This paper will discuss various challenges of learning English at Universities in Saudi Arabia and recommend possible solutions that can be advanced to address those challenges.
Saudi Arabia formally known as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has achieved tremendous growth in the sectors of science and technology, health, infrastructure, and in the field of business. The discipline of education is also expanding and with the development of education, there has also been progress in English learning. It is entirely appealing to note that in the recent past, stakeholders in the field of education including the government, Universities, governing bodies, teachers and learners have become aware of the importance of learning English.. Nevertheless, learning of English in the Arab state has always been in a state of uncertainty in spite of tremendous attempts made to advocate its significance. This abstract is an effort to establish various challenges of learning English at Universities in Saudi Arabia and propose attainable solutions to these challenges.
In Saudi Arabia, Arabic is the official language and except for some colleges, it is the means of instruction for all learning institutions up to university level. Initially, teaching and learning of English were given little importance in their education system. English was only offered as a foreign language. However, it was later established as a compulsory subject from class seven, but the learners did not give the subject serious attention and most regarded it just as a subject to pass in an examination. Due to its demand worldwide, and being the medium of exchange in the fields of business and science and technology, English status in the kingdom has changed and is now considered one of the main subjects in Saudi education system. Presently, it is administered as a compulsory subject from class six up to University level. To achieve better results, the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom is putting efforts to establish the language at class four.
Lack of suitable curriculum with clear objectives have been pointed out as the main challenge in learning of English. Saudi Arabian education system; syllabus and policies are deeply rooted in Islamic values and concepts. With such deeply rooted culture that advocates for Islamic concepts and living according to Islamic values, it has become difficult to convenience learners to learn other languages like English which they view as an agent of diluting their culture
Interference of the first language is another major obstacle. The mother tongue of Saudi Arabia is Arabic which is different from English. For instance, while Arabic letters have distinct and separate sound, English alphabets have more than one sound and others are silent. Therefore, it becomes difficult for Arab students to learn English.
English teachers are also not well trained in linguistics and they mainly focus on guiding learners to pass examinations. Further, the Ministry of Education has not integrated modern teaching concepts to aid the learning process.
To tackle challenges of learning English, the Ministry of Education should review education policies by developing proper curriculum and modern policies with direct objectives that would enhance English learning from primary to university level.
Due to globalization, English has become the most important language in all the nations. Abbreviated as TEFL, Teaching English as a Foreign Language also known as TESOL has become popular in many countries. In order to enhance their teaching strategies, Saudi Arabia language tutors need to pursue TESOL certification. This would equip them with necessary skills and professional experience to effectively teach the English language.