Early Childhood Education in Saudi Arabia

Early Childhood Education in Saudi Arabia



Early Childhood Education in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Health (MOE) is in charge of all education matters in Saudi Arabia. The department manages general education from early years in preschool, elementary, middle school and high school, to tertiary level in colleges and universities. Both private and public schools follow the same policies, methods of instruction, and policies. Currently, there are 28,199 kindergarten teachers in both public and private preschools. All the teachers at this level are female. The undergraduate and graduate students specializing in kindergarten level are female students as well. Children in kindergarten are between the ages of four and six. However, kindergarten education is not mandatory in the country (Ministry of Education, 2018). Table 1 offers a breakdown of the number of teachers at the kindergarten level in both private and public institutions

Schools # Students # Teachers #  
1703 164309 14984 private
2132 152455 13215 public
3835 316764 28199 total

            Table 1: Number of kindergarten teachers at private and public schools.

Based on this information, it is apparent that there is a high demand for kindergarten teachers at both private and public institutions. The number of students is slightly higher at private institutions even though the number of private institutions is fewer compared to public schools.

Saudi Arabia has both public and private universities. The country has 62 private and public universities. The government owns twenty-eight of these, which comprises 45% of tertiary institutions. There are 21 colleges and 13 universities that are privately-owned. Private universities are highly-specialized in offering courses dealing with business, health, and science-related courses. However, only a few private colleges and universities offer education courses. Most of the education courses are available at public institutions. The institutions have more branches across the country compared to the private colleges. Twenty-one public universities have a bachelor’s degree in kindergarten. The approach is in response to the government’s efforts to improve kindergarten education.

Table 2 breaks down the number of universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in ECE (Ministry of Education, 2018).

Ownership Number of Institutions that offer
Undergraduate Degree in Kindergarten Masters programs in ECE
Private None 1
Public 20 3

Table 2: Number of institutions that offer undergraduate and graduate degree in kindergarten education categorized by ownership.

From the information presented, it is apparent that private universities do not offer undergraduate degree courses in kindergarten, although the number of private institutions that offer Masters programs in ECE is higher in private universities than in public universities. The high number of public universities offering ECE courses indicate that the government has adequate resources and personnel to equip student teachers with the knowledge and skills they need (Nyland & Alfayex, 2012). The high number is in line with the research by Rabaah et al. (2016) which observed that ECE in Saudi Arabia has continued to grow steadily since its introduction. They note that it has grown in quality, student enrolment, and government support. The education offered in kindergarten has shifted from rote, teacher-centered learning to independent student-centered learning with a more nuanced curriculum. They conclude that based on this shift, the perception of the teacher towards the children is modified as well. 

Despite the steady growth of ECE in the country, it is not devoid of challenges. According to Gahwaji (2013), there are numerous controversial and challenging concerns revolving about the status of kindergarten teachers in Saudi Arabia. As these concerns affect the way kindergarten teachers in Saudi Arabia conduct their daily activities, they shape the overall career of early childhood teaching profession. He notes that the geographic, religious, cultural, educational, and economic contexts influence the status of the teachers and shape early childhood teaching careers. Al-Othman et al. (2015) echo these sentiments. Among the challenges identified are poor pay, lack of qualification for all teachers, which leads to a reduction of the quality of the profession, and heavy workload because of the higher number of children in kindergarten (Gahwaji 2013). Consequently, the education system is influenced adversely by these circumstances, and the quality of schooling falls below international standards.

There is a need to subject the teachers to a training approach that will enhance their understanding of the curriculum to ensure that they offer relevant and high-quality content to the children (Jenkins et al., 2016). This is in line with the observations by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009), which noted that a good understanding of the best programs to use in specific learning environment will lead to a reduction of the existing learning gaps, and it will foster the achievement of all the children in the classroom.

The current curriculum used in kindergarten is self-learning. It covers different units that last from two to four weeks. There are different themes covered in the daily schedule. The self-learning approach has different features that are covered in the curriculum. It is designed to move and play, and it ensures that the child has freedom and independence. The child is encouraged to research and discover. The curriculum is self-centered, and it offers the child the chance to interact with his or her environment. The child gets the chance to participate in different activities in order to meet his or her physical, mental, and social needs.


Rabaah, A., Doaa, D., & Asma, A. (2016). Early childhood education in Saudi Arabia: Report. World Journal of Education, 6(5), 1-8

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