Teacher Perceptions of the New Mathematics and Science Curriculum: A Step Towards STEM Implementation in Saudi Arabia

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Universally, STEM education is one of the most growing areas in educational reform. Sadly, it has been introduced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without a clear description of its meaning, purpose and framework of application. Even though, STEM is commonly recognized as a way of strengthening mathematics and science curricula, its exact implications is still unclear, for any intervention or modification in any of the subjects related to science, mathematics, engineering and technology can be considered as STEM implementation. In 2009, the Ministry of Education (MOE) introduced a new mathematics and science curriculum in a joint effort with al Obeikan Research Development Company, as an adapted series of science and mathematics textbooks produced by the American publishing company McGraw Hill. The new adapted curricula attempts to make meaningful connections between students’ lives and their educational experiences through the implementation of new teaching practices including, student centered, investigation strategies and problem-based learning. The purpose of this research study is to investigate teachers’ perceptions and instructional practices of the new mathematics and science curricula as a step towards STEM reform in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To help improve the standards of Saudi Arabia’s educational system and the quality of its students in the fields of mathematics and science in particular. This can be addressed by filling the existing gap within the Saudi literature that failed to notice the importance of teachers’ views and perceptions on educational matters. Moreover, the study provides the MOE with new information related to significant issues that address future educational reforms and policies. The methodology of the study was completed by using a parallel mixed method design, including teachers interviews and class observational methods in the qualitative part of the research study, and a cross sectional questionnaire in the quantitative part which was distributed to 547 high school mathematics and science teachers in different regions in Saudi Arabia in order to address the following research questions: What are the major aspects of the new mathematics and science curricula as a form of STEM education implementation in Saudi Arabia? What are the perceptions of teachers on the implementation of the newly adapted science and mathematics curricula? How is the newly adapted mathematics and science curricula delivered in the classrooms, as a form of STEM education? Results revealed that even though there is haziness on the actual meaning of STEM concept and its instructional practices among mathematics and science teachers in Saudi Arabia, the new teaching strategies required from the MOE for a successful implementation of the adjusted curricula, were found to be equivalent to teaching practices that have proven its effectiveness in the implementation of STEM education. Moreover, the strategies were related with the Next Generation Science Standards framework (NGSS). Results achieved from the qualitative instruments applied were consistent and were supported by the numerical data achieved from the distributed questionnaire. The study ends with recommendations to legislate STEM education in Saudi Arabia by additional correlation and reorganization among topics within individual STEM subjects, in order to meet the requirements of the coordination with other associated subjects within the curriculum. Additionally, there is a requirement for coordination between teachers who teach different STEM disciplines, as well as a requirement for re-designing and restructuring teachers’ development programs and workshops coupled with STEM training and implementation practices.
Curriculum planning -- Mathematics., STEM implementation, Saudi Arabia, STEM education, educational reform, educational system, Curriculum planning -- Science.