Breaking Down Barriers: published in the Saudi Gazette

Last updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 11:49 PM

Let me first of all say a big thank you for a well-done Education Supplement that Saudi Gazette published recently. I feel the Kingdom is in need of such a supplement to help add to the debate on educational issues. I took interest to read the article on “International Schools in the Kingdom”. I have taught for over twenty years in multicultural schools in London and I am in my third year teaching here in Riyadh.

While I recognize, as written in the article, that some schools have a mixture of students from different countries and cultures I don’t know the exact number of these schools in the Kingdom and their percentage compared to schools that cater only for a single country of origin. While I am not saying I am an expert on numbers, my observations are that most schools take either male or female students with a shared culture and country of origin as well as students from a similar socioeconomic background. Furthermore, many students seem to live within areas in Riyadh that serve their parents’ country of origin which in turn houses their school and “community” and therefore limits the opportunity of students meeting other students from different backgrounds.

What I find most challenging teaching in Riyadh is the seemingly lack of schools working in partnership in order to help break down barriers of cultural misunderstandings between students and teachers. While I cannot compare London with Riyadh in terms of history, both cities have some things in common in that they are very much multicultural with a rich educational potential.

Riyadh and London have global citizens and millions of young students who have the potential to make the world a better and safer place through education and the promotion of shared values. I have worked on educational projects with students in London, including partnerships between schools which have helped students understand each other’s cultures.

Sadly I have not seen many similar projects established in schools here in Riyadh. In my opinion, I truly believe that if students from different schools can work collaboratively on intercultural projects, then the barriers of misunderstanding will begin to fall and be replaced with a set of common values that challenge ignorance, hatred and bigotry. I believe in the promotion of cultural diversity. I have read articles in the Saudi Gazette of schools promoting cultural events, which are great.

However, most of the time we are just talking about a single culture. I believe Saudi Arabia would be a better place if schools work in partnership and truly had a day or even a cultural diversity week. I, for one, would like to start that journey and would love to see other schools step on board and make Saudi Arabia a dynamic country that promotes international and intercultural citizenship for all its students.

Ramon Mohamed