implements change (Abdulkareem, p. 16).
These factors make education of many countries to face a lot of criticism in the modern world. These countries require a group of creative and innovative individuals who will be capable of controlling and sustaining the economy of the country. Their education however concentrated on teaching using traditional methods that cannot meet the demands of the modern world. In Saudi Arabia for example, the head teacher was the supervisor of the school. His main role is to ensure that the teachers who have been appointed have the required knowledge and skills to teach and directs them on how classes are being conducted in the school (Abdulkareem, p. 22). Classroom supervisions are very rare as the teachers are already entrusted with the duty to teach.
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The country could benefit from borrowing and implementing practices from western education. This new educational theories may not be consistent with the traditions and culture of the nation but will surely lead to sustainable reforms in the education sector that the country requires at the present moment. The government is already in the progress of modernising the education sector through the Tatweer reform programme which aims at eliminating the traditional teaching methods and putting in place education system that will ensure that the students in the country have problem identification and solving skills required by the modern world (Abdulkareem, p. 25).
Literature review was a source of secondary information for the exercise. This data was obtained from books, magazines, peer reviewed journals, online articles and other relevant sources. Through literature review, the some of the methods that had been used in the previous studies were borrowed and applied to the current study. Also the recommendations of the previous studies were considered in the current work. Information from literature review was therefore used as a guiding tool in conducting this study.
Administering of Questionnaires
To gain quantitative data, three different questionnaires were administered to the target groups. The first questionnaire aimed at identifying the staff knowledge about reform, the second about teachers opinion before and after reform and the third one about teachers engagement to education. They were administered using the following procedure:
- There was a total of four sessions to conduct interviews each day.
- The interviews were conducted in the morning, midday and in the evening.
- The number of participants in each session ranged between 8 and 10 individuals.
- Members of different age groups were interviewed to ensure that the attitudes of members of all age groups are tested.
- Each session lasted for around 60-90 minutes.
- Techniques: Construction (visual)
I conducted all the interviews with the help of a moderator. This ensured that all requirements of the study have been precisely covered. To ensure this, a pre-determined agenda was used.
Analysis of qualitative data and questionnaire designing
To construct a questionnaire that was precise and straight to the point, qualitative data had to be analyzed and interpreted first. This information helped in the making the questionnaire ensuring that it became a powerful tool for the collection of quantitative data. The resulting questionnaire therefore was precise, flexible and be able to collect only the relevant data that was needed for the research study.
Method: Qualitative data coding and survey conducting preparation
The data that was obtained from interviews conducted on the target groups was coded statistically to reveal the trends and sequences of the data that was obtained and a final report was made. The inferences which were arrived at from the analysis of qualitative data together with the information from literature review were used to structure the questionnaire to reflect only the relevant information for the study.
Primary Research (quantitative)
Primary data is used to refer to data which has been collected directly from the area of study (Lindsay 1997, p. 20). For this study questionnaires were used to collect this vital information. This was a critical procedure to obtain first hand information which helped to explore the research objectives and gain statistical data which is necessary for data analysis. The questionnaires were structured in such a way to minimize the occurrence of errors and which may make the data collected from the field to become unreliable. Careful measures were taken to avoid this. Prior to the conduction of the interviews the validity of the questionnaires was tested and approved for use.
Structured questionnaires were used to collect data from the target group. These questionnaires will consist of an average of 10 questions which will structured in such a way that one question led to the other. 60 individuals were interviewed face to face for five straight days excluding weekends. The interviews were conducted on two different secondary schools. The teachers and principals of these schools were the target group. The target group was composed of individuals aged between 24-60 years. This will assist in getting the attitudes of consumers of all age groups both the young and the old. Random sampling technique was used to get the individuals to be interviewed in the study to avoid biasness.
Raw data from the field is of no use since it does not make sense. It is mainly composed of numbers and codes which need to be analyzed to make sense. Analysis of data involves three major steps:
- Data preparation which involves the organization of the data which has been collected for easy analysis.
- Descriptive statistics which entails the description and interpretation of the data which has been collected. This can be done using charts and bar graphs to explain the trends which have been observed.
- Inferential statistics that is done to test whether the data which has been collected is consistent with the hypothesis of the study. This is where either the null hypothesis or alternative hypothesis is proved to be true.
Method: SPSS 16.0
For accurate analysis of the statistical data a computer programme called SPSS 16.0 was used for descriptive data analysis. The data was explored using descriptive statistics and histogram plots to determine the shape of the distribution for each sample variable. The name given to each variable for the data analysis was given in a table.
Data analysis was carried out using parametric tests where the data followed a normal distribution and where the sample number was equal to or greater statistical power. Where the data did not follow a normal distribution or where the data was split into groups of less than the sample size (n), non-parametric test was used. For example, a Pearson correlation test was carried out on the data to explore any linear relationships between the variables.
For the data to represent a true and fair view, the study had a few considerations on ethics. The data collection exercise was conducted in two different secondary schools, one for male students and the other for female students. This is because male and female students attend different schools in Saudi Arabia. This consideration was done to gather information on these two schools and the data that was collected could be generalised to reflect the whole country. The questionnaire was structured in a manner that it avoided any conflicts with the traditions and religion of the kingdom. It mainly focused on collecting the data that was required for the study. Prior to the commencement of the research, the principals, teachers, local clergy and religious leaders of the area of study were notified.
The results which were found from the study were very interesting. The data that was acquired from the questionnaires were interpreted using the Likert scale. These results clearly showed the attitudes and perceptions of the teachers who were interviewed during the study. Each question in the questionnaire was used to measure a unique variable that was being tested in the study.
Most of the teachers were aware of the reforms that were going on in the education although they viewed these changes on different perspectives. Most of them however supported the change initiative because they believed that their students needed a new system of education that will enable them to survive in the modern world. The teachers were also engaged in education although at different levels.
62% of the teachers who were interviewed used the learner centred approach while teaching while 26% did not. The rest did not know whether they used it or not. Most of the teachers were aware of the 18 teaching tactics and had used them in their teaching (54% of the teachers). The teachers were also aware of the 15 assessment tactics since 58% of them had used the strategy in class. 24% of the teachers had used some of the assessment tactics while the rest did not use the 15 assessment tactics in class. A small number of teachers (29%) had developed investigations and explorations which they used to assess their students with in mathematics. The rest had not. The level of moderation of sample work and provision of feedback to the students was also low as this was only reflected by 41% of the teachers who were interviewed.
However, most teachers plan their lessons in advance and try to improve the learning style of students in class. This was done by 74% of the teachers while the rest used traditional methods. A small percentage of the teachers developed special programmes for students who had low IEPs. Only 14% of the teachers conducted the programme. At the same time only 22% of the teachers used spreadsheets to collect and analyse data for each of their classes. The rest did not really take much interest on the trends of performance of their classes. A relatively good number of teachers (44%) used the performance of their students to decide what they would teach in the classroom thereby concentrating on the area where the students performed poorly. All the teachers developed tests for the students but only 32% of them used higher level thinking questions in their tests.
From the data obtained from the three questionnaires, the null hypothesis of the first objective was therefore accepted since the teachers showed a positive response to the engagement in education therefore they embrace the initiative of embedding change and sustainability in their schools.
There was also a high correlation between the level of engagement between the teachers of male and female schools. Fig. 1 below shows the results for the correlation test.
A Pearson correlation of 0.618 implies a strong positive relationship with insignificance at 5% therefore accepting the second null hypothesis.
From the data obtained above evidently embedding change in Saudi schools will result to the rise in the level of education standards in the country. Evidently a high percentage of teachers are using professional skills and methods of teaching in the classroom. The other portion of teachers who use either outdated or improper methods is small. These teachers use these methods because of several reasons. First, the supervision by the government is not effective since most of the supervisors lack objectives for their work (Abdulkareem, p. 16). The leadership of these schools is also not very strong. The principals are good leaders but lack the motivation to work hard and attain their vision and missions of their schools (all the schools in the country have mission and vision objectives).
These setbacks which the schools in Saudi are facing are from external influences mainly from the clergy, religious leaders and other influential individuals in the society. These are people who have got a strong influence in the society. They therefore have the power to influence the manner in which the society thinks and make decision. These people have negative attitudes towards reformation of education in the country (Yahia, 2011). This is because they believe that it will lead to cultural eradication that will make the members of the society to deviate from the traditions and teaching of Islam. They also believe that acceptance of western education will be an avenue for spread of western influence in the kingdom which might lead to a situation where the natives are so dependent on these governments for almost everything. This situation is not any different with being a colony of western governments, a situation which they do not want to be in.
These factors therefore hinder the growth of education in the kingdom. Any effort which the government tries to put in place to improve education is highly criticised. The government at one point tried to introduce sports in female schools. This action was faced with a lot of criticism. Sports is viewed to be an activity for men. Its introduction into the school curriculum will therefore go against the traditions and beliefs of the kingdom, something which cannot be accepted by the society. However, as we know, sports are recreational activities which make the mind to relax. Sports will therefore make the female students to take their minds away from the activities which they have been engaged in and relax. This is psychologically beneficial even to the academic performance of students. Sports has also been an avenue through which many athletes have prospered in including females. They should therefore be given this chance to engage in sports.
The criticisms facing education reforms in the country have demoralised the leaders in the education sector and their staff. The results of this study show that the leaders of schools and their teachers are highly qualified and have the potential to push education to another level. Most of these teachers are committed to their work using the accepted methods and skills for teaching. The only thing which comes in their way is the resistance to education reformation by external influences. These critics have made it difficult for the government to formulate and implement changes in the education system. If all this criticism is kept aside then a lot of effort will be put in place to improve the leadership of schools, the standards of teaching, the level of academic qualification for teachers and proper supervision of these academic institutions will be put in place.
Through sustainable initiative the government can embed change in the Saudi schools. This can be achieved by formulating vision and mission for schools and engaging the minds and spirits of leaders and teachers into working hard and achieving these objectives. The organization and management of schools should also be effective and efficient. Proper leadership models should be adopted which empower every individual in the school staff. The decision-making process should involve every member of staff and information should flow in all directions and not from top to bottom. There should also be delegation of duties and integration of various departments within the school. Special programmes for students who perform poorly should also be put in place. For the overall success of embedding and sustaining change in schools, there should be collaboration among all the schools. All the schools should work hand in hand to ensure that the reformation of education is a successful initiative of improving the level of education in the country.
The leaders and teachers of schools in Saudi Arabia have realised that a high time has come when they need to change the education system of their country and implement the changes that will aid in the reformation of the education system. The country has a good number of qualified personnel in the education sector who can implement these changes and ensure that they are sustainable. From the research, it was evident that the teaching staff of the schools comprised of qualified personnel who used more the accepted standards of teaching. Despite the fact that some of the teachers still used traditional methods of teaching, those who used new teaching methods were many. The major problem was their views and attitudes attitude towards change and once this has been solved then education reforms in the country will be sustainable in the long run. The country will therefore be able to produce qualified individuals with competent skills to face the demands of the new world. This will ensure that the stability of the country will be maintained as there are developments in every sector. As a result therefore there will be political, economical and cultural developments in the kingdom in the long run.
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Reform knowledge questionnaire
- I teach using a learner centered-approach
- I know and have used in my classroom at least 18 teaching strategies
- I know and have used in my classroom as least 15 assessment strategies
- I have developed investigations and explorations myself to assess my students’ mathematical processes
- I have moderated samples of work and provided constructive feedback to the student and teacher
- I am plan lessons in detail to include differentiation by level of attainment and learning style
- I develop special programmes for students with IEPs
- I use a spreadsheet to collate and analyse the data for each of my classes
- I use student data to inform what I do in the classroom
- I develop authentic tests that include at least 50% higher level thinking questions