Challenges Facing Accounting Schools and Education in Saudi Arabia

Introduction

Research background

The proposed topic aims to explore the issues and challenges that affect the sphere of education in Saudi Arabia, especially in the context of accounting schools. Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia experienced some major improvements in competitiveness, which subsequently led to the creation of “solid institutional framework, efficient markets, and sophisticated businesses” (Al-Motairy 4), the sphere of education does not cater effectively to the needs of the country and the society in improving the provision of accounting education. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is ranked nineteenth (out of 144 countries) for its advances in auditing and accounting standards, which calls for even more focus on improving accounting education in the country.

It is important to mention that the challenges accounting schools face in Saudi Arabia are associated with the lack of attention to issues that affect more than just the sphere of education. For example, out of 144 countries, Saudi Arabia is ranked 141 for the ratio of women to men in the labor force, which is indicative of preventing possible contributors to the country’s economy from entering the field (Al-Motairy 6). Additionally, the higher educational system is ranked thirty-second, the quality of math and science education is ranked thirty-seventh, and the quality of management schools is ranked forty-fifth out of 144 (Al-Motairy 6). Therefore, Saudi Arabia faces some major challenges in the sphere of accounting education that should be resolved. Strengthening the education of professional accountants will make sure that Saudi Arabia will move up in the mentioned ranking in future years.

Research problem statement

Changes in the current accounting environment in Saudi Arabia could greatly influence the state of accounting education, which does not have a specific direction of development. Furthermore, countries that embrace rules-based accounting (including the country of our research) will be challenged by the introduction of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Purpose of the research

It is proposed to examine challenges Saudi Arabian accounting education faces to eliminate them in the future and provide prospective accountants with a high-quality education. Because accounting education largely contributes to the development of accounting in the country, eliminating both major and minor problems will be beneficial for increasing students’ output.

Research questions

The current research will focus on answering three questions:

  1. What challenges does accounting education face in Saudi Arabia?
  2. What is the output of students in Saudi Arabian accounting schools, compared with schools in Great Britain?
  3. What are the Saudi market’s needs for accounting students?

By answering these questions, the research will present a full picture of Saudi accounting education, including both challenges and benefits. By comparing students’ output, the research will give a better idea about what aspects of accounting education can be improved and what aspects are praiseworthy.

Research objectives

The primary objective of the research is coupled with the problem statement. Therefore, the objective is to investigate how changes and variations in the current accounting environment in Saudi Arabia influence the state of accounting education, which does not have a specific direction of development.

Research rationale

The research aims to contribute to the elimination of a large gap in the relevant literature on the topic of accounting education in Saudi Arabia. While numerous studies have been previously conducted with regard to challenges in education, as well as prospective areas in the field of accounting, there is very little research on what issues surround accounting education today. Although the primary rationale for this research does not relate to solving specific problems, exploring challenges in accounting education is the first step toward eliminating them.

Research significance

Because the current accounting educational environment has been negatively impacted by changes in the sphere of accounting, this research will be significant for studying this negative impact. To some degree, it is expected that some schools will benefit from the study and begin their path toward eliminating the identified problems.

Literature Review

According to the research conducted by Anyane-Ntow, at present, the accounting environment in Saudi Arabia is undergoing some major changes and adjustments, which means that every aspect of the environment, including education, should take into account cost control and efficiency to adapt to the changes (139). For example, to improve the quality of accounting education for students, King Saud University added more computer courses to its undergraduate programs. A School of Accounting is also under consideration at King Saud University to give more flexibility in accounting programs compared to those available under the departmental system. Some of the universities may follow the same practice to positively influence the quality of accounting education (Anyane-Ntow 140).

Critical factors of success regarding accounting education in Saudi Arabia include:

  • Benchmarking (comparing success metrics of the best facilities);
  • International standards;
  • Collaboration between educational facilities and the accounting industry;
  • Engagement with the professionals in the field; and
  • The adoption of the best international practices for all students.

Therefore, challenges accounting schools face are associated with the critical success factors, which are not being implemented to the fullest extent. One of the first challenges is the lack of established goals, strategies, and improvements targeted at the sphere of accounting education. The second challenge is multi-faceted and is associated with not meeting stakeholder expectations and lack of understanding of how the faculty should be qualified in order to meet the demand for high-quality education of future accountants. The next challenge is the lack of fruitful interaction between students and the faculty, which can lead to other issues in the educational process. The last challenge is the ineffective management of educational curricula, which is essential for creating a beneficial environment for learning.

Accounting education should implement such a teaching approach that will take into consideration the main IFRS concepts. According to the study conducted by Hodgdon, Hughes, and Street, accounting academics are greatly challenged by improving students’ skills with the aid of implementing such a learning approach, which starts at the earliest stages of an accounting educational program (416). Therefore, the transition from rules-based standards to the principle-based standards outlined by IFRS will pose a tremendous challenge to accounting education as well as the manner in which accounting academics provide students with education in a variety of social contexts.

The transitioning from rule to principle-based standards may potentially impact the way educational curriculum is being established and maintained. It is important to mention that the theoretical focus of accounting programs in different educational facilities creates a potential challenge to students that transfer between different universities. The “transitioning” phase can negatively impact the quality of the provided education due to the lack of a consistent and unified approach toward how accounting theory should be presented. For example, as mentioned by the study conducted by Stoner and Sangster, accounting educational programs at the majority of vocational institutions have a greater focus on teaching accounting rules and the primary stages and pay less attention to the theoretical and principle aspects, therefore providing very minimal coverage (293).

Another challenge associated with the implementation of the learner-centered approach toward accounting directly impacts students and educators. This means that educators are challenged by preparing topics for learning and questions for evaluating students’ knowledge because the transition does not offer one unified approach toward teaching and therefore does not provide a specific way in which students’ knowledge should be evaluated and evaluated. Conversely, students are faced with a similar challenge of studying and preparing for tests because there may be no appropriate answers for some of the questions (Albader 54).

To address the challenges associated with accounting education in Saudi Arabia, the new Public Accountants Act (PAA) will be of great importance. Because it is expected that the sphere of accounting will engage more national citizens into the profession, the demand for high-quality accounting education will increase. Therefore, PAA will play a similar role in establishing guidelines for accountants, similar to AICPA in the United States. PAA should take responsibility for facilitating quality education, issuing accounting standards, conducting research on the areas of improvement, organizing educational seminars and workshops on the accounting challenges, and amending the standards outlined by the Public Accountants Act.

The transition from rules-based accounting to IFRS requires an increased awareness of the availability of educational resources provided by the majority of educational institutions. The lack of such awareness and attention to developing a unified approach can cause some missed opportunities for both students and educators. For instance, as reported by Al-Motairy, forty percent of Saudi Arabian academics did not have enough information about the necessary teaching resources they had to use in their practice (5). Challenges associated with collaboration between educational facilities and accounting organizations should be addressed by understanding the importance of collaboration, especially when it comes to the sphere of accounting.

Methodology

Research design

Apart from reviewing relevant literature on the issue of accounting education in Saudi Arabia, it is important to design an experiment that will distinguish the challenges on the basis of a real-life phenomenon. First, the research will compare accounting students’ outcomes in Saudi Arabian schools and British educational facilities. Qualitative data such as average student scores on basic accounting tests will give a broad picture of educational outputs. Second, the research experiment will focus on interviewing students about their expectations of accounting education, teachers’ abilities to coherently introduce the curriculum, and whether the curriculum coincides with their expectations. Teachers will be interviewed on similar topics to achieve a multi-dimensional view of the topic at hand.

Data collection

Data on students’ outcomes will be collected from school authorities, while student scores on basic accounting tests will be collected by conducting the test with a group of students that has been randomly chosen for the sample. Qualitative data about students’ perceptions of their education, as well as teachers’ opinions about the benefits and challenges of the curriculum, will be collected through interviews. It is important to mention that the same study sample of students and teachers will be used to conduct both quantitative and qualitative data collection.

Data analysis

To analyze qualitative and quantitative data acquired from data collection, it is proposed to use the Dedoose web application, designed specifically for mixed research designs. By integrating the acquired data into the analysis software, the data will be visualized in graphs and charts, which then would be easier to review and analyze (Silver 1). Creating comparative graphs of students’ achievement in Saudi Arabian and British schools will show the most drastic differences, which then will be assessed point by point. Comparing qualitative data about students’ perception with their actual achievements in basic accounting tests will be beneficial for examining whether factual performance correlates with opinions about their performance. If there is a negative correlation (low performance and positive perceptions or high performance and negative perceptions), it will be concluded that accounting students are not taught effectively. If the perceptions of students and teachers are negative and correlate with poor test outcomes, accounting education requires some drastic changes. Because the accounting environment in Saudi Arabia is influenced by the transition from rules-based standards to principle-based standards, it is expected that accounting education will be challenged by such drastic changes in the accounting environment.

References

Al-Motairy, Obaid. Challenges Facing Accounting Education in Saudi Arabia. 2013. Web.

Albader, Mohammed. Transition to IFRS and its Implications for Accounting Education in Saudi Arabia. 2015. Web.

Anyane-Ntow, Kwabena. International Handbook of Accounting Education and Certification. New York, NY: Pergamon Press, 2014. Print.

Hodgdon, Christopher, Susan Hughes, and Donna Street. “Framework-based teaching of IFRS judgements.” Accounting Education, 20.4 (2011): 415-439. Print.

Silver, Christina. Dedoose – Distinguishing Features and Functions. 2012. Web.

Stoner, Gregory, and Alan Sangster. “Teaching IFRS in the UK: contrasting experiences from both sides of the university divide.” Issues in Accounting Education, 28.2 (2013): 291-307. Print.