Changes in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

The saying that “the only constant thing in this world is change” is an irony most people struggle with. Coming out of one’s comfort zone may be a gruelling process that spans from the introduction of the idea of change to the implementation of the change itself.

If change within a person is challenging, how much more in organizations where a lot more people are concerned and several factors need to be considered? Educational institutions, specifically, being organizations that promote growth and development, deal with a multitude of issues and concerns related to change, both internally and externally. On top of managing a variety of responsibilities for development within the campus, schools and universities are obliged to keep up with changes in the outside world. Student (1978) aptly puts it this way: “Adaptation to external demands requires internal change, and the skilful implementation of change will be the determining characteristic of organizational success in the years ahead.” (p. 28)

The fast pace that the world is progressing at this time and age has brought about technological advancements never even dreamed of by our grandparents. Technology brings on undeniable advantages to the human race. It makes life a lot more convenient. Information on absolutely anything and everything under the sun is just within reach. A touch of a button may spell wonders, especially for young students eager to discover awesome new things in the comfort of their own homes or classrooms. Likewise, modern inventions for communication have been responsible for making the world a smaller, cosier place where people are more connected.

Educational leaders are excited as well. They are aware of how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can have a great impact on education and on the students they cater to. However, there are many challenges that beset them.

They need to equip students with increasingly higher levels of knowledge and skill not only through the provision of a conventional curriculum incorporating ICT, but also help them develop personal qualities such as being autonomous, self-organizing, networking, enterprising, innovative (Hargreaves, 1999), with ‘the capability constantly to redefine the necessary skills for a given task, and to access the sources for learning these skills’ (Castells, 1998).

Such aims are truly challenging to achieve. The openness and attitudes of teachers, being the frontliners in this particular educational reform is examined. Most teachers are not adequately prepared yet to make use of exciting new educational technologies because neither their teacher education programs nor their schools have provided sufficient time or incentives for them to learn (Norman, n.d.).

Teachers themselves need to be transformed from the traditional ways of organizing teaching and learning in school to using more technical skills in more open, user-friendly, peer-controlled, interactive, virtual communities. Teachers need to model flexibility, networking and creativity which are key outcomes for students to survive the next millennium (Hargreaves, 1999).

Training of teachers in ICT and staff development is one huge challenge faced by educational leaders. Psychologically, technology can pose problems for staff feeling threatened and insecure about being dispensable and easily replaced by the new innovation (Jones & O’Shea, 2004). This is mostly appeased by effective training. Human resources strategy and practice are central to successful staff development. Enhancing traditional teaching and learning and incorporating modern approaches befitting ICT for experienced teachers and recruiting staff with expertise in delivering a high-quality teaching and learning environment (Jones & O’Shea, 2004).

This paper will be investigating factors and dynamics involved in the implementation of change in educational organizations, specifically, in higher education in Saudi Arabia. It will be discussing theories of change, innovation, how change processes are implemented, the organisation of academic culture, leadership practices; change management and staff development. It aims to give light to educational leaders who are planning to introduce changes or are in the stages of implementing innovations in their work settings. For this particular paper, the innovation of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is proposed as a reform effort that will contribute to the growth and development of universities.