Understanding Multiculturalism in Saudi Education: A Case Study of Two Schools in Mecca
Problem This research investigated the understanding and perceptions of Saudi educators toward multiculturalism and multicultural education in Saudi Arabia. The research had three broad questions. The first question was, "What are Saudi educators' conceptions of culture and multicultural education?" The second research question was, "What practices do educators employ concerning multicultural education?" The third research question was, "How do educators implement multicultural education for
... ir students at schools with different levels of cultural diversity?" Method In this study, I used the qualitative multiple case study research design to explore the understanding and the attitudes of Saudi educators regarding multiculturalism and multicultural education. The study was applied in the Holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most highly diverse cities in the whole country. The participants of this study were selected from two elementary schools with different levels of cultural diversity. The participants were varied in their school positions, teaching subjects, and levels of education. To collect the data of the study, I developed the interview protocol and conducted semi-structured interviews for teachers and administrators to understand Saudi educators' attitudes and perceptions regarding multicultural education. Interpretations The findings of the study were categorized into four themes. First, culture was defended into three different ways: a gained knowledge, customs and traditions, and an integrated life system. Second, the relationship between culture and education was seen from three different perspectives: the cultural background influences students' learning, the family's background influences students' learning, and the school's culture influences students' learning. Third, participants' perspectives regarding multiculturalism and multicultural education were divided into three viewpoints: multiculturalism empowers the community and it improves students' achievements at schools, multiculturalism empowers the teacher's performance in the classroom, and multiculturalism and multicultural education participate in losing the Islamic and Arabic identities for Saudi students. The fourth theme was related to teachers' professional development. All participants agreed that training programs provided form the Educational Training Department did not reach their desired needs. Implications of the Study The findings of this research have implications regarding multiculturalism and multicultural education in Saudi Arabia. First, the meaning of multicultural education used in the western world was not compatible with the culture of Islamic societies, including Saudi people. Therefore, there is a need for developing a multicultural education philosophy for Arab and Muslim societies that take into account the Arabic and Islamic identities. Second, equity in education is the backbone of the education system in Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi teachers need to be informed about equity in education and students' rights to empower all students to succeed. Third, there is a need for developing an Arabic language learning program for non-Arabic speakers. The fourth implication is that teacher professional development programs need to be developed to prepare teachers to participate in building the future of the country.