Dhahran Ahliyya School’s Success Factors

Introduction

Development of the educational sphere is one of the priorities in many countries including Saudi Arabia. The challenges of the modern globalized world unveiled some weaknesses in the educational system of the Kingdom. Thus, according to a survey, many Saudi teachers are not interested in their subjects and are not willing to self-develop (Alnahdi 3). For instance, over 30% of art teachers and 92% of administrators do not think that students benefit from the subject. Obviously, the quality of their work is rather low, which affects students’ motivation, involvement and performance as well as desire to pursue academic goals.

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This led to the start of the fundamental reform in education. The Project for Public Education Development was launched in 2007, and it implied the change of the system and schools’ empowerment (Alyami 1424). The major change was aimed at decentralization that presupposed self-planning and teachers’ professional growth. One of the stages of the reform started in 2011 when the Ministry of Education announced a new strategy. According to this incentive, 80% of the teacher’s performance evaluation had to be made up by their students’ performance (Alnahdi 3). This would significantly increase teachers’ involvement and the willingness to self-develop and come up with new educational strategies.

The reform has started quite recently, and many schools are still lagging behind. However, some schools managed to change effectively and become establishments that make young people empowered and equipped with skills and knowledge that become compassionate lifelong learners. Dhahran Ahliyya School (DAS) is one of these successful educational establishments. The school’s mission is to “empower each student to be a compassionate, thinking, lifelong bi-lingual learner, who makes a positive difference locally and globally” (“Our Mission” par. 2). Dhahran Ahliyya is also aimed at developing education in the entire Arab World.

DAS focus on pre-school, primary and secondary education for boys and girls. This educational establishment launched the dual language International Program, and students study in both Arabic and English. After the completion of the 8th grade, students choose whether they continue the Program (with the focus on English) and acquire an American diploma or they start the Saudi Muqararat curriculum that contains more disciplines in Arabic (“Educational Programs” par. 2).

The school offers the science stream for boys whereas girls can choose between the science and humanities stream. Importantly, the school has high standards similar to those accepted in Delaware, USA. DAS students are ready to pursue their academic goals in higher educational establishments of Saudi Arabia and other countries of the world. Importantly, the students excel in many subjects and deliver impressive performance.

It is also noteworthy that students, as well as their parents, stress that they are satisfied with the educational services provided and are committed to go the extra mile to learn more. It is clear that students are actually empowered and ready to make a difference both locally and globally as well as think critically about trends existing in the world and link them to their experiences (“Cruncharama: Dhahran Ahliyya School”).

This commitment and excellence should be a characteristic feature of all educational establishments in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to Dhahran Ahliyya‘s success.

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This will enable researchers and officials to work on the comprehensive strategies aimed at the development of education. It is necessary to add that many researchers focus on such factors as the performance of teachers and students, leadership strategies employed by headmasters, teachers, and administrators. However, it is essential to understand the views of teachers on the matter as these professionals are the core figures in facilitating students’ learning. Apart from that, it can be beneficial to learn about the views of such stakeholders as parents who witness the progress of their children and may have a particular perspective on the matter.

Literature Review

The performance of Saudi schools has been the focus of extensive research in past three decades. Some researchers focused on reforms and their efficiency whereas other tried to identify benefits of the use of technology. Leadership and motivation have also been recurrent themes. It is necessary to note that the analysis of Saudi education is often considered with the link to global trends in the educational sphere.

This unveils the commitment of all the stakeholders to make the Saudi educational system effective and provide younger generations with loads of opportunities to succeed in the modern globalized world. Alnahdi compares the Saudi educational reform with European approaches to education stressing that it is crucial to focus on such areas as teachers’ development, teachers’ leadership, test standardization, and economic side including teacher’s motivation, schools’ equipment and so on (2). The researcher addresses all principal factors affecting the performance of schools.

Alyami concentrates on the Tatweer Programs that implies decentralization and establishment of “partnership with society” (1424). The researcher states that the program is accepted positively, but students’ performance has not changed considerably. Importantly, one of the chief obstacles was the use of technology as parents often did not understand the value of the deployment of such devices as computer and laptop or simply did not have enough resources to provide their children with these tools (Alyami 1432). However, it is also noted that empowerment of teachers had a positive impact on the students’ performance.

Apart from the overall effectiveness of reforms and particular programs, researchers have paid specific attention to such factors affecting schools’ efficiency as the deployment of technological advances. Thus, Albugami and Ahmed study factors contributing to the success of the use of Information Communication Technology in secondary education (36). The researchers stress that the use of ICT is beneficial for students’ motivation and performance, but there are significant challenges concerning teachers’ training and funding. Importantly, the researchers focused on perspectives of headmasters, teachers and students, but they did not analyze parents’ views.

Almalki, Finger and Zagami researched the benefits of the use of SMART table technology in primary education (46). It is found that the technology can significantly enhance the performance of both students and teachers. At that, a number of particular conditions should be created. These imply proper funding, sufficient training of teachers and efficient development of programs that involve the deployment of the SMART technology for specific purposes.

Teachers’ leadership is another important issue discussed. As has been mentioned above, many teachers are not motivated or committed to their own subjects. Another problem is the lack of training as novice as well as experienced teachers often fail to employ new strategies and approaches that are crucial for the students’ growth (Sywelem and Witte 888). At that, researchers stress that lifelong learning of teachers is instrumental in the development of the entire educational system of the Kingdom (Sywelem and Witte 895). The training should also involve the improvement of leadership skills in teachers.

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Alsalahi emphasizes that teachers should have enough space to be able to use their leadership skills as Saudi schools are still highly centralized, and teachers are unable to use methods they consider to be effective (1413). The researchers focused on attitudes of English teachers in Saudi schools. It is reported that the teachers see themselves as empowered leaders in their classes, but the top-down policies often demotivate them. It is suggested that further decentralization is crucial for the development of the kingdom’s education.

Research Question

A brief analysis of the existing literature on education in Saudi Arabia shows that researchers identify a number of factors contributing to the success of Saudi schools. These factors include teachers’ training, self-development, their commitment and proper leadership, schools’ curriculum, technological advancement as well as efficient administration. It is possible to look into particular factors affecting the success of Dhahran Ahliyya Schools as seen by the stakeholders involved.

Hence, teachers’ perceptions will be analyzed. Clearly, teachers play the central role in the process as they are providers of the educational services. They are central figures in shaping students’ worldviews and attitudes towards studies. The specific attention should be paid to their feeling of empowerment and their perception of leadership. The teachers will be encouraged to contemplate on the factors that had a positive impact on their school’s overall performance.

Furthermore, parents’ views on the quality of education, their children’s performance and commitment should be considered. The analysis of the existing literature unveils the gap as the parents’ opinions are not usually voiced. The experience concerning Tatweer Programs reveals the importance of parents’ approval of the school’s methods. Besides, parents are important stakeholders as they may see the school and their students’ attitudes from a different angle, which can provide valuable insights into the problem.

The primary goal of the present study is to identify factors contributing to the success of the DAS as seen by the schools’ teachers and students’ parents. This information can be later used to develop kingdom-wide strategies to enhance the performance of Saudi schools. Particular methods used to teach students, administrative measures, and leadership approaches that contributed to the development of DAS can be introduced in other schools across the country.

This study will also contribute to the bulk of existing literature on the matter and will facilitate the research concerning efficient educational approaches. Further research may focus on generalization of data available and development of theoretical background. Importantly, analysis of parents’ ideas will help acknowledge the importance of these stakeholders when it comes to the educational system of Saudi Arabia. Parents should be seen as primary stakeholders just like students or teachers. Finally, officials can benefit from considering the results of the present research as it will enable them to implement funds allocation effectively.

To achieve the goal mentioned, it is necessary to formulate particular research questions.

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  1. What are teachers’ ideas on the teaching methods available and used, assessment criteria and standards as well as the curriculum?
  2. What are parents’ views on teaching methods, standards and assessment criteria as well as curriculum?

Methods

To address the research questions mentioned above, it is necessary to use the qualitative research method. This approach enables the researchers to identify, interpret and analyze people’s views and ideas on particular matters (Creswell 44). This method is instrumental in explaining various mechanisms as well as linkages between different trends existing in the society. This study focuses on the factors affecting the success of the school, and opinions of the stakeholders are what really matters when developing a theoretical paradigm based on the experience of the educational establishment.

Some of the benefits of the qualitative approach are the use of natural setting, context-based and holistic nature as well as flexibility. Thus, people are inquired in their natural environment, and it is possible to observe their behavior in the context, which is essential for understanding people’s motivations and ideas (Creswell 45).

The context-based approach ensures the validity of the data obtained. More so, qualitative inquiry often enables the researcher to come across new facets of the problem and unveil the gaps in the study. Basically, the researcher is able to sketch “the larger picture that emerges” (Creswell 47). This may facilitate further inquiries and insights into the problem.

The qualitative research is also flexible, which is important when analyzing trends existing in the world that is constantly changing. However, it is essential to take into account ethical considerations as well as threats to the research validity as well (Flick 15). Thus, it is crucial to ensure data protection and privacy of the participants. The questions have to be ethical. It is important to avoid any possible bias when interpreting as well as collecting the data. The threats to internal and external validity have to be mitigated.

Works Cited

Albugami, Sultan, and Vian Ahmed. “Success Factors for ICT Implementation in Saudi Secondary Schools: From the Perspective of ICT Directors, Head Teachers, Teachers and Students.” International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology 11.1 (2015): 36-54. Print.

Almalki, Gafar, Glenn Finger, and Jason Zagami. “Introducing SMART Table Technology in Saudi Arabia Education System.” International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications 4.2 (2013): 46-52. Print.

Alnahdi, Ghaleb Hamad. “Educational Change in Saudi Arabia.” Journal of International Education Research 10.1 (2014): 1-6. Print.

Alsalahi, Saud Mossa. “Challenges of Teacher Leadership in a Saudi School: Why Are Teachers Not Leaders.” Educational Research and Reviews 9.24 (2014): 14-19. Print.

Alyami, Rfah Hadi. “Educational Reform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Tatweer Schools as a Unit of Development.” Literacy Information and Computer Education Journal 5.2 (2014): 1424-1433. Print.

Creswell, John W. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2012. Print.

“Cruncharama: Dhahran Ahliyya School.” BBC. 2009. Web.

Educational Programs. 2015. Web.

Flick, Uwe. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2013. Print.

Our Mission. 2015. Web.

Sywelem, Mohamed M. Ghoneim, and James Witte. “Continuing Professional Development: Perceptions of Elementary School Teachers in Saudi Arabia.” Journal of Modern Education Review 3.12 (2013): 881-898. Print.

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