English Language Education at the Elementary School Level in Saudi Arabia: A Parents’ Perspective
In Saudi Arabia, there are several school types where children go and learn both English and Arabic: (i) Public (government) and Quranic schools; (ii) private schools where Arabic is the medium of instruction with an intensive English course; (iii) international schools where English is the medium of instruction, and one course is allocated to Arabic and Islamic Studies. This study surveyed a sample of parents to find out the number of hours allocated to English; kinds of textbooks used and whether parents consider them sufficient; parents’ views of their children’s proficiency level in the different English language skills; which language is stronger in children: English or Arabic; which language children use in communicating with their siblings, parents and relatives; the effects of learning English (L2) on Arabic (L1); and the optimal age for starting to learn English. Results showed that at government and Quranic schools, students take 1-2 hours of English a week which parents think are insufficient. At private schools, hours allocated to English vary (between 5-10). At international schools, English is the medium of instruction in all courses. Most parents prefer that children start learning English in kindergarten or first grade. English is the stronger and preferred language for international school students. Private School students have a good command of English and Arabic. Arabic is the stronger and preferred language for Government and Quranic School children. Some parents think that the textbook used at Government School are good, but some teachers are incompetent in their instructional techniques. Some Public Schools (in remote areas or small towns) are understaffed which results in reducing the teaching hours from 2 to 1 hour per week. Parents’ views on the status and quality of foreign/second language education in each type of elementary school in Saudi Arabia are reported in detail.