The Idea of Autonomy in Child-Centered Education: The Preschool in Saudi Arabia as a Case Study


The Saudi Self-Learning Curriculum for Kindergarten is based on Western models of child-centered education. It is a reformed curriculum that was designed within the frameworks provided by the UNCRC, Education for All (EFA), Millennium Development Goals Program and Saudi Arabia’s National Development Plans (UNCCSF 2012). These reforms have created the need for pedagogical practices that incorporate an awareness of children’s rights (UNICEF 2014). In order to comply with Articles 12 and 13 of the UNCRC the main aim of the preschool environment should be on working with children in ways that maximize their autonomy: their right to be ‘heard’ ‘seen’ and ‘included’ in decisions that affect them (UNCRC). In Saudi Arabia both the teachers and the children are embedded in a social system based on religious beliefs and principles and social hierarchy. Autonomous learning is based on social freedoms and participatory rights. Based on documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews in three preschools in Makkah, this paper argues that many teachers have found it difficult to comply with the Ministry of Education guidelines and service rules. Whilst ‘choice’ is understood as a theoretical concept in self-learning, it seems not to play a role in the classroom. Teachers and children are ‘invisible in policy’ in the sense that they have no say in the decisions affecting them (Kilderry 2013, p: 242). Thus the philosophy and objectives of Western child-centered education appear to be in tension with the Saudi concept of self-learning.

Author Information
Adaylah Rajab, University of Hull, UK

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2016
Stream: Curriculum research and development

This paper is part of the ECE2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon