JEDDAH, 29 April 2006 — Moves are under way to introduce the English language to fourth grade students in Saudi government schools, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported yesterday quoting Haya Al-Ayad, an Education Ministry official. The program will be carried out in phases.
She said a comprehensive curriculum-development program would be implemented next year. “The move to introduce English language from grade four has been considered in light of the Eighth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010),” she added.
Al-Ayad said it would be difficult for the Saudi society to accept teaching of English language at primary level due to the influence of Arabic language.
“The new plan will be carried out in phases after conducting a feasibility study,” she said.
The official said the new English-language program for primary schools was designed for both girls and boys, focusing on the principles of the language. She noted that there was wide acceptance for English among Saudi girls.
“We have noticed that only a few number of girls fail in English-language examinations,” the official pointed out. “English is an important subject which children should learn at home before going to school.”
Spelling out the significance of English in modern world, Al-Ayad said it is the key to modern science and technology and brings world people closer.
“If our youth fail to learn English, they will not be able to interact with other peoples and cultures,” she explained.
The Education Ministry has already embarked on a project to revise English-language textbooks taught in the intermediate schools in the light of the feedback received from teachers.
The lack of an adequate number of qualified Saudi or other Arab teachers in English has hamstrung government efforts to introduce English teaching at an early stage. At present, there are 20,000 male and female English-language teachers in government schools.
With pressure mounting for Saudization and resistance from the private sector to hire more Saudis in view of their deficiency in English, the Ministerial Council passed a resolution three years ago calling for the integration of IT courses and English-language teaching in the school curriculum.