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

Research article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

References

  1. Achugar, M., Fernández, A., & Morales, N. (2011). (Re)presentando el pasado reciente: La última dictadura uruguaya en los manuales de historia. Dicurso y Sociedad, 5(2), 196–229.Google Scholar
  2. Alghamdi Hamdan, A. (2014). The road to culturally relevant pedagogy: expatriate teachers’ pedagogical practices in the cultural context of saudi arabian higher education. McGill Journal of Education, 49(1), 201–226.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmad, H., & Shah, S. R. (2014). EFL textbooks: Exploring the suitability of textbook contents from EFL teachers’ perspective. VFAST Transactions on Education and Social Sciences, 5(1), 1–28.Google Scholar
  4. Alaqeeli, A. S. (2014). The preparatory year: Global perspectives and local practices. Higher Education Journal, 11, 45–64.Google Scholar
  5. Aldera, A. S. (2017). Teaching EFL in Saudi Arabian context: Textbooks and culture. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 8(2), 221–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alharbi, A. (2015). A descriptive-evaluative study of a Saudi EFL textbook series. Cogent Education, 2, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alhawsawi, S. (2013). Investigating student experiences of learning English as a foreign language in a preparatory programme in a Saudi university (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Sussex: University of Sussex.Google Scholar
  8. Aljughaiman, A. M., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2013). Growing up under pressure: The cultural and religious context of the Saudi system of gifted education. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 36(3), 307–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Al-Madany, R. (2009). Coursebook evaluation (Headway) [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://raghdah.wordpress.com.
  10. Al-Nafisah, K. I., & Al-Shorman, R. A. (2014). An evaluation of EFL materials taught at Saudi universities: Instructors’ perspective. Journal of King Saud University of Language and Translation (Special Issue), 26, 1–15.Google Scholar
  11. Alshammari, A. K. (2015). Developing the English curriculum in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Possibilities and challenges. Arab World English Journal, 6(4), 365–372.Google Scholar
  12. Alghamdi Hamdan, A. (2013). An exploration into “private” higher education in Saudi Arabia: improving quality and accessibility? The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education, 2(2), 33–44.Google Scholar
  13. Alghamdi Hamdan, A. (2015). Introduction. In A. Alghamdi Hamdan (Ed.), Teaching and Learning in Saudi Arabia Perspectives from Higher Education (pp. 1–10). Boston: Sense Publisher.Google Scholar
  14. Alghamdi Hamdan, A. (forthcoming 2015). Reforming Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: Reasons for Optimism. In J. Willoughby & F. Badri (Eds.), Higher Education in the GCC (pp. 20–33). Dubai: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Alghamdi Hamdan, A., & El-Hassan, W. (2016). MultilIteracies and the pedagogy of emppwerment: the perspective of Saudi female students. The Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes, 4(2), 417–434.Google Scholar
  16. Author. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  17. Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2015). Multicultural education (9th ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  18. Brown, J. D. (2012). EIL curriculum development. In L. Alsagoff, S. L. McKay, G. Hu, & W. A. Renandya (Eds.), Principles and practices for teaching English as an international language (pp. 147–167). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Canale, G. (2016). (Re)Searching culture in foreign language textbooks, or the politics of hide and seek. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 29(2), 225–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cazden, C., Cope, B., Fairclough, N., & Gee, J. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dendrinos, B. (1992). The EFL textbook and ideology. Athens: N.C. Grivas.Google Scholar
  22. Ebe, A. E. (2010). Culturally relevant texts and reading assessment for English language learners. Reading Horizons, 50(3), 193–210.Google Scholar
  23. El-Okda, M. (2005). A proposed model for EFL teacher involvement in on-going curriculum development. Asian EFL Journal, 7(4), 33–49.Google Scholar
  24. Elyas, T. (2011). Diverging identities: A ‘contextualised’ exploration of the interplay of competing discourses in two Saudi university classrooms. Retrieved from https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/69220/8/02whole.pdf
  25. Feng, A. W., & Byram, M. (2002). Authenticity in college English textbooks: An intercultural perspective. RELC Journal, 33(2), 58–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gramer, M. F., & Ward, C. S. (2010). Q skills for success: Level 3: Reading & writing (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Keban, N. V., Muhtar, A., & Zen, E. L. (2012). A content analysis of English for kids grade 3: A textbook used in elementary schools in Malang. Retrieved February 4, 2014, from http://jurnal-online.um.ac.id/data/artikel/artikel144D7239871BE5FE8B47956D710F2ACF.pdf
  29. Kramsch, C. J. (1987). Foreign language textbooks’ construction of foreign reality. Canadian Modern Language Review, 44, 95–119.Google Scholar
  30. Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  31. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995a). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995b). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leonard, J., Napp, C., & Adeleke, S. (2009). The complexities of culturally relevant pedagogy: A case study of two secondary mathematics teachers and their ESOL students. The High School Journal, 93(1), 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mahboob, A. (2015). Identity management, language variation and English language textbooks: Focus on Pakistan. In D. N. Djenar, A. Mahboob, & K. Cruickshank (Eds.), Language and identity across modes of communication (pp. 153–177). Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  35. Mahboob, A., & Elyas, T. (2014). English in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. World Englishes, 33(1), 128–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mahboob, A., & Paltridge, B. (2013). Critical discourse analysis and critical applied linguistics. In C. A. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopaedia of applied linguistics (pp. 211–222). New York: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Mahib ur Rahman, M., & Alhaisoni, E. (2013). Teaching English in Saudi Arabia: Prospects and challenges. Academic Research International, 4(1), 112–118.Google Scholar
  38. Marshall, M. N. (1996). Sampling for qualitative research. Family Practice, 13, 522–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McClure, K., & Vargo, M. (2016). Q skills for success series (2nd ed.): Special edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Monfared, A., Mozaheb, M. A., & Shahiditabar, M. (2016). Where the difference lies: Teachers’ perceptions toward cultural content of ELT books in three circles of world Englishes. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1125334.  https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2015.1125334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Moss, G. (2009). Los textos escolares en ciencias sociales y ciencias naturales y su relación con los procesos de aprendizaje. El caso de Colombia [Social and natural science school texts and their relationship to learning processes. The Colombian case]. DELTA: Documentação de Estudos em Lingüística Teórica e Aplicada, 25(special), 657–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nomnian, S. (2013). Thai Cultural Aspects in English Language Textbooks in a Thai Secondary School. Veridian E-Journal International, 6(7), 13–30.Google Scholar
  43. Oxford, R. L. (2004). Tapestry writing L2 (Middle East edition) (2nd ed.) Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.Google Scholar
  44. Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an international language. Harlow: Longman.Google Scholar
  45. Pennycook, A. (2003). Global Englishes, rip slyme, and performativity. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 7(4), 513–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pennycook, A., & Makoni, S. (2005). The modern mission: The language effects of Christianity. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(2), 137–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Phillipson, R. (1998). Globalizing English: Are linguistic human rights an alternative to linguistic imperialism? Language Sciences, 20(1), 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Saravia-Shore, M. (2008). Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners. In n. Edition (Ed.), Educating Everybody's Children: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners, Revised and Expanded. (pp. 22–45). New York: ASCD.Google Scholar
  50. Sarroub, L. K., & Quadros, S. (2015). Critical pedagogy in classroom discourse. In M. Bigelow & J. Ennser-Kananen (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of educational linguistics (pp. 252–260). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Savin-Baden, M., & Major, C. H. (2013). Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, L., & Abouammoh, A. (Eds.). (2013). Higher education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, challenges and opportunities. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  53. Soars, L., & Soars, J. (2005). Intermediate student’s book: New Headway. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Soars, L., & Soars, J. (2013). Intermediate student’s book: New Headway Plus (special edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Tollefson, J. W. (2002). Introduction: Critical issues in educational language policy. In J. W. Tollefson (Ed.), Language policies in education: Critical issues (pp. 3–15). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  56. Troudi, S. (2005). Critical content and cultural knowledge for TESOL Teachers. Teacher Development, 9(1), 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tsuda, Y. (1994). The diffusion of English: Its impact on culture and communication. Keio Communication Review, 16, 48–61.Google Scholar
  58. Valli, L., & Rennert-Ariev, P. (2002). New standards and assessments? Curriculum transformation in teacher education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 34(2), 201–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Watney, S. (1999). On the institutions of photography. In J. Evans & S. Hall (Eds.), Visual culture: The reader (pp. 141–161). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Weninger, C., & Kiss, T. (2013). Culture in English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks: A semiotic approach. TESOL Quarterly, 47(4), 694–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Williams, D. (1983). Developing criteria for textbook evaluation. ELT Journal, 37, 251–255.  https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/37.3.251.
  62. Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2001). Methods of critical discourse analysis. New York: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wong, M. S., & Canagarajah, A. S. (2009). Christian and critical language educators in dialogue: Imagining possibilities. In M. S. Wong & A. S. Canagarajah (Eds.), Christian and critical English language educators in dialogue: Pedagogical and ethical dilemmas (pp. 290–291). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Xu, Z. (2013). Globalization, culture and ELT materials: A focus on China. Multilingual Education, 3(6), 1–19.Google Scholar
  65. Yamada, M. (2010). English as a multicultural language: Implications from a study of Japan’s junior high schools’ English language textbooks. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 31(5), 491–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Ziaei, S. (2012). Examining cross-cultural clues as to globalization and Iran’s culture in an international ELT book series: American English file. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 3(1), 141–148.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations