The Impact of Saudi Arabian Culture on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teachers’ Experiences and Teaching Practices in the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) Intensive English Language Programme (IELP)

  • Asim Bashir

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study examines the role of sociocultural factors in the experiences and teaching practices of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers in Saudi Arabia. Specifically, this research explores the influence of local culture, religion, traditional learning habits, motivation, the use of students’ first language (L1), teacher-student relationships (TSRs), and the employment of ‘native’ English-speaking teachers (NESTs). The impacts of these issues are examined on the teachers’ experiences and teaching practices in the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) Intensive English Language Programme (IELP).
This study adopts Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of Mind as its framework and is conducted through an etic perspective. The mixed methods approach employed semi-structured interviews of 22 teachers (17 male, 5 female) and 6 Department Heads (5 male, 1 female) and a survey of 583 students (330 male, 253 female). A review of recent literature found that no study has examined how Saudi EFL teachers manage sociocultural differences and the effect of these on classroom instruction from a student, teacher, and management perspective. This study additionally investigates the participants’ preferred pedagogical approaches, how effective they found them, and how the Saudi cultural context impacts the teachers’ ability to employ their preferred teaching practices. Furthermore, no previous investigations were found to have examined the expectations and perceived teaching qualities of NESTs from a combined student and management viewpoint.
The findings provide multifaceted insights into the challenges faced by the IELP teachers, particularly concerning the impact of the participants’ sociocultural context on teachers’ experiences and teaching practices. Moreover, the research revealed teachers' apprehension of offending Saudi culture and that traditional learning attributes and behaviours commonly associated with Saudi students hindered their ability to implement teaching practices favoured by the participants. Consequently, this study challenges the prevailing expectations and perceptions of NESTs' teaching qualities in Saudi Arabia. The female students in this study were found to display increased classroom motivation, driven by their aspirations to pursue job opportunities and higher education. However, increased attempts to cheat by female students were also reported, potentially attributable to limited study and employment prospects. Furthermore, previously unexplored disparities between male and female Saudi students were revealed, including the reduced L1 usage by female students, which had varying impacts on the teachers' experiences and teaching practices. Differences in preferred TSRs were associated with the students' varying motivational factors, and female students displaying greater acceptance of authoritarian power in the classroom. While these findings illuminate the need for more comprehensive research on the impact of Saudi students and their sociocultural context on teaching and learning, the study provides insights that could inform future English language teaching policies and practices in the Kingdom.
Date of Award11 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusan Sheehan (Main Supervisor) & Liz Bennett (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this