Saudi Student and Teacher Perceptions of Poor High School Results and Overall Proficiency in English

Alqahtani Mofareh A


“English is the only foreign language taught in Saudi schools as part of the mandatory curriculum and therefore enjoys a relatively high status” (Carfax Educational Projects, 2016, p. 10).

The teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL/L2) within the basic curriculum of Saudi Arabia commences in the fourth grade. However, in spite of the best efforts of the Saudi Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop English learning in schools, the language proficiency of Saudi high school leavers remains insufficient to carry out even basic interactions, let alone undertake university study through the medium of English (Al-Johani, 2009; Al-Seghayer, 2014; Alhawsawi, 2013; Alrabai, 2016; Khan, 2011; Rajab, 2013). In fact, the recent Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT, 2017) demonstrated an overall average score of 64 of 120 for Saudis who took the TOEFL iBT between January and December 2016. This paper therefore seeks to examine the factors responsible for the low EFL performance of Saudi students on completion of their high school studies. In order to do so, the researcher randomly selected 60 school leavers and 30 teachers who responded to an interview designed to elicit the underlying causes of such poor English proficiency. The results revealed that the reasons fall into a number of discrete categories related to the student, the teacher, the learning environment, and the curriculum.

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