Curriculum Perspectives

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 27–39 | Cite as

The gulf between text and context: Critical discourse analysis of English textbooks used in Saudi Arabia’s preparatory-year programs

  • Amani K. Hamdan Alghamdi
Research article


In Saudi Arabia, graduating high-school seniors who aspire to enter an undergraduate program are mandatorily enrolled in preparatory-year English programs that use English-language textbooks. These offer frames of contextual reference (e.g., American, British) that are very different from those of the students. Drawing on culturally responsive teaching (CRT), this qualitative study examines the reception of such textbooks by students and instructors at six universities in Saudi Arabia using a triangulated investigation. Two commonly used textbooks underwent a critical discourse analysis student interviews and teacher focus groups were thematically analyzed, yielding four themes. The findings intimated that these two preparatory-year English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks did not fully facilitate language learning because they did not reflect the students’ culture, thereby compromising their abilities to effectively build their communicative skills. As a result, expatriate EFL teachers had to spend considerable time explaining the content before using it to advance students’ English-language skills. Study limitations are recognized and recommendations are provided regarding the proper alignment of the English-language textbooks with the Saudi socio-cultural context. The intent is to afford more effective and respectful tools for the promotion of language skills in an emerging knowledge economy.


EFL culturally relevant curriculum Preparatory year EFL education in Saudi Arabia EFL higher education EFL pedagogy EFL 


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Copyright information

© Australian Curriculum Studies Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Curriculum and Pedagogy, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of EducationImam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal UniversityDhahranSaudi Arabia

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