Saudi Arabia’s education system has witnessed a shift in its primary and secondary school curriculum with many new courses, particularly in Islamic Studies, addressing the concerns of the modern era.
Saudi academics are highlighting the importance of applying religious guidelines, which came into practice during the era of the Prophet Mohammad, to modern-day life.
The challenges that face young people are changing and the Saudi curriculum needs to adapt, Islamic academic scholar Sheikh Mohammad al-Jathlani told Al Arabiya English.
“The issues that prevail in current times did not exist in our time as students,” he said.
“The developments in the modern era have become one of the things that must be taken into account in the new curriculum,” added the scholar.
However, he did highlight a problem with this approach, saying some modern aspects of life cannot be judged by edicts from a previous era.
“When we talk about something new that became a reality and never existed in the past and we apply religious texts [to that issue] that have previously been applied, here is when it becomes problematic.”
Valuing the youth
Another change in Saudi Arabia’s schooling system, according to al-Jathlani, is the new focus on encouraging participation by students.
In a shift away from the tradition of route learning, students are increasingly being asked to share their opinion, discuss and debate topics.
Al-Jathlani states the new style of teaching will instill in students the art of dialogue, teaching them how to transcend cultural barriers to discuss issues and accept others’ viewpoints, despite our “religious differences.”
“There are many differences that students should understand,” he said, referencing dialogue between members of different faiths, adding that this is especially important for those young Saudis who wish to study abroad in the West.
Valuing the arts
The new curriculum does not only focus on religion but also on literature, art and self-development skills.
The literature curriculum highlights Saudi poetry, with a specific nod to the late Ghazi al-Gosaibi, a Saudi Arabian liberal politician, technocrat and novelist.
It also features a module investigating Saudi newspapers and their development over time.
There will also be a focus on preparing students for the workplace, including lessons on bolstering one’s CV and on how to prepare for an interview, in an effort to impart youth with the necessary skills to function in a competitive work environment.
Al Arabiya has attempted to contact the ministry of education in Saudi Arabia, but the spokesperson was unavailable for comments on the new curriculum.