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Saudi Arabia: In search of the right curriculum

Education policy   Curriculum planning

“Why Cambridge?” is a question we ask all schools that approach us to become a part of the Cambridge learning community. The responses we hear are often similar although the paths individual schools took to reach their answers can vary.

Decisions on curriculum choice are driven by various push and pull factors. The pull factors include accessibility, recognition and support but the push factors are often specific to individual school contexts and environments. .

I spoke to three schools in Saudi Arabia to get a better understanding of what it was that encouraged them to implement the Cambridge curriculum.

Waad Academy – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Waad Academy opened its doors in 2015. It is one of the first schools in the country that aspires to be primarily tablet-based.

Academic Director, Dr. Muhammed Mukadam, told us that both international and local curricula were considered in the school’s selection of its curriculum. He said, “We engaged with one of the top research companies in Saudi Arabia to identify parental needs and preferences in terms of curriculum – we then took the next step to meet with local and regional representatives from the short-listed curriculum providers.”

“Our criteria for the right curriculum were academic rigour, international recognition, flexibility, and above all opportunities for students to gain access the world’s top universities. This is what led us to choosing Cambridge as the pathway for our students.”

Al Hussan International School – Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

For Lynne Momani, Principal of Al Hussan in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, the path they took was more straight forward than that of the Waad Academy.

The majority of students at Al Hussan come from expatriate families. As such, cultural sensitivity, external assessments to monitor students’ progress and internationally recognised qualifications were the school’s main criteria in selecting an examination board.

“Students transferring from other schools posed challenges when they were not familiar with the curriculum” added Lynne. “Al Hussan overcame this challenge by introducing a strong reading programme at primary level (ages 5 to 11) and providing extra classes when necessary”.

Al Hukamaa International School – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Farhan Kalim, Principal at Al Hukamaa International School said that the variety of subjects available was a key factor in their decision making process. “The Cambridge curriculum also provides direction to teachers on what, when and how to teach” added Farhan. “We also considered where our chosen curriculum would be in 5 years’ time in terms of technology, innovation and assessment options”.

Making decisions

Although there are many reasons why schools choose to join Cambridge, academic rigour, international recognition and flexible curricula all seem to be important factors.

If you’re a principal or teacher at a Cambridge school, what encouraged you to choose our programmes and qualifications?

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