Sociocultural Impacts of English and Globalisation on Women in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

Waterkeyn, Tamsin (2021). Sociocultural Impacts of English and Globalisation on Women in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia. EdD thesis The Open University.



There is increasing focus on the dominance of English undermining different cultures (Bray, 1993; Canagarajah, 1999; Kubota, 2002a, 2002b; Block and Cameron, 2002; Phillipson, 2009; Altbach, 2013; Chowdhury and Le Ha, 2014; Piller, 2017). In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), westernisation through teaching English is problematised (Elyas and Picard, 2010; Badry and Willoughby, 2015; Barnawi, 2015; Barnawi and Al-Hawsawi, 2017; Abouammoh, 2018). In Higher Education (HE) in KSA, internationalisation strategies are countered by a protectionist stance over Islamic and cultural roots. This stance is especially evident in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), leading to high levels of 'cultural sensitivity' censorship in the Saudi classroom. There is an ongoing debate about cultural sensitivity and whether English is perceived as a 'threat' in the Gulf Arab Muslim EFL context (Gobert, 2015; Aljohani, 2016; El-Sakran, 2017). Located in Riyadh, at a time of strict restrictions on women, this qualitative study expands on research on the 'hidden population' (Al-Kahtani et al. 2005, p.229) within female-only Saudi Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). Using semi-structured interviews and a narrative inquiry methodology (Bell, 2002; Labov, 2003; Cortazzi, 2014), it pioneers intercultural investigation into an insider-perspective of 21 women: 8 non-Muslim western women EFL teachers and 13 Saudi women EFL learners. More specifically, it examines sociocultural changes in learning/ teaching English: learner motivation, acculturation (Jandt, 2004; Wright, 2005) and teacher demotivation (Kumazawa, 2013). Findings reveal that English is perceived more positively and used more diversely than studies hitherto claim. Metaphors such as 'a weapon', 'a key' and 'an adapter' add new gender-related concepts to investment theory (Darvin and Norton, 2015). Findings explore themes of 'likeness' and 'integration', 'othering' of women, which contribute to the understanding of the low retention of foreign faculty members in Saudi HEIs (Badry and Willoughby, 2015).

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