Saudi English Learning Students’ Reading Difficulties

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Citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are ethnically diverse with the majority (90%) being Arab and the official language is Islam (Alrashidi and Phan 34). The country practices segregation of education based on gender and follows religious and cultural beliefs in effecting its curriculum for schools. Nevertheless, the government emphasized on education excellence at all levels. All education institutions in the country are under centralized control.

The Ministry of Education oversees all curriculum develop. It is in charge of implementing the curriculum and ensures that the country has a unified system of education. Besides, it has unified testing systems for all districts in the country such as providing a specific textbook recommendation for all schools in the country to use (Alrashidi and Phan 36). The centralized nature ensures that the various coordinating agencies for education are in tandem in the implementation of policies for bettering the overall system and ensuring that the students benefit. With centralized systems, teachers undergo the same training and use similar methods in teaching.

Problems with student learning ESL in one setting are likely to generalize to other learning institutions in the country. Secondary education lasts for three years from tenth grade to twelfth grade and is the last preparation stage for students to join the university, where they are expected to use their English proficiency skills to undertake further higher learning to develop their professions. Difficulties in learning ESL at secondary school level are a significant predictor of continued hurdles in achieving student career choices and needs correcting. To do that, there is a need for accessing the problem based on its characteristics in the Saudi Arabian context and then coming up with an effective solution that can be applied in the country’s context. This is concerning the circumstances that students and teachers face as they aim to come up with the best results for their endeavors.

Statement of the Problem

The English language is important in Saudi Arabia as a language of commerce and a language that facilitates global cultural cooperation. Despite its importance, Saudi EFL students face difficulties when studying for mastery for reading English at an intense level. Alresheed (8-11) noted that the level of student achievement in English at secondary schools was low, and proficiency levels were insufficient. There is a need for analysis to identify the reasons for the cause. Given that Saudi EFL students’ reading comprehension difficulties were due to ineffective reading strategies, unfavorable learning environment, badly-designed English textbooks, lack of prior knowledge, lack of enthusiasm for reading, and lack of vocabulary.

Given that in Saudi Arabia, English is mainly studied to obtain a qualification rather than to use it for daily activities, it often appears as a distant subject. This context makes the teaching of ESL in the country lag behind the rest of Asia (Liton 20).

Difficulties that students have in learning ESL can lead to low cognitive achievement and negative attitudes (Abidin, Pour-Mohammadi, and Alzwari 119). Teachers of ESL in Saudi Arabia need to transfer information to their student in the most effective manner to realize high grades in ESL tests. They must also ensure that students get the ability to pursue self-learning based on foundations taught in formal classrooms.

Although there are studies that have explored difficulties students have when learning English as a second language, many of them are not specific to the Saudi Arabia context. Besides, they do not specifically focus on the secondary school students. Therefore, there is a need to explore the main themes that are presented in those studies on ESL and cultural awareness as well as authentic translation features, to confirm whether they apply to the Saudi Arabia case. The findings are not helpful to local teachers and other education stakeholders unless they are practical. On the other hand, given that there is an increasing emphasis on the use of English in higher education institutions to make graduates fit into a globalized marketplace. As a result, underdeveloped English language skills in ESL learners may weaken school achievement (Yeung, Sigel, and Chan 682).

Significance of the Study

Findings of this study will be instrumental in confirming existing findings of prior studies related to the teaching of English as a foreign language in the Saudi Arabia context. It will also prescribe guidelines for practitioners in the education sector to follow or consider when developing interventions and curriculum for secondary school students. The study focuses on intensive reading difficulties; therefore, it serves an information need that can help inform existing practices in this underserved area in Saudi secondary school’s education. This study contributes to the field of teaching English as a foreign language. It will equip Saudi teachers with the potential to empower learners to recognize learning behaviors and adapt personal learning approaches to meet individual and classroom demands for mastering The English language as a foreign language.

Objectives of the Study

The study aims to explore the Saudi EFL secondary school students’ intensive reading will seek to show ways of testing students learning English and the way the tests promote further learning and evaluation of the curriculum. It shall capture sentiments by teachers and students about the present programs in use in Saudi Arabia.

Question of the Study

RQ1 – What are the Saudi EFL secondary school students’ intensive reading difficulties?

RQ2 – What are the solutions to Saudi EFL secondary school students’ intensive reading difficulties?

Operational definitions

Language learning strategies are behaviors helping in the development of language competencies in many ways. The strategies ensure that learners continue learning even when they are outside a formal classroom environment (Alhaison 116). English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to the use of English and the learning of Language after learning other native languages during childhood. English in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a studied subject rather than a common language of communication. Intensive reading is a practice for learners that involve reading in a detailed way with a specific aim. Learners read a particular text or type of text to meet a requirement such as a test’s needs.

Delimitations of the Study

The study scope may be too narrow to capture all features of the intensive reading difficulties that secondary students have. One requirement for effective ESL teaching is that authentic textbooks must be used. They must meet the needs of learners together with values and aims of the teaching program. Besides, these texts should be culturally relevant to the experience of students (Liton 23). Confirming these aspects in the materials used to teach students in Saudi Arabia would require extensive labor and access resource that could be unavailable for the researcher, and will, therefore, limit the study’s scope. However, the study will be through with the limited features that it explores in regards to students’ intensive reading difficulties.


The research report will have five chapters starting with the introduction. This first part introduces the importance of the study and also carries its objectives and research questions. In addition, it mentions briefly the methodology and limitations that would arise due to the methodology chosen. The second chapter carries a review of findings, methodologies, insights and history or problems by previous studies from the year 2000. These studies will be related to ESL teaching and learning, as well as the Saudi Arabian education context. The chapter will also focus on intensive reading as a practice for improving language proficiency. The third chapter will cover methodologies of the study, including data collection, instrumentation issues, analysis and results of the data.

This chapter will explain the preliminary findings of the study and present data in a readable and usable way to serve the fourth chapter. Chapter four will give readers a meaning for the data collected and the studies. Chapter four will be the analysis and discussion section of the study. All findings will be interpreted in recognition of their ability to offer answers to the research questions. The discussion will cover the study’s findings and the rest of literature on the same subject to help offer practical solutions to the research problem. It will also explain limitations, strengths and important inferences of the study in the context of helping ESL students that have intensive reading difficulties. Chapter five revisits findings in a summarized way providing key takeaway points of the study. It also contains conclusions and suggestions for future research.

Works Cited

Abidin, Mohamad Jafre Zainol, Majid Pour-Mohammadi, and Hanan Alzwari. “EFL students’ Attitudes towards Learning English language: The Case of Libyan Secondary Students.” Asian Social Science (2012): 119-134. Print.

Alhaison, Eid. “Language Learning Strategy Use of Saudi EFL Students in an Intensive English Learning Context.” Asian Social Sciences 8.13 (2012): 115-127. Print.

Alrashidi, Oqab, and Huy Phan. “Education Context and English Teaching and Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An Overwiew.” English Language Teaching 8.5 (2015): 33-44. Print.

Alresheed, Saleh. “EFL Program of the Secondary Schools in Qassim Region (Saudi Arabia): Problems, Causes and Solutions.” Master Research Preparation. Newcastle University Journal/Majmaa University, 2008. Web.

Liton, Hussain Ahmed. “EFL Teacher’s Perceptions Evaluations and Expectations about English Language Courses as EFL in Saudi Universities.” International Journal of Instruction 6.2 (2013): 19-34. Print.

Yeung, Susanna, Linda S Sigel, and Carol K Chan. “Effects of a Phonological Awareness Program on English Reading and Spelling among Hong Kong Chinese ESL Children.” Read Writ 26 (2013): 681-704. Print.

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ChalkyPapers. "Saudi English Learning Students’ Reading Difficulties." January 31, 2022.