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After video of book-ripping goes viral, expert calls for reform in Saudi education system

A student stomps on his textbooks on the last day of school. (Photo courtesy: Al-Yaum Saudi newspaper)
A screenshot from the video that went viral showing students tearing up textbooks.

JEDDAH: It has become something of a ritual. The last day of school and the accompanying relief that there is no more studying or lugging 20 kilos of books around means that some students abandon all propriety and rip apart their textbooks.
Recently, primary school students in Tabuk were caught on videotape tearing up their textbooks outside the school campus after exams. The video went viral much to the delight of students throughout the Kingdom and the chagrin of their disapproving parents.
The Tabuk students’ behavior has become common practice in recent years as built-up frustration and anxiety have prompted some children and teenagers to take out their anger on the books. Similar incidents have occurred in Jeddah and other cities. In Jeddah in past years, students have torn their books to shreds and vandalized teachers’ cars.
The incidents have prompted one children’s’ counselor to recommend that schools should re-examine their policies regarding students’ well-being.
The incident in Tabuk on Friday resulted in the sacking of a school director by Education Minister Ahmed Al-Eissa in an effort to protect the school’s reputation, according to the Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Riyadh.
“This behavior of students is a result of built-in anger as they are expressing their hatred to what caused them stress,” Maha Al-Hariri, a psychologist and education counselor, told Arab News.
She said that students should look at education positively and as a means of creating future aspirations and goals for them in life.
Al-Hariri said there is a huge dependence on technology these days so tools of education need to be “lighter in weight.”
A first-grade child is required to carry a heavy bag full of books, which is “not really going to be used every day, so we need to set new rules for education,” she added.
Saudi high school student Mohammed Al-Ezzy, 16, who shredded his chemistry book, told Arab News: “I had a bad first experience with chemistry. Before the final exam I studied hard that I was sure I would get an A. But once I am in the examination hall I was surprised with a bunch of unfamiliar equations, which leaded me to burn my chemistry book immediately after the exam. It was a relief that am not going to see that book again.”
Mohammed Rami, a 5th grade student said, “I like to tear up books after the exam with my friends. It is fun and I don’t have to be responsible about the book again.”
Sara Adel, a 13-year-old student who claimed she “hated” all of her math classes, said, “The moment of tearing up my math book after my final exam was one among the happiest moments ever as I don’t want to study math ever in my life again.”
Counselor Samira Al-Ghamdi said students’ destructive behavior on the last day of school is not new.
“Frankly, this attitude (among students) has been there for decades — a sign of anger in teenage students — and they are not wise enough to be aware of what they are doing,” Al-Ghamdi said. “However, no one can be blamed and it has nothing to do with the students’ psychological attitudes.”
They should create a positive environment for the children such as “encouraging the kids to keep their books clean, teach them about how they can be recycled and how refugees all over the world crave the opportunity to be able to go to school,” she said.
Although the incident in Tabuk is only one example of what occurs in other cities, the practice has transformed from an act of defiance to a rite of passage of among children on the last day of school. And there have been incidents of extreme behavior that have turned violent and destructive toward teachers.
In 2012, some students in Jeddah acknowledged that they used baseball bats, stones and bricks to smash teachers’ car windshields.
“We think of it as a way to let out the stress and anger we have for the teacher without him knowing who we are,” one boy told an Arab News reporter in 2012.
Schoolteachers were forced park their cars far away from the school to prevent damage to their property.
Al-Ghamdi said school officials should address students’ feelings about school, their classes and even the number and weight of the books they carry.
She said students’ attitudes are “a reaction to what has been going on inside them and whatever makes them angry.” The education sector, she said, needs to revise its policies to address the students’ complaints to avoid further vandalism.

JEDDAH: It has become something of a ritual. The last day of school and the accompanying relief that there is no more studying or lugging 20 kilos of books around means that some students abandon all propriety and rip apart their textbooks.
Recently, primary school students in Tabuk were caught on videotape tearing up their textbooks outside the school campus after exams. The video went viral much to the delight of students throughout the Kingdom and the chagrin of their disapproving parents.
The Tabuk students’ behavior has become common practice in recent years as built-up frustration and anxiety have prompted some children and teenagers to take out their anger on the books. Similar incidents have occurred in Jeddah and other cities. In Jeddah in past years, students have torn their books to shreds and vandalized teachers’ cars.
The incidents have prompted one children’s’ counselor to recommend that schools should re-examine their policies regarding students’ well-being.
The incident in Tabuk on Friday resulted in the sacking of a school director by Education Minister Ahmed Al-Eissa in an effort to protect the school’s reputation, according to the Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Riyadh.
“This behavior of students is a result of built-in anger as they are expressing their hatred to what caused them stress,” Maha Al-Hariri, a psychologist and education counselor, told Arab News.
She said that students should look at education positively and as a means of creating future aspirations and goals for them in life.
Al-Hariri said there is a huge dependence on technology these days so tools of education need to be “lighter in weight.”
A first-grade child is required to carry a heavy bag full of books, which is “not really going to be used every day, so we need to set new rules for education,” she added.
Saudi high school student Mohammed Al-Ezzy, 16, who shredded his chemistry book, told Arab News: “I had a bad first experience with chemistry. Before the final exam I studied hard that I was sure I would get an A. But once I am in the examination hall I was surprised with a bunch of unfamiliar equations, which leaded me to burn my chemistry book immediately after the exam. It was a relief that am not going to see that book again.”
Mohammed Rami, a 5th grade student said, “I like to tear up books after the exam with my friends. It is fun and I don’t have to be responsible about the book again.”
Sara Adel, a 13-year-old student who claimed she “hated” all of her math classes, said, “The moment of tearing up my math book after my final exam was one among the happiest moments ever as I don’t want to study math ever in my life again.”
Counselor Samira Al-Ghamdi said students’ destructive behavior on the last day of school is not new.
“Frankly, this attitude (among students) has been there for decades — a sign of anger in teenage students — and they are not wise enough to be aware of what they are doing,” Al-Ghamdi said. “However, no one can be blamed and it has nothing to do with the students’ psychological attitudes.”
They should create a positive environment for the children such as “encouraging the kids to keep their books clean, teach them about how they can be recycled and how refugees all over the world crave the opportunity to be able to go to school,” she said.
Although the incident in Tabuk is only one example of what occurs in other cities, the practice has transformed from an act of defiance to a rite of passage of among children on the last day of school. And there have been incidents of extreme behavior that have turned violent and destructive toward teachers.
In 2012, some students in Jeddah acknowledged that they used baseball bats, stones and bricks to smash teachers’ car windshields.
“We think of it as a way to let out the stress and anger we have for the teacher without him knowing who we are,” one boy told an Arab News reporter in 2012.
Schoolteachers were forced park their cars far away from the school to prevent damage to their property.
Al-Ghamdi said school officials should address students’ feelings about school, their classes and even the number and weight of the books they carry.
She said students’ attitudes are “a reaction to what has been going on inside them and whatever makes them angry.” The education sector, she said, needs to revise its policies to address the students’ complaints to avoid further vandalism.

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