Low Arabic literacy performance of Saudi elementary students: Insights from teachers

Low Arabic literacy performance of Saudi elementary students: Insights from teachers

First Author: Ali Alzughaibi -- University of South Carolina
Keywords: Arabic, Reading, Assessment, Teacher training
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Low Arabic literacy performance in Saudi elementary students has instigated a debate over their causes. The Saudi Ministry of Education relates their low performance to the absence of written reading assessments and the ineffective application of oral reading assessments. Although these indirectly relate to instructional practices, this issue remains relatively less explored from teachers’ perspectives. To address this gap, this study seeks to understand Saudi Arabic literacy teachers’ educational backgrounds and the potential impact of their instructional and assessment practices on students’ literacy performances.

Method: 40 elementary Arabic literacy teachers (20 male, 20 female) from different school districts completed an open-ended questionnaire on their educational background, challenges to teaching elementary-level Arabic literacy, and potential reasons underlying students’ low literacy performance.

Results: Five notable reasons for students' low literacy performance emerged: 1) literacy instruction is conducted by teachers from non-literacy backgrounds (e.g., Islamic studies, math); 2) lack of training in the science and theory of reading in teacher education programs; 3) absence of literacy coaching for pre-/in-service teachers; 4) emphasis on whole-word and grammar-based instruction; and 5) lack of professional development workshops and conferences to develop teachers’ instructional practices.

Conclusion: Findings raise critical questions about the teaching and assessment of Arabic literacy in Saudi elementary education. Findings further explain the lack of teachers’ understanding of the science and theory of reading and its impact on students’ literacy. Reflections on findings from reading science and theory, limitations of the study, pedagogical implications, and suggestions for further research will be discussed.